Construction of infrastructure in South Eastern Europe: from the vicious circle
of underdevelopment to the virtuous circle of sustainability
We live in a period of time in which differentiated world of the 20th century is rapidly transforming into a network-type world, of which power centers are multiple, diffuse and mobile.
In this world in which new dimensions of the reality permanently appear, discovery and exploitation of the natural reserve have received immediately the complement of the communication milieu, of the technological interface and last but not least, of the cultural values. This means that in the globalised society any movement of goods must be taken into both senses.
The globalization of the international economic relations imposes, sooner or later, a balance for the economic specialization of the different geographic areas, and thus a balance for the trades and for the transportation ways for these trades.
We still are in a period of time in which the global balances are not yet crystallized. After the collapse of the communist regime, after the political evolution in Eastern Asia and after the discovery of the hydrocarbon reservoirs in the area of Caspian Sea, South Eastern Europe is still in front of an opportunity which must not be missed.
Approximately 67% of the world’s oil reserves, and 45% of the world’s natural gas reserves are in the Middle East and Central Asian countries. That means three fourths of the proven oil and gas reserves of the world exist within our neighboring regions.
The regional and international objective of South Eastern Europe energy strategy is therefore to establish many energy corridors between these energy rich countries and the energy consuming western markets. For this aim, concrete steps have been taken to develop oil and gas pipelines which would not only provide an outlet as an energy corridor and terminal for the Caspian, Russian and the Middle East hydrocarbon resources, but also help diversify the supply sources and routes of the world market.
Which could be the strategy of South-Eastern Europe regarding the integration within global market? Transportation, communications, economic relations and infrastructures reflected polarized cold war mentality. The outcome was the separation of the countries and because they were unlike, a further distancing of the region from the other parts of the world that were adapting to growing requirements of globalization. Additionally hardship and fallacies of the post-communist transition processes generated a whole spectrum of security risks including organized crime, human trafficking, black markets, environmental degradation and not excluding legitimacy crises in individual countries.
The great projects of infrastructure by the huge amounts involved could lead to a important increase of corruption. The efforts of the administrations of the countries in the area will never be enough if the great multi-international companies involved will not definitely refuse to take part to the act of corruption, because it will never be corrupted without corrupting people.
With this regard, infrastructure projects designed and developed jointly often constitute the main visible tool of the regional initiatives in South Eastern Europe. Networks of transportation, telecommunication and electricity are the backbone of the regional integration and thus stability and prosperity. These projects also provide solutions for unemployment, which is a major socio-economic problem we face in the region.
The solution of these problems requires trans-border formulas based on common approach of the neighboring countries and cooperation at regional level. In this sense it is regrettable that only about 3% (3.36%) of the regional infrastructure projects carried out within the framework of Stability Pact are of cross-border nature, while the rest 97% of approximately 4 billion Euro (3.96 billion Euro) investment is allocated to the national projects.
By its geographical position the South East of the Europe could become the pivot for a continental South European transportation and cooperation corridor which to connect Pacific and Atlantic Ocean. Such a corridor could connect the great natural resources of Central Asia and trans-Caucasus with the markets in accelerated development in Central Europe or Far East. In our view, such a corridor, excepting its transit function, must integrated the industrial capacities existing in the countries it crosses.
Regional and interregional cooperation in South Eastern Europe has functioned as a laboratory for general European accession, as regards to obtain a capital of common experience, both in the development of the infrastructure and in legal frame.
In this strategy, an important role is played by the regional and interregional political initiatives as the trilaterals initiated by Romania between 1997 and 2000 with different states in the area (i.e. Romania-Bulgaria-Turkey, Romania-Bulgaria-Greece, Romania-Bulgaria- Ukraine, Romania- Ukraine - Moldova). They led to the development of the infrastructure and the legal frame of the commerce, to the telecommunication main lines with Bulgaria, Turkey and Moldova, to the Romania’s integration in CEFTA space, to the free trade with Turkey, Moldova and Ukraine.
