INTERVIEW WITH H.E. Lazăr Comănescu, Secretary General of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC)

H.E. Lazăr Comănescu, Secretary General of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), gave an interview to AY MEDIA during his participation in the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in 2024.

Aylin Asan: This year marks the third anniversary of your leadership at the helm of the Organization for Economic Cooperation in the Black Sea region for Economic Cooperation in the Black Sea region. What have been the main challenges of your tenure as Secretary-General of this organization until now?

H. E. Lazăr Comănescu: You’ve pointed out very well that the selection process was finalized in March, but I officially began my activities in July 2021. In response to your inquiry, let me first explain that the circumstances surrounding the Black Sea region—most notably the conflict in Ukraine—have had a substantial detrimental impact on the atmosphere, making it impossible to completely accomplish the goals I set forth to the representatives of the member states when I was elected in March 2021. Additionally, this unfortunate development in the Black Sea region followed the period of the pandemic. However, it’s particularly positive that even under such circumstances, in such difficult situations, this organization continued to operate. The thirteen member countries continue to participate in meetings around the same table. Furthermore, thanks largely to the successive presidencies in 2022-2023, namely Moldova, Serbia, and Türkiye, we could resume almost entirely the organization’s activities and make decisions of real substance. Very important, for example, is the approval by the Council of Ministers of the „Thirteen” in December 2023 of the revised BSEC Economic Agenda for the next decade. This document establishes the framework for action for that period, the priority sectors of action, and the guidelines. Of course, there are still differences of opinion, particularly between the two countries engaged in the conflict I described earlier, but we are hoping that a resolution will be reached as quickly as possible.
I believe you will agree that this war generates a significant loss of innocent lives, strongly affects the economy, and destroys the societal fabric. All these call for an urgent resolution of the conflict, and ensuring favourable conditions for the resumption of economic cooperation, the fundamental purpose of this organization.

Aylin Asan: Could you please let me know which areas the member countries collaborate on the most?

H. E. Lazăr Comănescu: As its name implies, it is an organization that promotes economic cooperation. According to the organization’s statute, it covers a wide range of areas: relevant economic aspects such as agriculture, trade, transport, infrastructure, and other areas whose evolution influences economic development. For example, there are nineteen sectoral working groups in the organization, such as a working group on economic development, technology, and scientific development. I believe you will agree with me that economic development decisively depends on the level of education and culture of society members, as well as economic progress depends on technological advancement. We are in the midst of a global digitization process, so we can not remain uninvolved. Consequently, we revert to the previous discussion regarding the adoption of the Economic Agenda of the Black Sea Economic Organization, which outlines key areas including digitalization, cultural preservation, economic growth, climate change adaptation, and, of course, environmental protection.

Aylin Asan: Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece are the only member states of the organization that are both NATO and European Union members. How much of a benefit do these features offer when talking about international cooperation?

H. E. Lazăr Comănescu: Undoubtedly, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece gain from their membership in the EU and NATO in two ways: first, they can take advantage of the opportunities that arise from BSEC-EU cooperation, and second, they may take action to fortify this cooperation. Indeed, one of my top priorities as Secretary-General is to improve the ties with the European Union even more. Regarding NATO membership, it is certainly particularly important in terms of security, and firm security. However, speaking about security, it is worth emphasizing that there is another extremely important dimension of it, namely the economic dimension. Strengthening economic cooperation— the core purpose of BSEC—means consolidating security as a whole.

Aylin Asan: How do you assess the cooperation between Romania and Türkiye in the Black Sea?

H. E. Lazăr Comănescu: The collaboration between the two countries is very good, not only bilaterally but also multilaterally, including within BSEC. Collaboration in the process of reviewing/updating the BSEC Economic Agenda is just one of many examples in this regard. I would add that Türkiye played an essential role in successfully concluding this revision exercise, as it held the BSEC presidency in the second semester of last year.

Aylin Asan: What are the objectives of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization for 2024?

H. E. Lazăr Comănescu: The first objective is to concretize the provisions of the Economic Agenda into actions; therefore, we are currently in the process of adapting the action programs of each sector to what is provided in the revised Agenda. The second issue is another significant decision adopted during Türkiye’s presidency, the reactivation of the Project Development Fund, which means financial resources to enable the realization of concrete projects. Beyond meetings and adopted documents, which are very important, we aim to consolidate the achievement of concrete projects. We have gained valuable experience in this regard, exemplified by projects like the collection and recycling of marine waste (fishing nets) on Istanbul’s northern coast; the BSEC Permit System for facilitating cross-border transport of goods; the training program for young diplomats from member states (now in its eighth edition).

Aylin Asan: We have reached the end of this interview. Thank you very much for your time and for your kindness in providing this interview.H. E. Lazăr Comănescu: I also want to thank you for your interest in the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, an organization that acts and does everything possible to contribute to the economic development and prosperity of its member states and their citizens.




Translation and interpretation: Authorized Translator AIVAZ YASEMIN