On October 22 and 23, GMF officially launched the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation (BST)in Bucharest, Romania. Modeled after the successful Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD), the launch brought together policymakers, academics, civil society representatives, and members of the media from the United States and Europe. The event discussed the most pressing issues currently facing the Wider Black Sea region and included panel sessions on such topics as the role of the media; transatlantic aspirations for the region; the role of civil society; energy, the environment, and good governance; and public-private partnerships.
The welcome address was delivered by Romanian President, Traian Băsescu, who reiterated Romania's desire and interest in the region, a region the Romanian president stressed as having major economic and political importance. During his address, President Băsescu highlighted the key role that international organizations like BST will have in the ongoing security and development of the region. Their involvement he pointed out will have a significant affect on the consolidation of cross-border initiatives, social dialogue and democratic governance, and the encouragement of private sector and civil society participation.
Other keynote speakers included Mircea Geoană, president of the Romanian Senate Commission for Foreign Affairs and Ambassador Özdem Sanberk, former Turkish ambassador to London and former undersecretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry who addressed Turkey's current political, economic, and regional challenges.
In advance of the spring 2008 NATO Summit to be held in Bucharest, GMF launched together with its grantmaking initiative a series of papers focusing on the regional challenges and opportunities faced by the West and others in the Wider Black Sea region. (Paper series here)
A public-private partnership, BST will work in collaboration with a range of donors to provide grants to indigenous organizations working to foster and strengthen regional cooperation, civil society, and democratic foundations. A project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), the Trust will be operated as a 10-year initiative, though GMF remains open to considering a longer-term effort. Primary programs include: Civic Participation, Cross-Border Initiatives, and East-East Cooperation.
Forming a grantmaking initiative, like BST, takes a great deal of patience, determination, and trust on the part of all parties involved. During the closing panel, "Public-Private Partnership to Overcome Challenges," USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia, Thomas Mefford, noted that BST and BTD will help USAID continue a sustained partnership in Romania and Bulgaria - two countries in which the organization is currently shutting down their bilateral assistance missions.
Mefford also pointed out that BST will help USAID leverage funding, people, and ideas to support democracy efforts around the Wider Black Sea region. The Europe and Eurasia Bureau of USAID, has long recognized the importance of partnering with others to promote democratic reform, particularly in the area of support to grassroots civil society. These efforts allow each organization to pool resources, experience, and expertise.
Along with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), BST partners include the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Ministry of Defence of Latvia, and the Romanian government. Grants will be awarded in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine, and Russia (the oblasts of Krasnodar and Rostov).