HASAN KANBOLAT

BSEC Summit in İstanbul

The Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a summit in İstanbul on Tuesday attended by heads of state.

Held at the Lütfi Kırdar International Convention Hall, the summit will begin with a BSEC Council of Foreign Ministers special meeting, a Group Chairs of BSEC Parliamentary Assembly meeting, a forum of academics, an economy forum and a BSEC CSO forum, with the BSEC Heads of State summit taking place at noon.

In ancient times, the importance of the Black Sea region as a trading center was second only to that of the Mediterranean. People of the Aegean sailed to these unfamiliar waters in the 10th century B.C., exploring gold and iron mines. They were met with towering waves, strong currents, storms and new peoples and cultures. It is speculated that due to the unwelcoming attitude they encountered there, they named the Black Sea “Aexeinos Pontos” -- literally “sea that does not like friends.” It is also theorized that the word “Aexeinos” derives from “Ahşaena,” a Persian word that means “darkness,” or from “Aşkenaz,” the grandson of Yafes, the son of Noah, who is said to have lived in this area.

With the advent of new shipping technologies, strong vessels were built to ensure safe sailing in Black Sea waters. The wealth of the region was disseminated throughout the Aegean and Mediterranean regions, channeled through colonies built along the shores of the Black Sea. In this way the approach to the Black Sea changed, and it was renamed “Pontos Euxeinos,” a sea that loves guests. Currently, the name of the Black Sea is uniform in translation in the languages spoken along its shores. In English, it is “Black Sea”; in Ottoman, “Bahr-i Siyah”; Bulgarian and Russian, “Chernoye More” ; Ukrainian, “Çorne More”; Georgian, “Saviz Jgva”; Romanian, “Marea Neagra”; Greek, “Mavro Thalassa”; Arabic, “al-Bahr al-Aswad”; Adige, “Hi Fitse”; Abkhaz, “Amsin Eykua”; Megrel, “Uça Zuğa.”

In fact, the “black” in the name does not hold a negative meaning, but rather stresses the location and emphasizes the nobility, glory and fertility of the sea. In Bilge Kagan inscriptions, “black” signifies “north,” and likewise in roots of the Turkish language. For this reason, the names of the northward-facing city gates of ancient Turkish cities are “black,” and so the sea to the north was named the Black Sea and the one in the south Akdeniz (which literally means “white sea” -- the Mediterranean). In the ancient roots of the Turkish language, black has connotations of nobility, glory and supremacy, and strong and glorious rivers streaming from east to west are often called “black.”

For a long time the Black Sea has been a region where peace and stability have reigned, even in Cold War times. In the 21st century, the Black Sea prepares to become the sea of democracy and freedom, as well as peace and stability. The growing identity of the Black Sea region will be revived and strengthened by the BSEC; it wants to become free and prosperous. The common identity of the Black Sea settlements, which can be traced back through history, continues to erode the boundaries between them: Visas are being lifted; passports are no longer required for travel; cultural differences and boundaries are being overcome. Airports are being jointly used, and the people are beginning to enjoy unity. The peoples of the Black Sea region now share the joy of being neighbors and relatives.

The BSEC prepares to rise like a phoenix under the leadership of experienced diplomats, such as Ambassadors Mithat Rende and Gökçen Kaya of the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Its initiative is breathing new life into the identity of the Black Sea.

2012-06-25