The new Secretary General of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization - BSEC - in an exclusive interview with BSNews


Photo by Tatiana Guchakova, BSNews

Andrei KLIMENKO,Tatiana GUCHAKOVA(photo), Michael ROZENSHTEIN(photo), BlackSeaNews.

This conversation took place in early October, when the Moldovan diplomat and historian, Professor Victor Tvircun has for the first three months worked as the Secretary General of BSEC. We took advantage of his profession in order to talk about the "historic risks" and historical perspectives for  economies of the Black Sea countries ...

Victor TVIRCUN visited Yalta to participate in 3rd International Black Sea Economic Forum, and our two hours conversation took place in the early morning of October 4, 2012, just before the forum’s opening. It was Consulate General of Ukraine in Istanbul, which helped us to organize this meeting and which operates as an official mission of Ukraine to BSEC.

Photo by Tatiana Guchakova, BSNews

–  Viktor Ivanovich, I would like to start our conversation with the following question. When a new person acquires a high office position, then the first questions to emerge is – what’s he? What is his life history record? What's his occupation?

Frankly speaking, the fact that you are a historian was really greatly exciting for our curiosity. And not just a historian, but a scholar, a professor, the author of many books and a great number of scientific publications. And then, later on you’d become a diplomat and work for many years in the Foreign Ministry, the Embassies of Moldova abroad, including the countries of the Black Sea region; and you were also a member of the Government of Moldova ...

We, as economists and economic journalists, when dealing with the Black Sea region’s issues, notice that along with the usual political risks for the economy in the Black Sea region, here exists such  a  variety as "historical risks."

The history of these countries is so complex that till now representatives of this or that country threw remarks at the others: “You used to make incursions on our territory and to conquer us …” And quite often it is even worse. After all, every country, historically, could produce “claims” to each other, getting down to some bygone centuries…

A lot of countries of the world, which fought once to destroy one another - have long ago made ​​it up and became best friends. But it has not happened here, in our region. In other words, your science - history - in the Black Sea region is very often used as a tool of modern political technology. And hence the emergence of "historical risks" for economic cooperation.

It may be worthwhile to offer the BSEC countries: "Let us sign a declaration of historical reconciliation for the sake of the better economic future?" What are your comments on the topic of close relations between the history and economy in the Black Sea region?

– Allow me to start with your first question. For many years, my career has been associated with education and research activity. For many years I taught at the State Pedagogical University in Chisinau, went through post graduate school, then  was in doctoral studies.

Photo by Tatiana Guchakova, BSNews

The result of scientific research was more than 200 publications, including - 12 books. The vast majority of them are focused on the 17th - early 19th centuries history of the Black Sea region. History of the relationship of the Principalities of Moldova and Wallachia with Russia, Ukraine, Poland and the Ottoman Empire - has been and continues to be the subject of my research interests. To a large extent this relates to the history of the Crimea. In my view, when you study the history of the Moldovan-Russian-Turkish relations in the 18th century, then it is simply impossible to ignore the history of the Crimean Khanate.

It is worthy of note that the internal and foreign policy of the medieval Moldova was also very closely linked with the Crimea. Thus, we can say that the historical past of the region known to me firsthand.

In the early1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and as the Republic of Moldova gained independence, I was invited to work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which I joined in 1993.

Initially, I worked as the Deputy Head of the Europe and North America Department. In 1995 I was appointed a counselor of Embassy of Moldova in Ankara. Then, at the end of the mission, I returned to the Foreign Ministry Central Office to serve as a head of department. In the period 1999-2001 I was Counselor and Charge d'Affaires of Moldova to Hungary. In August 2001, according to the Decree of the President, I was appointed Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Republic of Moldova in the Republic of Turkey and pluralistically in a number of Arab countries.

I kept this position till April 2005, when I was asked to take the post of Minister of Education, Youth and Sports in the new government of the Republic of Moldova. This, a critical for any state function I performed till completion of  the Government's mandate in April 2008.

Photo by Tatiana Guchakova, BSNews

Upon leaving the ministerial post, I returned to research and teaching activity. Apparently, my multi-year practical experience and knowledge in the field of science and education, as well as in administrative and diplomatic areas, contributed to presentation of my candidature for the post of General Secretary of the Permanent International Secretariat of BSEC on the recommendation of the Government of the Republic of Moldova in 2012.

In June of this year, as a result of the elections, the candidate of the Republic of Moldova has gained the absolute majority of votes, and was approved by the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of this prestigious international regional organization. On July 1, I acceded to office.

