Brussels, 9 October 2013
Strengthening the Eastern Partnership through transport: key results and next steps
EU and Eastern Partnership1 transport ministers are meeting today in Luxembourg to assess progress and endorse the next steps for improving transport connections. Two years ago, the European Commission presented a transport action plan for bringing the EU's eastern neighbours closer to the EU. This approach was endorsed by transport ministers at their first meeting in Kraków, Poland in 2011.
"Transport does not stop at borders. It brings the people and economies of Europe closer together. The Eastern Partnership is about extending the EU's success stories to our closest neighbours so that they can also benefit from faster, cheaper and safer transport connections", said Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the European Commission.
Transport cooperation with the Eastern Partnership countries is essential for increasing trade links and bringing the eastern and western halves of the European continent closer together. Smoother transport connections create opportunities for companies and people alike. This is a concrete example of the benefits that the EU can bring to the Eastern Partnership countries. The EU’s focus is on helping the partner countries to converge with EU rules in all transport modes, as well as on improving transport infrastructure and connections between the EU and its closest neighbours.
At the meeting in Luxembourg, the ministers plan to endorse key results and give guidance for future cooperation with a joint declaration.
The first results of closer transport cooperation with the Eastern Partnership countries can be summarised as follows:
Harmonization with the EU legislation and gradual market integration: the partner countries have started reforms to align their transport systems with EU standards. The association agreements that the EU has negotiated with several partner countries envisage more regulatory convergence in transport. The most significant achievements of market integration are the signature and implementation of comprehensive aviation agreements that the EU has negotiated with Georgia and Moldova.
Regional Eastern Partnership Transport Network: Partner countries have agreed on priority connections in road, railway, air and sea transport in the Eastern Partnership region. Most importantly, this network connects with the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) and will serve as guidance for future investments.
Priority infrastructure projects on the regional transport network: projects such as the reconstruction of the Krakovits-Lviv-Brody-Rivne road in Ukraine and the upgrade of the railway line between Georgia and Azerbaijan are among those which partner countries have identified as priorities for improving connections with the EU and within the region. These projects could benefit from financing under existing EU funds and loans from international financial institutions.
As a next step, the Eastern Partnership Summit to be held in Vilnius on 28 and 29 November 2013 is expected to endorse some concrete and achievable targets resulting from transport cooperation. Following the summit, the Eastern Partnership Transport Panel will oversee continuing technical cooperation to advance regulatory convergence and the implementation of specific projects.
Follow Vice-President Kallas on Twitter