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Delivering change to South East Europe

7 April 2016  •  Author(s): Nedim Begovic, SEETO

Ahead of his article in European Railway Review Issue 3 2016, Nedim Begovic – Transport Planning Manager at the South East Europe Transport Observatory (SEETO) provides a quick overview here of the latest developments of the Core Regional Transport Network MoU stating that strategic planning alone is not enough to develop the transport and railways in the South East Europe region.

SEETO (the South East Europe Transport Observatory) and the Western Balkans (WB) region previously placed high focus on the strategic planning and extension of the EU TEN-T Core Network to Western Balkan. Subsequently, WB partners participating in SEETO are not EU Member States meaning they are not automatically included within the EU strategic networks and plans, and this is done gradually through accession and cooperation processes between the EC and the WB partners.

In 2015 new strategic objectives and guidelines for the development of the Western Balkans’ transport system were set, which was accomplished through several high level events to tighten cooperation in the region and also to streamline the priorities for the overall regional development.

The WB6 Conference between the Prime Ministers from Western Balkans and the European Commission, initiated by the German chancellor held on 28 August 2014 in Berlin, provided a political framework for the continued intensive development of transport infrastructure in the region. From the strategic point-of-view, substantial progress was achieved during 2015, notably the agreement by the six Western Balkan Prime Ministers in Brussels in April 2015 on the regional Core Transport Network and the composition of the list of regional infrastructure projects and soft measures to be implemented by 2020, as well as the extension of EU Core Corridor Coordinators (Vienna Summit in August) mandate to Western Balkans. All of these measures aim to enhance connectivity between the WB partners as well as with the EU network.

The definition of the TEN-T Core Network for the Western Balkans represents a milestone in the regional transport cooperation. For the first time, the regional transport network will be integrated with the Trans-European Transport Core Network and the WB states will equally participate to the corridors management mechanisms, thus becoming part of the big European family in the transport field.

This great achievement brings also a great deal of responsibility and work that has to be carried out in the following period in order to implement the pre-identified infrastructure projects and to complete the Core Network by 2030. Furthermore, WB partners adopted and committed to a set of soft (policy) measures for which fast progress can bring higher added value to the infrastructure investments, and on a medium term (until 2020) their implementation should result in opening the transport markets, establishment of competitive, reliable and safe transport system, and increase of the effectiveness of border crossing procedures.

However, strategic planning is not enough for development of transport and railways in the region, especially taking into account the current poor condition of railways in our region, and this was well understood by all the parties. To this purpose, the European Commission allocated €1 billion in grants (with co-financing rate of 50% for railway projects) for the programming period 2014–2020, where priority is given to transport and energy infrastructure projects. What lies before us are concrete rehabilitation and modernisation projects for improving our railways.

Read more about the rail developments within the activities of SEETO in European Railway Review Issue 3 2016 (published in May) by clicking here to sign-up and receive your free print or online subscription.

Alongside Nedim’s articles in our South East Europe profile, we will feature articles about the latest rail infrastructure projects and priorities in Croatia and Bulgaria.

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