Now regarding your question to what extend history splits or unites countries and people. This question’s content and philosophical context are so profound that imply hours-long discussions. To the best of my ability, I’ll try to be concise.

If you examine the whole history of mankind, then you will for sure notice that its predominant part is not the times of wars and confrontation, but the millenniums of peace and creative work. The time of co-residence and peaceful coexistence of different peoples, cultures and civilizations. In my thinking, it is precisely the state of evenness, stability and confidence in the future, that gives a person the opportunity to fully unlock and achieve his or her potential - intellectual, physical, spiritual, economic, etc.

When we speak with you here about the historical perspectives of the Black Sea region, I look at them not from the point of view of the ways and reasons that used to separate the people and the countries of this area, but in terms of the ways and reasons to unite them, contributing to the centuries-old  trade-economic, cultural and spiritual cooperation, sustainable inter-civilizational relations.

Photo by Tatiana Guchakova, BSNews

One should not forget that for many thousands of years, the region has been and continues to be the intersection of many world civilizations - Sumerian-Akkadian, Assyrian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Slavic. Everything intersects, converges and is preserved here. You can easily find traces of the above-mentioned civilizations in many countries of the Black Sea, including the area of the Crimea.

The need to communicate - was and remains a priority in relations between nations. So when we talk about the present and future of the Black Sea region, it is necessary to look at its history not in terms of claims against each other and past grievances, but from the point of view of what brings us together, in terms of mutual interests and mutually beneficial long-term cooperation; from the point of view that preservation of peace and stability in the Black Sea basin is the solid foundation of prosperity of each country and nation which live here.

I want to draw your attention to another, extremely important, to my mind, fact. The overall majority of successful and prosperous countries employ their past not to settle scores with anyone else, but as a teachable lesson to be employed to learn how not to repeat the past mistakes and profit by positive experience. In this respect, as an example,Germany and Japan are worth to be mentioned.

Photo by Tatiana Guchakova, BSNews

Another point to which I would like to turn your attention to. In recent decades, most of the independent states which emerged as the result of the Soviet Union’s collapse are actively competing with each other to obtain foreign investments, grants, etc. Naturally, this is a great support and impetus for economic development of any country. We should welcome and encourage this flow.

However, the burden of handling economic, social and other kinds of problems still falls on drawing on non-external, but internal resources and funds. If we are to hope and wait for someone to come by to solve our problems instead of us, then we will never achieve the desired success.

Wealthy and prosperous countries have reached their positions, first of all, through maximal and efficient use of their own intellectual and synergistic potential.

One should not think that foreign investments will be a panacea, a life-line for the crisis’ surmounting. Not at all. They are just additional tools, the complementary tools and the incentives for successful economic development. The main emphasis should be placed on the use of own resources and efforts. I think that this is equally true for Ukraine, and Russia, and Moldova, as well as for Georgia, and other countries of the region.

I can give you an example from the last decade. It is Turkey. Consider how this country has progressed economically. And I would like to tell you that this is to a large extent is the result of  organization and maximim use of internal resources and capacities. One cannot say that Turkey is a country, which is rich in energy resources. Not at all. And yet, look - an annual GDP growth is about 8%. This is a great indicator. This is another proof of the fact that here we see very efficient and effective use of these resources - economic and intellectual, etc., which allows people to decide and to control  for themselves.

Photo by Tatiana Guchakova, BSNews

–  We understand that the BSEC is not a political, but economic organization. But, however, in any business plan there is the standard section - "project risks." Among them - administration, disaster, force majeure risks, including political ones. Well, this is the case, where one needn't go too far? For 8-9 years already Georgia demonstrates an absolutely unique dynamics - economic, investment, reforming. And is considered to be almost the most reforms oriented country of the world ...

I'm sure that after these elections, as Saakashvili’s party did not win, implementation of many economic projects in Georgia will "slow down." As investors will wait – is a turn maneuver of this country to follow or not? ..

And one more thing - every day we look at an online map of ships in the Black Sea. Now  a kind of frenzied activity has started in the shelf area.  All the countries - Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine - think that their stretch of the Black Sea shelf is "new Tyumen", "new Surgut" or "new Emirates." And, I assure you, you will not find any detailed information on what's really going on. Everyone thinks, "I ll quickly drill a well bore and start extraction promptly...".

The same goes for "pipeline war" in the Black Sea region. It is geo-economics… And it is at the same time it is the modern geopolitics ... And here I always have a naive question coming to my mind - why countries that are engaged in the Black Sea shelf matters, do not get together, sit down at a round table, show down and ask, "and where here we can combine our efforts ? Shouldn’t we create a consortium for joint development of the shelf. " For sure there are elements of the technology cycle, which combination would be optimal ...

