at the start of my mandate as Director of Transport Community Secretariat, I wanted to share with you our priorities in the coming period and my views for the future.
I believe that our citizens expect that their governments provide them with sustainable connectivity. For that we need to build, rehabilitate, and connect transport infrastructure, based on forward-looking Transport policy.
With the main aim and focus on integration of transport markets of six Western Balkan regional partners into the EU, the Transport Community will play a crucial role in achieving this.
We will be assisting our partners to adopt and implement EU’s legislations in the field of transport; and supporting projects that are connecting Western Balkans partners among themselves and with the EU.
I am starting my new role in challenging times. The COVID-19 pandemic is heavily impacting transport of goods and connectivity between Western Balkans partners as well as with the EU. At the same time, the new economic challenges (and opportunities) lie ahead of us, and we will need all our knowledge and ingenuity to make sure we sail though the current stormy weathers.
Nevertheless, it is also a time for a new momentum for the EU and Western Balkans relations. The revised enlargement methodology has invigorated European perspective of the entire region, with the concrete result of opening negotiations for Albania and North Macedonia. Finally, Zagreb’s EU – Western Balkans summit has among other initiatives injected unprecedented financial stimulus of more then 3,3 billion Euros that will go towards the response to COVID-19 as well as economic recovery of the region. Transport and connectivity are the basic enablers for that so I am confident that this stimulus will positively reflect in our sector.
At the same time, we will need to redouble our efforts in reforming transport policies, adopting and implementing the European acquis, and delivering on the Connectivity Agenda Reforms. Projects and Policy are two sides of the same coin.
The Permanent Secretariat will be actively supporting the administrations of Western Balkans parties on the reform path. The coming months will be crucial to make sure that our voice is heard loud and clear in our region, and the EU.
Under the guidance of the Regional Steering Committee, I will work to realise our joint priorities:
1) We need to make travel with rail possible and attractive for our citizens again. We should also invest in rail systems and support multimodal solutions in the region in order to move as much cargo from roads to rail as well as to better use inland waterway and maritime transport. This will help business, as well as make air cleaner and roads safer.
2) There should be no more dead or seriously injured because of road accidents on our roads (and railway crossings!). The Transport Community has a mission to help governments in the region to make roads safer for everybody. This is our sacred duty and my personal commitment.
3) Transportation of goods and mobility of people across the region and with the EU should be seamless and safe. Borders should not be a source of frustration and delays. Our citizens, visitors, and business wait too long at the border crossings, especially at the ones with the EU countries. We should build on good practices of Green Lanes, and make sure they stay green also after the COVID-19 crisis.
4) Our region should be better connected. Traveling and transporting goods should be faster, cheaper, healthier and, for passengers, also more enjoyable. We can do that by investing in sustainable infrastructure and connect our roads, rail, ports, and airports in the Trans European Network.
5) With the Transport Community Treaty we have committed to base transport policy on European legislation and standards. This will pave the way to seamless integration of the Western Balkans transport markets into the EU, which will in turn offer new business opportunities for companies in the region.
All priorities are based on already adopted and agreed political declarations, action plans, and joint commitments. Now it is the time for implementation.
We live in an extremely dynamic time with many challenges and even more opportunities. Let us take every crisis as a motivator to make this world a better place for everyone. Western Balkans is already realising its potential every day, and I am confident that Transport Community will give it another boost of energy to continue on its path of peace and prosperity.
I am happy that I can be part of this story.