Russia calls for greater Black Sea energy stability

Twelve Black Sea countries are meeting for what shapes as a crucial summit in Turkey's capital, Istanbul. Energy Security and closer economic links will be discussed at the 15th Organization of Black Sea Economic Co-operation summit.

Speaking to the leaders of other member nations at a round table session, Vladimir Putin noted the importance of energy security.

“We are proposing to increase the stability of energy markets of the Black Sea region by expanding the practice of long-term contracts among other things. The diversification of energy supplies routs is also on agenda as well as new schemes of insurance and splitting of economic risks but swapping assets. We are ready to further co-operate with our partners in the region to address major tasks which affect not only this area but the world in its whole,” the Russian president said.

Vladimir Putin's also said that despite apparent cases of success, the BSEC has not yet reached its full potential.

“We believe that the Black Sea Economic Cooperation in spite of its apparent success stories has not yet fully realised its potential to talk about adding new structures. And of course, when opening to partnership we have to insure that the consolidation with and attention for integration and making the most out of our geographical locations should be the most efficient,” Mr Putin stated.

President Putin also mentioned Russian bid for hosting 2014 Winter Olympics.

“As you know, one of the candidates for hosting the Winter Olympics in 2014 is the Russian city of Sochi. Buy 2014, we are planning to set up a winter sports centre of the highest standards. It will be open not only to Russian, but also to foreign athletes.Our neighbours will always be welcomed guests there. And we thank you for you support of Russia's bid to host the Winter Olympics in 2014,” the Russian leader sid.

Russia Today's political commentator Peter Lavelle believes the asset swap proposal made by the President Putin is aimed at countries that are afraid of Russia's active foreign investment policy.

“It's supposed to make people feel calmer. Russia wants to invest in these companies, but as a partner. Russia doesn't want to own everything – there is this fear in these countries. It calls these companies to invest in Russia, and Russia would invest in them. This is the very key to energy security,” Mr Lavelle said.

RT's expert says the country's interest is purely pragmatic.

“Russia is a major country in this group. It has the money; it wants to intelligently invest it in assets. It doesn't want to just export energy, what most people often don't understand. Russia has it, but wants to be part of the process of getting it to the end user – you make a lot more money that way,” he said.

While economic issues have been topping the agenda in Istanbul, politics have wormed their way into the discussions. Addressing the members of the summit, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha brought up the issue of Kosovo. He spoke strongly in support of the plan proposed by UN special envoy Marti Ahtisaari who recommended that Kosovo be granted internationally supervised independence.

“Now is the final moment, the moment of the Europe ending the historical process of separation between Kosovo and Serbia. I believe this – the best framework is in the present Ahtisaari’s document. That’s why Albania’s chosen to fully support preset Ahtisaari’s agreement, and I believe that this agreement could become a serious and a strong basis for peace and stability in Kosovo and larger then Kosovo,” Mr Berisha stated.

Serbian president Boris Tadic on his part stressed the Kosovo's independence may trigger a chain reaction.

“In my speech I said that we have so many kosovos here, in the Black Sea region. I don’t want to mention all similar cases. I’m repeating again – Kosovo is not a unique case, Kosovo is going to be precedent if solution on Kosovo will be independent country,” he said.

The leaders of the 12 BSEC states have also signed a declaration setting out their plans for the future of the organisation at its 15th jubilee summit in Istanbul. In the sphere of energy they pledged to consider the interests of both producers and consumers.

This is the 15th anniversary summit of the organisation and all the member-states agree that it has vast economic potential. The territory that unites the twelve states is larger than the EU and, also, it's the second largest source of oil and gas in the world after the Gulf region. Moreover, it's rapidly becoming a major corridor for transport and energy transfer in Europe.

However, many member-states admit that the organisation hasn't been able to fully develop its potential and that's what Turkey, which currently presides over the BSEC, wants to change now. It wants the organization to become more visible, more prominent on the international arena and to develop closer ties with the EU.

Meanwhile, some experts believe that as time goes by, BSEC could and even should become an alternative to the European Union.

The BSEC was founded on June 25th 1992 in Istanbul and is aimed at fostering interaction and harmony in the Black Sea region. Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Romania, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine are all BSEC members. Thirteen countries, including Belarus, Germany, the United States, and France have the status of observer.