The Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (PABSEC) was created as a result of the major political changes of the late 1980’s, when the nations of the Black Sea Region re-emerged on the world scene. The search of the countries of the region for ways of meeting the challenges regarding the national development and the European integration paved the way for combining their efforts aiming at turning the Black Sea Region into an area of stability, prosperity and peace. Taking advantage of common denominators such as geographic proximity and shared cultural and historical heritage, the countries of the region have expedited the establishment of bilateral and multilateral relations.
The Summit Declaration of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and the Bosphorus Statement, signed in Istanbul, on the 25th of June 1992, defined the basic principles and objectives of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), formally instituting a new regional cooperation process with the participation of eleven countries: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Republic of Moldova, Romania, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Ukraine. Serbia and Montenegro joined the PABSEC in 2004, becoming the twelfth Member State. In 2006, after Montenegro declared its independence, the Republic of Serbia became the legal successor of the former state, both in the BSEC and in the PABSEC.
On the 26th of February 1993, in Istanbul, the Speakers of the Parliaments of nine countries – Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Romania, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Ukraine – adopted the Declaration on the Establishment of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (PABSEC). In June 1995, Greece joined the Assembly as the tenth full-fledged member. Bulgaria became the eleventh full-fledged member, in June 1997. In November 2004, Serbia and Montenegro joined the Assembly, thus becoming the twelfth full-fledged member. The Parliamentary Assembly is composed of 76 parliamentarians representing the twelve BSEC Member States.
Being an inter-parliamentary consultative body of the BSEC, the Assembly has united the efforts of the national parliaments to pursue the following aims, as stated in the preamble of the PABSEC Rules of Procedure: to secure the understanding and adoption, by the peoples, of the ideals and aims of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation; to provide a legal basis for economic, commercial, social, cultural and political cooperation among the member countries; to enact the legislation needed for the implementation of the decisions taken by the Heads of State or Government or by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs; to provide assistance to the national parliaments so as to strengthen the parliamentary democracy; to promote the cooperation with other international and regional organizations.
The working languages of the Assembly are English, French, Russian and Turkish. The official language of the PABSEC documents and correspondence is English.
MAIN BODIES OF THE PABSEC
The PABSEC General Assembly convenes twice a year in ordinary plenary session (spring and autumn sessions). A session consists of meetings of the Bureau and the Standing Committee in the first day, and the plenary meeting of the General Assembly in the next two days. The venue of the General Assembly is the country of the President of the Assembly, who is the speaker of the parliament of a member country, by rotation for a period of six months. The General Assembly’s sessions are open to the public, unless otherwise decided by the Assembly. The Standing Committee proposes the agenda and the order of business of the session, although the Assembly, which adopts the final agenda, may amend them. In the sittings, the proposals of the Standing Committee, the recommendations, declarations, opinions, decisions and reports of the Committees and/or election of the candidates for the Bureau are submitted to the General Assembly, for approval.
The Standing Committee consists of the President of the Assembly, the Vice-Presidents, the Chairmen of the three Committees and the Heads of the National Delegations. The Speakers of the national parliaments who are not members of their national delegations have the status of special guest at the Standing Committee meetings. The Standing Committee supervises the implementation of the Assembly decisions within the powers vested in it by the latter, draws up the agenda, the calendar and the venue of the Assembly meetings, coordinates the activities of three Committees, endorses the budget of the Assembly, ensures the coordination between the BSEC and the PABSEC and the cooperation between the PABSEC and other international organizations. The Standing Committee takes decisions according to the principle of unanimity (consensus).
The Bureau of the Assembly consists of the President and six Vice-Presidents. The Bureau is responsible for ensuring the implementation of the decisions of the Standing Committee and for the effective functioning of the Assembly between the meetings of the Standing Committee. It determines the agenda and the venue of the Standing Committee meeting and takes decisions regarding the PABSEC representatives or observers at other international gatherings. The Bureau of the Assembly meets twice a year – on a day preceding the General Assembly – and takes decisions by simple majority vote. Its meetings are held in camera, in the country of the President of the Assembly.