Today, one can not build strategies for the 3rd millennium with recycled materials or with Ersatz from the 2nd millennium. In this millennium other values will become important and among them, creativity and culture will prevail in a post-informational and globalized society. These perspectives and values must be taken in consideration by now. The development of a continental way of communication between Japan – China - Central Asia - Trans-Caucasus – central and western Europe must be seen not only as a continental way but also as a powerful way of assuring the stability along a historical route. The stability based on the acceptance of a set of common values, on the observance of the market economy principle, is the only one that could lead to performing economies and democratic structures which could assure the capacity of creating stability at home and in the region.
Thus the East West corridor will be functional both sides by all respects: transportations, commerce, political decisions, cultural exchanges.
The revival of certain transportation corridors presumes resuming the old connections between cultures, with modern socio-cultural principles. If the financial and economic relations, based on profit, have often a short life, if the political relations are eventually depending on the security interests, which sometimes have a variable geometry, the cultural relations have the stability vocation which is a must for every main project.
The reconstruction of the infrastructure is urgent and indispensable. During NATO intervention in Yugoslavia seven bridges out of ten, which pass the Danube on the Yugoslavian territory, were bombed down as well as other ways of access roads and telecommunication. One can say that it was the first war in the history against infrastructure, even considering the loss of human life as collateral effects implies a great dose of cynicism. The reconstruction of infrastructure is urgent and essential. The writer and philosopher Umberto Eco suggested that, in our modern world, those who can decide efficiently on the end of an war are the businessmen. We ask ourselves: do the businessmen need politicians for the infrastructure projects? My answer is: absolute yes, because there are involved expensive projects on long term. Even if a public private partnership is involved, there is a need for decisions at parliamentary and government level. Assuming such projects which do not bring electoral acquisition, makes the difference between popular politicians and statesmen who assume the risks of strategic projects.
Chiefs of states in this area, including myself, have warned we are in an epoch in which the regional balances are not crystallized yet, and in order to accelerate this process towards democracy and prosperity it is necessary that western states to involve more economically into a long term partnership together to the post-communist states in South eastern Europe. We do not have to forget for any moment that only a nation-communist regime, as that one of Milosevici, and a prolonged recession could determine the ascent of the extremist forces, with tragic consequences which we do not have to imagine because we had lived them. Recently Chancellor Schroeder has warned that a stop of UE enlargement could revive the extremism in Balkans.
A clear sign must be urgently convey to the international community, mostly to the foreign investors, that in this area, the pragmatic approach of the objectives prevails, facilitating the implementation of the proposed projects and programs.
In the future, I think it will be necessary that the open and flexible nature of a “collaboration space” to be maintained and even strengthened, to be permeable to multilateral efforts, included by involving other countries and organizations from the outside the area.
The collaboration with older subregional structures as ICE, SECI, Royaumont process, Mediterranean Initiative, Baltic Council have priority, regarding putting into practice of a common project initiated in infrastructure of transportation, communication and energy.
Regarding the dialog with the economic and financial organizations and institutions interested in (OMC, BEI, BERD) the actions of valorizing of experience and of the potential of their technical support, and more the availability of participating to the realization of the projects of cooperation in the area, both intra and inter regional, must be intensified.
Pragmatic approach of South Eastern Europe cooperation will contribute to the achievement of a political dialog endorsed to the neighborliness desideratum, and the investments into programs and projects of development in the area will also represent investments into the future of stability, security and peace for the whole European continent.
One can not have a lasting development without a clear and coherent strategy which to begin with the development of infrastructure.
In order to put into practice a lasting strategy it is necessary to rally all the energies of the nations in the area. The experience of the democratic societies, of open societies and of my own, tells that only state structures and administration are not enough. Nothing serious, nothing important could be realized unless to these major strategic projects important forces from civil society are not added. Thus the utility of a forum to mobilize intelligences, capacities and not at least financial resources.
Vienna Economic Forum could become a node in the European and global informational network capable of opening a new horizon of communication and prosperity. I am deeply convinced that, in the future, our common will and efforts will revive these projects, today far off, for civilization and welfare, not only of our region but of the whole Europe.