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Deputy FM Amanatidis intervention at the Annual Meeting of the Regional Cooperation Council (Pravets, Bulgaria)

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Mr. Chairman,

Dear Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all I would like to thank the Bulgarian C-i-O for their achievements at this 20th Anniversary of SEECP. I take this opportunity to also thank Goran Svilanovic for his impeccable job as head of the RCC.

Today’s thematic discussion is very relevant, given that regional cooperation is indeed about growth and stability. Our assessment though, looking back at 20 years of the SEECP, is that regional interaction has been rather low. Yet, there have been successes, achieved mostly thanks to individual merits, rather than as a result of regional cooperation.

The question is, What can be done at this turning point in SEECP history? Can we be more bold and ambitious? Can we overcome past constraints that kept regional interaction low?

We believe that we should set our differences aside and capitalize on what unites us most, on common interests and common agendas. We can easily identify these common interests: infrastructure projects, European integration, business opportunities, civil society and youth, the fight against terrorism, just to name a few.

After having identified fields of common interest, we should inject all our energy to achieve tangible results. Results will create trust. Trust will boost regional cooperation and help us to address more complex and perhaps controversial issues. It is a methodological approach that merits further exploration.

Let me give you an example:

We all agree that European integration of the entire region is our strategic objective. I do respect the RCC’s and the European Commission’s role in this regard. Yet, there is no cooperation between EU and non-EU Participants, there is no collective SEECP effort to push forward the European agenda. There are 5 EU members in SEECP, who all went through the most demanding negotiations. There is something to offer in terms of experience-sharing and best practices, notwithstanding EU knowhow transfer. We see a real added value in such an exercise.

The RCC is proposing to expand the scale and geographical scope of interventions to include other SEECP participants, in particular EU members. It is a new approach that goes in the right direction. I am confident that the RCC can identify specific fields of common interest that would be open to an all-inclusive regional cooperation, using their expertise and knowhow.

We need a positive agenda that generates win-win benefits for all. This would create trust, which lies at the heart of any regional cooperation, boosting stability and growth in our region. The RCC has a valuable role to play in this regard.

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