The Assembly set up three specialized committees: the Economic, Commercial, Technological and Environmental Affairs Committee; the Legal and Political Affairs Committee, and the Cultural, Educational and Social Affairs Committee. Each Committee elects from among its members, the Chairman and two Vice-Chairmen, each from a different national delegation. Each Committee designates a Rapporteur on each subject. Subjects are chosen from a list drawn up and periodically updated according to the main themes and projects of the BSEC agenda. Final reports and draft recommendations are approved by absolute majority and are submitted to the General Assembly for discussion and adoption.
The President of the Assembly is the Speaker of the Parliament of a member country, by rotation for a period of six months and acts as the highest representative of the Assembly. The duties of the President are: to preside over the meetings of the Assembly; to guide the debates; to ensure observance of the Rules; to maintain order; to call on speakers; to close debates; to ascertain whether a quorum exists; to put questions to the vote and announce the results of votes. The President performs a similar role in relation to the Bureau and the Standing Committee, and further, represents the Assembly, at the BSEC Summits, at the Meetings of the BSEC Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and at other international gatherings.
The Secretary General
The Secretary General is elected for a term of office of five years, by the General Assembly, upon the proposal of the Bureau. In the exercise of his duties, the Secretary General is responsible to the General Assembly. Three Deputy Secretaries General are also elected by the General Assembly for a term of office of three years.
The International Secretariat
Following a decision taken at the First Plenary Session in Istanbul, in 1993, and according to the Rules of Procedure, the PABSEC International Secretariat is seated in Istanbul, Turkey. The International Secretariat is an executive and technical body called upon to secure permanent links with the PABSEC national parliaments, takes charge of the organization and arrangement of all the meetings, the preparation of the draft documents and their timely circulation. It also serves as a central communications link among the PABSEC parliamentary delegations, between the BSEC and its related bodies and the Parliamentary Assembly, and between the PABSEC and other institutions and international organizations. The International Secretariat is led by the Secretary General.
Each Plenary Session of the General Assembly provides a forum for vigorous discussion and debate as well as for the assessment of the BSEC activities and votes on the adoption of reports and specific recommendations, declarations and decisions by absolute majority of the votes cast. These documents are transmitted to the BSEC Meetings of the Council of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, to the national parliaments and governments of the member countries and to the international organizations. Traditionally, the President of the host country, the Speakers of the twelve National Parliaments and the Chairman-in-Office of the BSEC are invited to address the PABSEC General Assembly.
Sessions of the PABSEC took place in Istanbul (June 1993), Kyiv (December 1993), Bucharest (June 1994), Tirana (December 1994), Moscow (June 1995), Ankara (November 1995), Baku (June 1996), Tbilisi (December 1996), Athens (June 1997), Chisinau (December 1997), Bucharest (June 1998), St. Petersburg (December 1998), Ankara (June 1999), Kyiv (December 1999), Tirana (June 2000), Yerevan (November 2000), Baku (June 2001), Sofia (December 2001), Tbilisi (June 2002), Athens (November 2002), Chisinau (June 2003),Bucharest (December 2003), Saint Petersburg (June 2004), Antalya (November 2004), Kyiv (June 2005), Tirana (November 2005), Yerevan (June 2006), Baku (November 2006), Varna (June 2007), Tbilisi (December 2007), Athens (June 2008), Chisinau (November 2008), Bucharest (June 2009), Moscow (November 2009), Belgrade (June 2010), Trabzon (November 2010), Kyiv (July 2011), Tirana (November 2011), Yerevan (May 2012), Baku (November 2012), Sofia (June 2013), Tbilisi (December 2013), Athens (May 2014), Athens (December 2014), Chisinau (June 2015), Bucharest (November 2015), Moscow (June 2016), Belgrade (December 2016) and Istanbul (July 2017).
One of the most important aspects of the Assembly is the work that takes place in the three specialized Committees. The Rapporteur of each Committee is responsible – on the basis of the information provided by the PABSEC national delegations and in consultation with the International Secretariat – for the preparation of a draft report and a draft recommendation which are presented for the approval of the Committee. After debate and discussions, these draft documents are approved by the absolute majority vote of the Committee’s members, being presented to the PABSEC General Assembly to be adopted as final documents. Committee meetings are closed to the public, unless decided otherwise.
