Baltic-Black Sea Economic Forum 2020: topical issues before the start



Interview With Volodymyr Makukha, Deputy Chairman Of The Board Of The Baltic-Black Sea Economic Forum

Volodymyr, the Baltic-Black Sea Economic Forum, taking into account its previous events held in Lithuania and Ukraine, will host the eighth participants this year. Will it have any differences, "highlights" that will distinguish it from the previous ones?

I would like to immediately place some emphasis on the peculiarities of the preparation for this year Baltic-Black Sea Economic Forum, as well as on the factors that must be taken into account during determining both organizational decisions and decisions of responsibility for the results, which participants expect from forum. 
Firstly, the organizational feature of this year’s forum is that not only the Ukrainian-Lithuanian team, but also our partners from other countries, from the Baltic Sea to the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea, are directly or indirectly involved in the preparation of the forum.

Secondly, the situation in the world related to the coronavirus pandemic significantly increases the importance of the issues discussed and the ways on their possible solutions. In addition, there is a high probability that the Baltic-Black Sea Economic Forum will be one of the first events of sucj level in the Euro-Asian space, that imposes additional responsibilities for its effectiveness.

Have you considered the option of holding a remote forum, as the coronavirus has made online events very popular?

No, the remote option using electronic communication technology, which is now actively used for various meetings, is excluded. Firstly, the peculiarity of this Baltic-Black Sea Economic Forum is that its basic participants are partners from Europe and Asia, who are already working together on various projects initiated at the forum sites. From the beginning, this forum was planned not as an "exhibition-presentation" but with the purpose of substantive discussion of the projects implementation, development of joint plans and decisions aimed at improving the implementation of these projects, increasing their efficiency, attracting new partners. Therefore, it is necessary to meet the partners as for joint development of some decisions "on the sidelines of the forum", as for personal communication with other participants during the work of the relevant sections. Secondly, the situation with quarantine restrictions and already received pandemic strikes on the economies of the Baltic-Black Sea-Caspian regions increases the responsibility of our international partner team. This responsibility includes not only working together to develop "recipes" for working in new quarantine restrictions, overcoming challenges for partner economies, but also identifying action plans to use our partnership project to create an effective cooperation corridor from the Baltic to the eastern Caspian coast as one of the foundations for the creation of an area of economic security, at least in the Euro-Asian space.

Will the Forum take place on time?

As for the date of the forum, it depends on the resumption of international air traffic and the opportunity for all our partners to come to Ukraine. We are in constant contact with our friends and partners, analyze the situation with the opening of borders and will agree in advance on the most convenient date of the forum with all speakers and participants in discussions - both already announced and those with whom some organizational issues are being clarified. Preliminary forecasts suggest that the forum may take place in August or September this year.

What will be discussed at the Forum, what issues are submitted for consideration?

If we talk about the basic issues (sections) that are being prepared by our international team for discussion, there are three of them and they are interrelated. The first, strategic section will address to issues related to the challenges to the world economy, new realities and changes in the world in connection with the coronavirus pandemic. In particular, representatives of governments, diplomatic missions, MPs of various levels from Europe and Asia will try to identify possible recipes and possible plans for joint action to create an area of economic security in the Euro-Asian space. The section will be moderated by Vytautas Naudujas, diplomat, special envoy of the Department of Foreign Economic Relations and Economic Security Policy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania. Vytautas is a specialist of the highest international level and very authoritative person both in Europe and in Asia.

The second section will be related to the implementation of the unifying project of creating a corridor for effective cooperation from the shores of the Baltic Sea to the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea. This section will be attended by managers and representatives of the management of seaports and transport and logistics companies from Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, which are already partners of this project. Preliminary developments and planning of further joint actions for the final discussion during the meeting at the forum venues have been actively carried out for a long time. The situation faced by the transport and logistics industry, in particular, requires very prompt, non-standard solutions and decisive action. In this regard, there is already some experience gained by our partners in the Caspian Sea. It is experience worthy of attention and adapted use by our partners in local areas not only of the Caspian Sea but also of the Baltic and Black Seas. Much has been said and written, for example, about the active position in the development of international cooperation in the development of multimodal transport corridors, which is demonstrated by Turkmenistan, thanks to the strategically balanced active position of its President, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. His announcement of plans for Turkmenistan to develop cooperation in the construction of a transport corridor to the Baltic coast, announced last year, once again demonstrated the high level of strategic thinking of Mr. Gurbanguly Maliukguliyovych and the coincidence of Turkmenistan's leading role in the UN development agenda on international cooperation in creating international transport and logistics routes and ensuring their effective functioning. Kazakhstan also plays an active role in this area of ​​international cooperation. Participation in our forum of delegations from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan provides an opportunity not only to discuss the possible development of local cooperation in the Caspian Sea, but also opportunities to use the experience of our friends and partners from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan in the Baltic and Black Sea. 

