Transport Community Permanent Secretariat Director, Matej Zakonjsek, participated as a speaker at the 46th Road conference “CESTE”. Mr Zakonjsek addressed the participants and discussed the 2022 as the year of roads. He emphasised the importance of sustainable and smart mobility, as well as reliable data in road safety. Finally, he invited everyone to join Transport Community’s events planned for this year, including Road Summit, Social Forum and Summer School. His speech can be found below:
Shaping the Future: Safe, Smart and Sustainable Roads
Good morning distinguished Host, your Excellenices, participants, ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for giving me a chance to address you today.
Allow me to start with a few words about the organisation I am representing: The Transport Community is an international organisation in the field of Transport and Mobility with one aim: complete integration of the Western Balkans transport markets into the EU.
We are achieving this by supporting Regional Partners in the Western Balkans with implementation of all EU legislation in transport, in other words standards, where road and road safety are a big part of it, as well as by supporting connectivity projects that are connecting the region with itself and the EU. This includes projects such as road Corridor Vc in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Blue Highway and Budva bypass.
Connectivity within the region, and more importantly with neighbouring EU Member States, has been high on the region’s political agenda. Why connectivity matters? It is a defining factor for boosting economic growth and productivity, access to markets, resilient mobility with the final aim of a better life for citizens in the Western Balkans.
More than € 11 billion has been invested in road infrastructure in the Western Balkans in the past 15 years resulting in roads being one of the biggest assets of the region. This trend of investments has considerably improved the conditions of the region’s road network, with almost 60% in good and very good condition. Now is the time when investments in roads are considered more than just the classical project infrastructure; green, digital and innovative solutions should become an integral part of road infrastructure.
Our vision for the future is to make transport in the Western Balkans cleaner, safer, smarter, greener, resilient, competitive, and sustainable.
2022 Year of Roads
2021 was dedicated to rail. 2022 is focused on roads. We are dedicated to raising awareness, improving institutional capacities, and exchanging best practices within the Region and the European Union to make our roads in the Western Balkans fit for the future – smart, sustainable, and especially safe.
The main activity will be the Road Summit, to be held on 7 June in Tirana with the theme “Shaping the future – safe, smart and sustainable roads”.
I would use this opportunity and invite you to join us at the Road Summit.
Why are we discussing sustainable and smart mobility ?
- Main sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the Region are energy and transport sectors, encompassing two thirds of the overall share. The transport sector represented 16 per cent in the share of these emissions in 2018. There is still an increasing trend for emission levels caused by transport in the Western Balkans and in the European Union, this is more evident for road transport.
- Furthermore, lack of readiness to deal with climate change events led to huge losses for the economies of the Region during the 2014 floods and the trend is most likely to continue if direct actions are not taken. According to World Bank assessments, during floods of 2014 in Serbia damages and losses counted for almost 4.7% of GDP and almost 15% of GDP in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- To compliment the actions that were included in our Road Action Plan, we prepared a Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy for Western Balkans, mirroring the EU strategy in 2021.
- The Strategy is structured around three objectives, achieving Sustainable, Smart and Resilient Mobility. It is serving our Regional Partners to develop and strengthen their National Strategies.
- To address the challenges of sustainable mobility, we are focusing our actions to boost the uptake of zero emission vehicles. Currently, we are preparing a strategic framework for the deployment of e-charging stations aiming at seamless travel of electric vehicles in the Region’s road network. In other words, taking your electric car from Rovinj, driving to Belgrade and beyond should be become a reality.
- Furthermore, substantial progress is required on effective charging for infrastructure, mainly in road transport. This is key to addressing the cost of pollution and congestion on society. We are supporting our Partners to achieve electronic tolling interoperability, which means that it will be possible to use only one on board unit across the entire region.
- When looking at smart mobility, we are refering to deployment of intelligent transport systems, introduction of smart digital solutions for passengers and businesses. By 2023 our Regional Partners will have adopted ITS strategies and will be ready to start the deployment.
- Greening and digitalisation of the road sector doesn’t come cheap neither in Europe nor Western Balkans. Funds are made available under the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, out of € 9 billion grant funding around € 5 billion will be channelled towards transport. Regional Partners will have to exploit this opportunity through well prepared projects that should address the green and digital transition of the transport sector in the Western Balkans.
- The green and digital shift should not jeopardise road safety, and that is why we have road safety as a priority in our regional agenda.
Every year thousands of people lose their lives or are seriously injured in road traffic crashes in the Western Balkans. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of road deaths decreased by 35% – during this period the total number of deaths decreased from 1,796 to 1,171 – this is a good indicator; however, we are not yet where we want to be: at 0.
We are dedicated in supporting Regional Partners to achieve the objectives of the Decade of Action 2021-2030: reducing road fatalities and serious injuries by at least 50%.
But first things first: to achieve our goal in reduction of fatalities and seriously injured we first need good data:
The establishment of the Western Balkan Road Safety Observatory in 2021 marks the beginning of a new era of a wider collaboration involving different stakeholders.
Within the road safety thematic we are specificaly focusing on two issues:
- Elimination of so called black spots or dangerous road sections;
- Increasing safety of level crossings, where cars and trains meet.
At the end, I would like to invite you to our main activities of 2022 which are all focused on roads in the Region:
- Social Forum on 11 May in Sarajevo that will focus the discussion on road related social legislation, passenger rights when it comes to busses and coaches, and for the first time in the Region we will organise a social dialogue.
- The Road Summit, 7 June in Tirana that will act as a platform for discussion among different stakeholders and will generate an exchange of views/best practices on how to address safe, smart, and sustainable road development in a joint regional approach.
- Summer School, 20 – 24 June in Sarajevo, which will be dedicated to young professionals from the Region gaining knowledge and better understanding of latest developments at EU and Regional level on safe, smart and sustainable roads.
Wishing you a successful Conference and looking forward to seeing you in our events.