Seminars and Conferences
Focusing on the developmental problems of emerging democracies from the Black Sea Region, the purpose of the PABSEC seminars and conferences is to bring together parliamentarians and experts as experienced lecturers and discussion leaders. Up to now, there have been seminars on a number of different issues: “Development of Democratic Institutions”, Ankara, 1994; “Peace and Stability in the Black Sea Region”, Batumi (Georgia), 1995; “First Inter-Parliamentary Conference on the Black Sea Environmental Protection” Istanbul, July 1996; “Fostering Cooperation on Small and Medium Enterprises and its Legal Framework in the Black Sea Region”, Bucharest, June 1998; “Transport Technology and Integration of Europe”, Antalya, October 1998; “Industry and Trade”, Jerusalem, November 1999; Seminar on Political Aspects of Sustainable Development in the 21st Century, Jerusalem, May 2004; Parliamentary Conference on the Wider Black Sea Region in the New European Architecture, Athens, April 2005; Seminar on Energy and Environment, Paris, October 2005; Joint PABSEC-ICBSS Seminar “The Role of the Parliaments in Shaping New Relations between the European Union and the Black Sea Region”, Athens, November 2007.
Relations with the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC)
The BSEC Charter was signed on the 5th of June 1998, at the Yalta Summit, by the Heads of State or Government, and entered into force on May 1st, 1999, opening a new chapter in the biography and activities of the BSEC, transforming it in an authentic regional economic organization. The PABSEC is defined in the Charter (Article 20) as a Related Body, providing consistent support to the Black Sea cooperation process on a consultative basis. The PABSEC closely cooperates with the BSEC, in promoting the BSEC objectives. From the very beginning, the PABSEC has had a regular, high-level interaction with the BSEC. According to the PABSEC Rules of Procedure, all the documents adopted by the PABSEC General Assembly are transmitted to the BSEC Meetings of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, for consideration. The Assembly is represented at every level of the official BSEC meetings and the PABSEC International Secretariat maintains a close working relationship with the BSEC Permanent International Secretariat, also seated in Istanbul. The two International Secretariats exchange information on the activities of the PABSEC and the BSEC, advise each other regarding their respective work progress, in order to enhance the coordination of activities and establish the measures to be taken. The PABSEC and the BSEC may organize joint meetings at different levels as well as joint activities, which serve common objectives, with the aim of developing the Black Sea Economic Cooperation process.
Cooperation with other International Organizations
The PABSEC has established contacts with various international organizations and parliamentary assemblies, many of them having also the observer status with the PABSEC. Among them are: the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of Commonwealth of Independent States (IPACIS), the European Parliament, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union Belarus-Russia (PA UBR), the Parliamentary Dimension of the Central European Initiative (PD CEI), the Parliamentary Union of the Islamic Countries (PUIC), the Inter - parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy (IAO), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Turkic-Speaking Countries (TURKPA), the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference (BSPC), the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and Parliamentary Assembly of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP PA). The Assembly also obtained the Observer Status to the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) and the Associate Member Status to the Interparliamentary Union (IPU). PABSEC signed the Protocol of Cooperation with the Inter Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of the Independent States (IPACIS) and the Memorandum of Understanding with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM) and with the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference (BSPC), aiming at speeding up the inter-parliamentary cooperation.
A priority of the PABSEC’s activities was to strengthen the cooperation with the European Parliament. The Assembly considers it to be an inseparable component of the efforts by the BSEC towards the dialogue and interaction with the European Union. Since 2000, the representatives of the European Parliament have participated in the plenary sessions of the General Assembly, on a regular basis, while the PABSEC delegations visited the European Parliament. In 2007, the PABSEC established the Permanent Delegation for the cooperation with the European Parliament and in this framework, the two meetings of the PABSEC Legal and Political Affairs Committee were held in the EU