Trade and economic development discussed in Moscow

ministers

A meeting of Ministers of Economy and Trade of CBSS Member States was held In Moscow on 20 March 2002, hosted by Mr. German O. Gref, Minister of Economic Development and Trade of the Russian Federation, representing the Russian Presidency of the Council.

Ministers in charge of economic co-operation and trade or their deputies from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden and a representative of the European Commission took part, along with delegates from CBSS Observer countries (France, Italy, Slovakia, The Netherlands, Ukraine, USA and the United Kingdom), international organisations, (OECD and the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Co-operation), the Nordic Investment Bank, the Business Advisory Council within the framework of the CBSS and the Baltic Sea Chambers of Commerce Association. High-ranking representatives from both federal and regional Russian authorities were also present, among them Mr. Vladimir G. Egorov, Governor of Kaliningrad Oblast, officials from St. Petersburg Administration, the State Customs Committee and the State Standards Committee. A representative of the Republic of Belarus attended the meeting as a guest of the Chair.

Discussions focused on a number of important issues of regional economic co-operation, such as fostering the process of regional integration, creating favorable framework conditions for SMEs, promoting cross-border co-operation, simplifying customs procedures, eradicating corruption, developing transport infrastructure, energy and tourism, protecting intellectual property rights and combating organised crime.

The Ministers adopted the Moscow Action Plan – a program document outlining the key directions of economic co-operation in the region and setting common goals of multilateral interaction in the years ahead. The document reflects both the progress achieved by CBSS Member States in specific fields since the adoption of the Bergen Action Plan in February 2000, and areas where improvement has been insufficient and where further actions are needed. Participants of the meeting stressed the importance of eliminating barriers to trade and investment and transforming the Baltic Sea region into a common investment area. They agreed to take further concrete steps to bolster economic growth by means of multilateral economic co-operation and trade and thus move forward towards achieving the over-arching goal of sustainable development of the Baltic Sea area. The Moscow Action Plan also singles out the Northern Dimension as an important framework of regional co-operation.

Particular attention was given to the prospect of Russia’s accession to the WTO and to ensuring a positive impact from the EU enlargement process. The Ministers stressed in this regard that Kaliningrad Oblast of the Russian Federation should become an example of fruitful co-operation between Russia and the EU. Kaliningrad Governor Egorov informed meeting participants about ongoing and planned rigorous efforts aimed at boosting the social and economic development of the Oblast, including its infrastructure. The Russian government adopted a Federal Programme of Development of Kaliningrad Oblast for 2001-2010, which is aimed at ensuring sustainable social and economic development of the area. One of the key objectives of the Russian federal policy towards Kaliningrad is the improvement of its investment climate and its attractiveness for domestic and foreign investors.

In this regard, joint actions on rapprochement of legislation and harmonisation of standards and certification requirements of goods and services, especially of those exported from Kaliningrad Oblast, as well as co-operation in solving concrete problems of Kaliningrad, including visas, transport, energy, social and economic development issues etc., could become the focus of fledging Russia–EU interaction. Transformation of the Oblast into a centre of co-operation of SMEs of Russia and EU member countries could develop into one of the most promising avenues of such co-operation.

Ministers of Economy and Trade acknowledged the fact that the objective of limiting border-crossing procedures in the region to a maximum of two hours still had not been achieved, and welcomed the on-going work of the Baltic Sea Customs Conference (BSCC) and the Baltic Sea Chambers of Commerce Association (BCCA) towards reaching this goal. Particularly stressed in this context was the need to carry on with concrete efforts at both national and multilateral level aimed at harmonising customs legislation in line with WTO and EU requirements. As an important step towards more effective promotion of regional interaction, the Ministers agreed on the need to elaborate quantitative indicators for monitoring the progress in various fields of regional co-operation.

Participants of the meeting in Moscow were united in their view that the efforts of CBSS Member States aimed at fostering economic co-operation in the region had already yielded tangible results, but additional concerted action was needed to keep up the momentum and remove remaining obstacles. Due implementation of the Moscow Action Plan will enable Baltic Sea countries to move ahead towards achieving their common goals, based on the principles of peaceful coexistence, equality, sovereignty and observance of the law.

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