The agenda of the second session of the 62nd General Assembly of the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (PABSEC), which is taking place in Kyiv, included two issues: general debate on “Strengthening the role of parliaments in enhancing security and cooperation in the Black Sea region on the basis of mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty” and cultural, educational and social affairs.

As for the debate, the speakers agreed on the need to strengthen and develop inter-parliamentary and intergovernmental cooperation among the BSEC member states as a whole and individually, using the powerful tool of parliamentary diplomacy. 

All the delegates present also expressed their categorical condemnation of russia’s aggression against Ukraine and noted that it is a serious problem and challenge for the Black Sea region, as it significantly worsens trade and economic ties between the countries and poses a threat to the entire democratic world.

In this context, Vadym Ivchenko, the Member of the Ukrainian Parliament, Member of the Permanent Delegation of Ukraine to the PABSEC, said: “Stability and security are critically important for all countries. For instance, the Black Sea region is a crossroads between Europe and Asia, combining different cultures, economies and political systems, so it is a key transport route for energy resources, trade and transit, and the stability of the global energy market depends on it.”

For his part, Pavel Hristov, a member of the Bulgarian Parliament, noted that the Assembly’s priorities now include ensuring food security and the smooth operation of critical infrastructure. To this end, Bulgaria is providing all possible support to Ukraine in the energy sector, including negotiations on the transfer of two nuclear reactors to Ukraine.

“The principles that have long contributed to the establishment of security in Europe are now being violated by russia. Therefore, we must strengthen and expand our inter-parliamentary cooperation to overcome the crisis as never before. This is a new reality, which means a new context, a new interaction.”

Christos Giannoulis, the Member of the Greek delegation to the PABSEC, who joined the meeting online, supported his colleague. In particular, he stressed that the conflict in the Black Sea region has become a serious challenge to democratic stability and established security norms.

“The actions of the russian federation violate international law and thus remind us of the importance of maintaining global peace and stability. Greece does not recognise the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories by russia. Authoritarianism is unacceptable to us. And we, as parliamentarians, should be at the forefront of defending democratic principles, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of each country of the Assembly,” the Greek MP said.

For his part, Igor Becic, the Member of the Parliament of the Republic of Serbia, Head of the Serbian delegation to the PABSEC, while discussing ways to establish a dialogue between parliaments and support Ukraine, stressed that parliamentary diplomacy is crucial in addressing challenges.

According to him, challenges help to strengthen ties, trust and cooperation for the sake of economic stability and development, so it is especially important to create mutually beneficial projects in all sectors for which the countries present at the meeting once united.

“State borders can only be changed in accordance with international law. This is one of the principles of Serbia. Therefore, we support the integrity of Ukraine and will help its people. For example, we have already sent several convoys with humanitarian aid, and we are also taking care of Ukrainians who have taken refuge in Serbia,” added Igor Becic.

In addition, the meeting participants touched upon the issue of environmental protection.

Oleksandr Marikovskyi, the Member of the Ukrainian Parliament and Chairman of the PABSEC Economic Committee, highlighted the threat and consequences of the proliferation of explosive devices and substances, which poses a danger to countries throughout the region.

“russia is committing ecocide! The Dnipro basin is in crisis, it has a high level of pollution. According to rough estimates, there are several hundred water mines in the Black Sea today, and this is a huge danger to many industries. So, we thank the BSEC countries for mitigating this eco-crisis and patrolling their waters!”

This theme was supported by Fatih Donmez, the Head of the Turkish Delegation. He noted that the joint work of parliamentarians from different countries is important not only for energy and food security, but also for environmental protection. Achieving peace should be combined with ensuring environmental safety. He also stressed that it is necessary to monitor the observance of human rights, as vulnerable categories of the population, in particular children, suffer especially.

The second part of the meeting, held by the PABSEC Committee on Cultural, Educational and Social Affairs, was devoted to the protection of children’s rights in the BSEC member states.

In his report on this issue, Yevhen Pivovarov, the Member of the Ukrainian Parliament and Member of the Permanent Delegation of Ukraine to the PABSEC, stressed that the protection of children’s rights during the war is one of the most important issues for Ukraine today. After all, Ukrainian children faced terrible things – violence (including sexual violence) and forced deportation.

“According to official figures, nearly 500 of our children have been abducted, 1,126 have been wounded, 343 are missing and approximately 19,000 have been forcibly deported. And these are only approximate numbers. russia is violating international humanitarian law! Many crimes have already been documented, and criminal proceedings have been initiated in the International Court of Justice against the leader of the aggressor country and his henchmen. Since russia ignores the norms of international law, we need to create a new mechanism for effective protection of children’s rights, which will be impossible to ignore,” the delegate said.

In this context, at the end of the meeting, the 62nd PABSEC General Assembly adopted the Report “The Role of Parliaments in Strengthening Child Protection Policies in the BSEC Member States”, which highlights the state of child protection mechanisms in the Organisation and emphasises this as a top priority, and the Recommendation to it with proposals for improving the existing mechanisms for protecting children’s rights.

The document, in particular, emphasises that strengthening child protection policies is a necessary component of sustainable development, social cohesion, stability and security at the national, regional and international levels.

“Children, especially today in the conflict zone between russia and Ukraine, urgently need security, stability, access to safe education, child protection services and psychosocial support. In this regard, it is necessary to use the available opportunities, to intensify measures to protect the interests of children through rapid and large-scale actions. Parliamentarians join the calls for an immediate ceasefire and the protection of all children from physical and psychological harm” the Recommendation states.

The delegates also emphasised that activities to protect children’s rights should not stop at national borders.

“Protecting children’s rights, using development opportunities and preserving peace require solidarity, joint action and informed decision-making at all levels. Regular interaction on child protection issues within the BSEC framework can be a means of strengthening cooperation, overcoming instability and preserving peace,” the document says.

At the end of the event, the delegates reiterated their support for Ukraine and assured that they would make every effort to strengthen cooperation for the common good of all the countries of the Region.

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