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Greece is linked to the wider Black Sea region by age-old historical ties. It is no coincidence that the Black Sea and neighbouring regions are home to ancient cities – including Yalta, Trabzon, Istanbul, Mariupol, Constanta and Sevastopol – linked to the history of Hellenism over the centuries.
Greek communities in countries bordering on the Black Sea remains strong to this day, constituting a “living bridge” with Greece. Within the framework of maintaining Greece’s ethnic and cultural presence in the region, Greece has a strong cultural presence, funding and supporting a number of cultural centers and university chairs in modern Greek, while in areas where there is a particularly strong Greek presence, Greek schools are operated within the framework of the local associations of ethnic Greeks. The Greek presence in these areas is confirmed – and their future underscored – via visits of ethnic Greeks to Greece and visits of Greek-language professors to these countries.
Greece also has a significant economic presence and interests in the Black Sea region. Exports to countries of the region account for 20% of total Greek exports.
Greece’s foreign policy regarding the states and peoples of the Black Sea region is focussed on developing ties and cooperation on all levels. Greece pursues and supports the achievement of stability in the region, and its general contribution in this direction became even more marked during Greece’s 2009 Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and participation in the OSCE Troika in 2010.
Within the European Union, Greece promotes and supports polices that contribute not only to the economic development of these regions, but also to bringing these countries closer to Europe. Greece was one of the countries involved in creating the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and supports both the Black Sea Synergy and the recently created Eastern Partnership (EaP).
The Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) – of which Greece was a founding member – also plays a very important role in regional cooperation throughout the wider region.
Greece is currently the principal financer of all the BSEC’s organs. Greece’s financial contribution became even more significant following the decision to found the BSEC Greek Development Fund, which will provide a total of €2 million in four annual instalments of €500,000. Additionally, Greece is headquarters to two BSEC related bodies: the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank (Thessaloniki) and the International Center for Black Sea Studies (Athens).
Within the framework of the BSEC, Greece develops important initiatives and supports the development of important regional projects – including the Black Sea Ring Highway and the extension of Motorways of the Sea – aimed at sustainable development in the region.
In 2009, Ambassador L. Xrysanthopoulos was selected to head the BSEC Permanent International Secretariat, based in Istanbul, through June 2012.
Greece’s BSEC Chairmanship in the second half of 2010 emphasised economic and energy cooperation, as well as respect for the environment, which was highlighted in the Chairmanship’s slogan: “Black Sea Turns Green”. In this direction, the Joint Statement of the November 2010 BSEC Ministerial in Thessaloniki was the BSEC contribution to the December 2010 UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun.