Law or force, what will BSEC choose?

By Mikolas Katilus:

BSEC_russiaThe activity of international regional Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) is aimed at development of lasting and close cooperation among the countries of Black Sea region. This organization integrates 12 states of Black Sea region: Azerbaijan, Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Romania, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine. Three states – Greece, Bulgaria and Romania – are the EU members. Some more 13 states, including the USA, Germany, France and Italy have an observer status. High observer status shows good potential and serious prospects for the cooperation development between the regional states within BSEC. Organisation covers the territory of more than 20 mln square kilometres with about 350 mln population and concentrates 5% of the world trade. Consequently the states that have special interest in Black Sea region are interested in promotion of mutual projects in key branches of economy, strengthening of interaction and extension of cooperation.

State-parties to the organization consider cooperation within BSEC “as a part of integration process in Europe on the basis of human rights and fundamental freedoms, prosperity with respect to economic freedom, social justice as well as equal safety and stability”. Apparently, such cooperation may be effective only upon condition of adherence to BSEC Statute and international law provisions by all the participants of this organization.

However, the development of international situation and the fact that the actual presidency in BSEC in the first half-year of 2016 belongs to Russia predicate certain reflections. Namely: the organization which is called to develop cooperation based on the good neighbourhood currently is presided by the state which has broken all possible international law provisions, shook the foundations of the postwar world order, destroyed the system of international security, encroached the territory of sovereign and independent state and not only unlawfully annexed Crimea but continued supporting illegal armed groups at the east of Ukraine. Considering the fact that in fact Russia is an aggressor-state, quite appropriate question arose: “How does such conduct of the state presiding in the BSEC correlate with the principles declared by this organisation?!”

According to the BSEC Statute, Article 13, the presiding state shall ensure the proper work of the organization. The main purpose of the BSEC is fostering all-round cooperation and interaction between the regional states in the most diverse fields: trade, economic development, finances; development of communications, energetic field etc., based on good-neighbourly relations, mutual understanding and mutual respect.

However for more than two years the whole world may observe the Russia’s frank and brutal violations of international law and the main principles underlying the statutes of international organizations where it participates. It particularly regards the BSEC where Russia currently presides. The Russia’s actions are the main destabilizing factor in the region. But at the same time Russia refuses to discuss them and in response to numerous charges claims cynically that “it is not worth politicizing the economic cooperation format”. However, the obvious thing is that the development of effective economic cooperation directly depends on political climate and trust level between the regional states. In current situation it is impossible as Russia seriously destabilizes the situation in the region in a whole by unlawful Crimea annexing, aggression in Ukraine and activities in respect of Turkey. Also the fact of cooperation development and implementation of the new projects under the circumstances of tough trade and economic sanctions against the other BSEC members, such as Ukraine, Moldova and Turkey, represents the source of bewilderment.

Moreover, in the context of application of international and particularly European sanctions to Russia it look a perfect fright when it comes to the discussion of extending economic cooperation and strengthening interaction with other international organizations, such as UNO and EU. That seems to be much more bewildering as Moscow in spite of international pressure still does not intend to change its policy in respect of Ukraine. Moreover Russia keeps making efforts to legitimize Crimea occupation and unacknowledged fake “republics” at the east of Ukraine. Thus, it is already known that the regular 47th session of the General Assembly of PABSEC will be attended by the representatives of the annexed Crimea administration, as well as participants of International Black Sea Club, which brings together such cities as Sokhumi, Tiraspol, Yalta, Feodosiya, invited by Russia. The logical question appears: are these actions lawful? And in this case the answer is quite predictable: Russia used in its interests, as the presiding state, Article 9 of the BSEC Statute, which provides the possibility for guests to be present at the sessions of the organization by invitation of the acting president. Russia is going to share one table with the representatives of unacknowledged fake republics, which it has established and supported, together with the BSEC member states.

It becomes clear that currently BSEC lacks efficient mechanism of prevention or coercion of such unlawful actions of organization member states, moreover when it concerns the presiding state. Today BSEC states have nothing to set against such flagrant breach of international law by Russia.

Respectively there is a need to change organisation’s regulatory framework. For that end it is required to put the discussion on amending the BSEC Statute with the provisions which provides legally binding consequences for the member states in case of unlawful actions as well as loss of the leading position in organization for the offending state.

Currently BSEC member states need to join forces in order to prevent the participation of representatives of unacknowledged formations in the work of the PABSEC and prevent Russia from legitimizing annexing foreign territories. BSEC states need to cooperate with European and Atlantic states in order to counteract the Russia’s attempts to destabilize situation in region and in the world.

National delegations of BSEC Parliamentary Assembly need to be more consistent in adherence to the principles of international law and BSEC Statute to support peaceful dialog and develop effective cooperation in terms of trust and mutual understanding. In the current situation it’s unacceptably to turn a blind eye to illegal actions of the state which is not only BSEC member but presides in the organization. Russia’s aggressive action in respect of the state which is the member of the organization are not only unacceptable but dangerous for all the regional states as there are no assurance for this countries not to become the subjects of Kremlin’s aggression in future. BSEC member states need to explicitly and insistently claim joining the forces of all the member states for the protection of state-parties to the organization.

— Article First Published in The Ground Report

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