The Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (PABSEC) was created as a result of the major political changes in the late 1980’s, when the nations of the Black Sea region re-emerged on the world scene. The search by the countries of the region for ways of meeting challenges of national development and European integration paved the way for combining their efforts with a view to turning the Black Sea region into the 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 25 June 1992, defined the basic principles and objectives of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), formally instituting a new regional cooperation process with 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 the PABSEC.
On 26 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 been uniting the efforts of 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 legislation needed for the implementation of decisions taken by the Heads of State or Government or by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs;
- to provide assistance to national parliaments so as to strengthen parliamentary democracy;
- to promote cooperation with other international and regional organization.
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. General Assembly sessions are open to public, unless otherwise decided by the Assembly. The Standing Committee proposes the agenda and order of business of the session, although the Assembly, which adopts the final agenda, may amend them. In the sittings, proposals of the Standing Committee, 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, Vice-Presidents, the Chairmen of the three Committees and the Heads of 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, calendar and venue of the Assembly meetings, coordinates the activities of three Committees, endorses the budget of the Assembly, ensures coordination between the BSEC and the PABSEC and cooperation between the PABSEC and other international organizations. The Standing Committee makes 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 decisions of the Standing Committee and for the effective functioning of the Assembly between meetings of the Standing Committee. It determines the agenda and venue of the Standing Committee meeting and takes decisions on 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 on the BSEC agenda. Final reports and draft recommendations are approved by absolute majority and 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 BSEC Summits, Meetings of BSEC Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and other international gatherings.
The Secretary General
The Secretary General is elected for a term of office of three 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 made 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, organization and arrangement of all meetings, preparation of draft documents and their timely circulation. It also serves as a central communications link among the PABSEC parliamentary delegations, between BSEC and its related bodies and the Parliamentary Assembly, and between 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 assessment of 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, the national parliaments and governments of the member countries and 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 preparing a draft report and a draft recommendation which are presented to approval by the Committee. After debate and discussions, these draft documents are approved by absolute majority vote of the Committee’s members, for presentation to the PABSEC General Assembly to be adopted as final documents. Committee meetings are closed to public, unless decided otherwise.
Seminars and Conferences
Focusing on the developmental problems of emerging democracies from the Black Sea region, the purpose of 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 5 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 transformation in an authentic regional economic organization. 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 documents adopted by the PABSEC General Assembly are transmitted to the BSEC Meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs for consideration. The Assembly is represented at every level of 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 of their respective progress of work with a view to enhancing coordination of activities and 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 Organisations
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 Interparlıamentary 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 Observer Status to Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) and signed the Protocol of Cooperation with the IPACIS and the Memorandum of Understanding with the Parliamentary Assembly of Mediterranean (PAM), which meant to speed up regional inter-parliamentary cooperation.
A priority of the PABSEC’s activities has been strengthening the cooperation with the European Parliament. The Assembly considers strengthening cooperation with the European Parliament as an inseparable component of the efforts by the BSEC towards dialogue and interaction with the European Union. The representatives of the European Parliament have participated in the plenary sessions of the General Assembly since 2000 on a regular basis, while PABSEC delegations have visited the European Parliament. In 2007 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 European Parliament in 2010 and 2013 with the participation of the MEPs.