The third basic section will be related to the development of international cooperation in the sphere of higher education. Our friends and partners from the Kherson State Maritime Academy and the Lithuanian Maritime Academy (Klaipeda) are preparing the "educational" section. The co-organizers of this year's forum from the Kherson State Maritime Academy will be better able to tell about the importance of the work of this section and the developments that already exist. I can only say that our partners, together with colleagues from other universities of Ukraine, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Poland, Georgia, Latvia and other countries have already done a huge amount of work. For discussion at the forum it is planned to raise not only issues related to the training of specialists for sea and river transport, ports and transport and logistics companies, but also to pay special attention to the implementation of joint educational programs, the need of mutual adaptation of legislation and regulations databases of partners to ensure that graduates who have been trained in joint programs receive double diplomas (such as Ukrainian and Lithuanian).

Is it possible that even geopolitical problems will be solved in Kherson?

Yes, the issues raised for discussion at this year's forum are of geopolitical importance. Their solutions are important for the whole Euro-Asian space and beyond. Thus, among the issues and projects planned for discussion are those in which enterprises, institutions and organizations of Ukraine will be or will have the opportunity to be involved, but there are also projects (in particular, local) in which the participation of representatives of Ukraine is not provided. At the same time, just the fact that these issues and projects are planned for discussion on the territory of Ukraine is already a big plus and fact of indirect participation in their consideration.

With such a range of issues under consideration, an event of such level should take place somewhere in the capital. Was any offer to move the forum, if not to Kyiv, then at least to one of the cities with a million population?

I will not object, that taking into accaount the level of issues included in this year's Baltic-Black Sea Economic Forum and the logistical organizational capabilities, some of our international partners have offered to hold this forum in Kyiv. But it was decided to hold it in Kherson. It gives additional opportunities to both the city of Kherson and the Kherson region to use the opportunity for additional attention through the prism of the forum. I will also not hide that there were many factors that outweighed the scales in favor of Kherson. Firstly, the questions of one of the basic sections are prepared by our friends and partners from the Kherson State Maritime Academy (it was decided to carry out the work of three basic sections, which have already been mentioned above, on its territory). 

Secondly, we already have a positive experience when the forum was hosted by Kherson; moreover: Kherson City Council is a partner of our forum. Thirdly, it is said to be the role of the individual. In fact it is reasoned and persistent position of the permanent members of the organizing committee for the preparation and holding of the Baltic-Black Sea Economic Forum, deputies of the Kherson City Council Stanislav Troshin and Yevhen Nazaryan.

What advantages will Kherson get from holding the forum in our city? Will the forum help the city to solve inner problems?

Yes, it will. The fact that the Baltic-Black Sea Economic Forum will be held in Kherson allows (and we fully support) the Kherson City Executive Committee to prepare and hold municipal sections to consider the issues and projects that the city wants to discuss and to which it wants to draw additional attention to promote their more effective implementation. Moreover, the city has the opportunity to determine not only the topics of municipal sections, but also speakers on them, and the desired invited participants. 

In addition, we think that if the city is interested in holding such discussions to ensure the expected effect, it would be most appropriate for the structures of the city executive committee to take on both the organization and holding of these meetings. But before moving in this direction further, we must discuss it with the Kherson mayor.

We hope that by the time of the forum the threat of coronavirus infection will pass, but the "ghost" of the pandemic will still be somewhere nearby. Are there any additional security measures planned for the forum participants and those who will receive guests?

It is a very important question. The safety of the forum participants is one of our priorities. Although the Kherson region is one of the most prosperous, where there are almost no patients with coronavirus (I hope there will be no patients on the days of the forum), but, nevertheless, we are already working out a number of organizational measures. 

Firstly, in order to control the number of people present in the halls during the discussions and to ensure control over the observance of social distances, there will be only those who have received an invitation either directly from the Baltic-Black Sea Economic Forum or from the co-organizers of these sections - Kherson State Maritime Academy.

Secondly, the venues of the forum will be provided with antiseptics.

Thirdly, negotiations are already underway to ensure that the hotel where the forum participants will be accommodated does not accommodate anyone in its premises at least a week before the forum day, and on the days of the event only forum participants will be accommodated in this hotel.

And what do you personally expect from the forum?

For me and for the whole team of the forum it will be, first of all, a meeting with friends. It will be the meeting of friends from different countries, from the shores of the Baltic Sea to the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea. Thanks to active actions of our friends, mutual support and constant communication between them, in these difficult times I have no doubt that all the challenges and difficulties faced by our countries, will be overcomed together and we will move forward with confidence.

Interviewed by Larysa Zharkikh