But in practice we see that the geopolitics hinders economic development! And you probably have already encountered and will face these situations further. It is especially because the Black Sea countries are the complicated ones and not all of them even have diplomatic relations with the others. How to deal with this situation? How to get rid of these geopolitical risks in the Black Sea region?

–  Your first question refers to Georgia. Will the investment climate, the dynamics of the reforms change in Georgia after the elections... I am more than confident that initiated in Georgia reforms are not going to have retroactive force. Without any doubts, the progressive movement of the country towards the European Union will continue at the previous pace. I think that issues of political choice and guiding landmarks are an absolute prerogative of the Georgian nation and its government.

Photo by Tatiana Guchakova, BSNews

Regarding economic component. One should remember that Georgia, to a large extent, is in a way "a bridge", a kind of link between the regions of the Caspian and the Black Seas. This factor increases the strategic role of Georgia in the macroeconomic and geopolitical terms. In this perspective, I can clearly see excellent prospects and far being realized economic potential of the country.

As for the Black Sea and, mentioned by you, problems of an economic nature... I am convinced that the sea is not the watershed divide between nations and civilizations. It is rather - a transport artery, the road, which unites us more than divides us.

And the water area of the Black Sea should be considered from this point of view. It greatly contributes to such incorporation, strengthening and development of multilateral relations. And  despite the fact that both in political and economic terms - each country, member of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, has its own priorities. In my view, the national priority should be treated as a kind of platform for the development and formation of common interests and priorities.

In June 2012 the economic program was  adopted at the meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the BSEC Member States. It identified general economic priorities of all 12 member states of the organization.

I think, it's the best foundation to proceed to the new stage, including, as you said, show down regarding joint development of the Black Sea resources. Whether we like it or not, but, being, in fact, the inner "lake" of the region, one  ecosystem as a whole, the Black Sea is so shared by us all, that if one country ever tries to “pull over” its mineral wealth and natural resources, then it will in the long run bring harm not only to its neighbors, but to this country as well.

Photo by Tatiana Guchakova, BSNews

Thus, regardless of whether anyone wants it or not, but all the countries of the region are destined to solve together the problems of development and use of natural and biological resources of the Black Sea. And make the region to be, figuratively speaking, not a desert, but a thriving oasis.

In view of the latter statement, I am convinced that the role and importance of the BSEC are great. It is from the point of view of the coordinating center, where various joint projects, aimed at development of the resources of the region, will be promoted and implemented. And mutual work, I think, will bring the outcome, which each individual country-member of BSEC expects. I am confident that the consolidation of the economic interests of all the 12 countries is more effective than separation into national quarters.

– On March 1, 2012 the Crimean Ministry of Resorts and Tourism held the Black Sea Tourism Forum within the framework of the Yalta Tourism Fair. And a number of mayors from different countries attended it. I was the moderator of this forum. And we observed the following ... The Mayor of Poti takes the floor - shows the presentation, provides the main characteristic details of the city. Quite common things ... while the mayors of Varna, Trabzon, Samsun, Ukrainian cities - they listened with such a great interest and asked questions! Then there were reports from the other cities, and again - perfectly usual ones. But they again listened to them as if these were revelations, heard for the first time in their lives.

And then we realized that they basically are not interested in political issues. They are very interested in "What do you do with your budget and your sewerage?" "What do you do with the illegal construction"? ... And then we realized that there is a huge potential here. It’s because all of the cities of the Black Sea are very similar – both regarding theirconditions and regarding their problems. Maybe the development of the municipal cooperation at the level of small joint projects will give the BSEC a new impetus at the beginning of the third decade of its existence?

–  When we speak about cooperation within the Black Sea region, it does not mean that all activities should be reduced to the level of interstate or intergovernmental relations. Not at all. I think we should welcome various forms of cooperation, exchange of views, development of common projects.

And for these projects there is no need to be global. They can be small – inter-municipal, as you say, or interregional. One of the areas of Bulgaria may, for example, cooperate with the region in Turkey or Georgia, or Ukraine, etc. I believe that any project that develops these links further and consolidates economic cooperation should be welcomed

Photo by Tatiana Guchakova, BSNews

The second point is that numerous specific problems of utilitarian nature are resolved mostly not at the intergovernmental level, but rather at the level of the local governments. And here, as you quite rightly pointed out, it is necessary to provide all possible support and assistance to this rapprochement.

I think that non-governmental agencies of the BSEC member states are not sufficiently involved in the area of multilateral cooperation and this would have brought a new impetus to the work of the Organization and would contribute to the rapprochement, not in economic and commercial spheres only, but also in the field of education, health, environment protection. These things are of great interest.

Unfortunately, and it was highlighted in your question, there is a significant shortage of information exchange. This situation needs to be changed radically. Information about the projects, programs, which exist in every country, in every single region of the country and which can be useful for its neighbors should be made available.

Photo by Tatiana Guchakova, BSNews

- You know, one idea comes from time to time to our minds... It ‘s about taking a medium-sized passenger ship and "give a ride" in the Black Sea area (calling every city), first to mayors, then to historians from different countries, then to artists, journalists and environmentalists. Or to all of them together ... and in every city they are to give lectures, presentations, concerts. I assure you that after five or six of such cruises, we will change the economic situation in the Black Sea region.

- God bless. I believe that any proposals to bridge gaps between people and help business promotion, should be welcomed. In addition to what you have just said, I ‘d like to give you an example.

Not that long ago, at the initiative of transportation professionals and with the support of BSEC the so-called heavy trucks "Convoy" was organized and accomplished the drive around the perimeter of the Black Sea. This convoy showed, first - the effectiveness of the Black Sea Ring Highway, second - great importance and role of road transport for development of infrastructure and economic ties. And, thirdly, it was very important for identification of the vulnerable spot  of “junctions” between the states.

The above mentioned "Convoy" is a good example for the other transportation structures - be it river, sea or railway ones. Naturally, this convoy had another very important "message" - it showed the communion of all the 12 countries of the BSEC. It was an important impetus.

Regarding the organization of something like specialized cruises that you have mentioned ... I think that we should think about it. And not only think, but also to compile the plan and the brochure of these cruises. And we are not to lay it on a shelf. The idea is good!

Photo by Tatiana Guchakova, BSNews

Viktor Ivanovich, we wish you great success. We'll be gunning for you - not only for you as  "the Black Sea" person, but for you as our neighbor from the Republic of Moldova. And will be happy if together with you we would dynamically change some things for the better in the Black Sea region with the help of our humble work.

– Thank you. There is another very important point that I can not ignore. I have stressed and I will continue to develop further the idea that the doors of Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation are always open for those who want to cooperate with us. We are ready to discuss, debate, share opinions and adopt and implement various economic, educational and social projects, which primary and main objective is to consolidate and unite people.

Despite the fact that we are the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, we are not completely focused only on the economic component. One of the 17 priorities of  BSEC is the one of humanitarian issues.

Photo by Tatiana Guchakova, BSNews

Besides, there are areas related to health care. You can ask me here “Why”? And that’s because we can not separate the economy from education, we can not separate the health care from economy, as well as we can not separate the sphere of the environment from the economic problems - they are all interrelated. Therefore, we consider them together. And priorities in the field of, let’s say, health are important to us as well priorities in the customs policies or in the field of agriculture. This moment is very important, and it needs to be understood.

And there is one more important point which I wish to draw attention to. It is the desire through the activities of the BSEC to reduce significantly all kinds of bureaucratic "obstacles", barriers to economic, trade, humanitarian communication between countries.

There is, for example, the need to harmonize the laws of all 12 countries relating to various areas in food certification legislation. Most often, speaking of security, we mean here economic and energy security of countries.

But there is another component, not less important than the previous ones. It is food security. Because if people consume poor quality products, non-certified, produced nobody knows where and in what conditions, no one knows how they can affect the health of not only the present but also of future generations. This, in turn, will cause irreparable blow to the human capital - the economic foundation of any state.

– Thank you. Once again we became convinced that today's economic problems, particularly in the modern information society, cannot be solved with purely economic methods, but require all humanitarian approaches. Once again, we wish you every success in your work ...

Translation into English, Alexey Soloviev, BSN

                                                                                       *   *   *

Well,and this what followed in an hour after the end of our conversation:

Victor Tvircun gives a speach at 3-rd International Black Sea Economic Forumon October 4, 2012 in the Livadia Palace, Yalta. Photo by Michael Rozenstein, BSNews

Victor Tvircun gives a speach at 3-rd International Black Sea Economic Forumon October 4, 2012 in the Livadia Palace, Yalta. Photo by Michael Rozenstein, BSNews

Victor Tvircun gives a speach at 3-rd International Black Sea Economic Forumon October 4, 2012 in the Livadia Palace, Yalta. Photo by Michael Rozenstein, BSNews


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