On Wednesday, 26 October, the Transport Committee at the European Parliament approved agreements with Ukraine and Moldova aimed at improving and facilitating the movement of goods at the border between the two nations.
Moldova was granted the status of candidate country to join the European Union during the European Council on 22 June, Ukraine also received a favourable opinion from the EU Commission on 17 June, and during the same Council the status of applicant country was approved.
The agreements concern the transport of goods by road and were already in force in provisional mode, in order to ensure the unblocking of a difficult situation at the borders with the EU due to the cross-permits required for the movement of hauliers and transported loads.
Of course, these measures are part of the crisis scenario caused by the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.
Kiev absolutely needs to implement new forms of transport and find alternative routes for a whole series of civil needs ranging from exporting its grain stocks, given that following the Sevastopol raid Russia decided on the ‘indefinite suspension of the implementation of the agreement on the export of agricultural products from Ukrainian ports’, to finding fuel and basic necessities.
In addition to the liberalisation of freight transport between Moldova and Ukraine, the agreement with the nation led by Volodymyr Zelens’kyj also envisages the possibility for Ukrainian hauliers to be allowed to drive on their own licences without having to acquire an international driving licence in order to travel on the territories covered by the mobility pact.
Now the separate agreements unanimously approved in the Commission will have to be ratified by the European Parliament in plenary session. The ECR group has already expressed its recommendation that the ratification should take place in a timely manner in order to unblock the critical situation at the borders between the EU, Moldova and Ukraine and facilitate the transport of goods as much as possible.
In addition to the liberalisation of road transport, there is also news that the European Commission and the European Investment Bank are preparing a feasibility study on rail transport. The aim is very similar to that of the two agreements mentioned above: to facilitate transport interconnectivity between the two countries, but with a long-term vision that envisages the improvement of connections in view of the end of the conflict in Ukraine.
The aim of the study is to identify the best way to make the connection between the Moldovan and Ukrainian railway networks and the TEN-T trans-European transport network possible.
This project is also part of the ‘Solidarity Lanes’, actions presented by the European Commission to support Ukraine in the export of its agricultural production despite the blockade of ports and consequently the impossibility of continuing to use transport by ship.
Technically, the connection to the trans-European rail transport network will be possible involving Poland and Romania as well as Ukraine, Moldova and other intermediate countries, because the most successful hypothesis will be to extend the railway networks of these European countries by connecting them to the Kiev and Chișinău lines. These are two very different railway infrastructures, as reported by the Commission, for which connecting works are needed to make freight transport easier in both directions.
Specifically, track widths differ significantly between the EU and Eastern Europe, so the idea of extending the ‘standard gauge’, which stands for the standard track width on our networks, seems to be the most appropriate solution, even though until before the outbreak of the war this hypothesis was not considered by the EU, but on the contrary it was the Eastern European countries that wanted to invest in bringing the ‘broad gauge’ to EU territories and make trade in their goods flourish.
EIB Vice-President Teresa Czerwińska, responsible for operations in Ukraine and Moldova, is optimistic.
“This is a strategic investment for sustainable and green economic growth, which also improves global food security. The integration of the railway networks will enable easier and safer movement of people, goods and services between the three markets and faster integration of the two countries with the EU,’ she said.
The study is expected to be completed by May 2023.