At the very outset, please allow me to express my sincere gratitude to the organisers of this Conference, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia and the IRU for the excellent organisational arrangements and interesting agenda, as well as the traditional hospitality that we have been enjoying from first minutes of our stay in Georgia.
The GUAM Council of Heads of States endorsed the GUAM Sectoral Cooperation Development Strategy in June 2007 at the Baku Summit. It was a new development for our organisation, reflecting the readiness of our country members to intensely cooperate in all of the key sectors, including transport. A Special Statement by the Heads of State of Members of the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development – GUAM – on the development of the GUAM transportation corridor was signed at the GUAM Batumi Summit. This emphasised the importance of the comprehensive use of the transit potential of the GUAM member states. A Memorandum of Understanding between GUAM and the IRU, which opens new avenues for cooperation between our two organisations, was signed there as well.
If you take a look at the map of Europe, it should become clear that the territory represented by GUAM is quite limited in terms of its territory, population, and industrial output. But the same glance will indicate to even the unbiased expert what kind of potential this space actually contains. In terms of transport cooperation, this space covers the most critical component of the wider TRCECA corridor – from the Caspian Sea to the EU’s eastern borders. Recently, the Concept of the GUAM Transport Corridor Development was finalised by the GUAM Transport Working Group.
One of our base priorities is to promote GUAM’s transit potential. We are ready to cooperate with our partners from both Europe and Asia, particularly those from Central Asia.
The space of civilised partnership in the Black Sea-Caspian region, based on the European standards, criteria and practices, and the philosophy of the four freedoms (free movement of people, goods, capitals and services), is a key priority of our work. We consider our efforts to be a contribution to a European-wide system of safety and stability.
Transport is a sector in which cooperation tends to generate big opportunities. It is particularly important for the countries participating in our organisation, as it better positions us in the network of international relations, upgrading the attractiveness of our transit potential for external partners.
The expansion of international cargo transportation is a global, objective tendency. Even if we end up doing nothing, I believe that the volume of transportation occurring through our countries will increase. The question remaining is how much competitive we need to be in order to attract, for example, a large portion of the annual cargo growth from Western China to Europe. The potential is certainly there. A new component – an additional one and a half million tonnes of oil, transported last year from Azerbaijan to Ukraine through the GUAM Transport Corridor – is a vivid demonstration of that fact.
We need the volume of goods being transported through the GUAM space to grow at a faster pace, both in relative and in absolute terms, in comparison to other competing investment opportunities. There are no political reasons that will force cargo owners to choose a more expensive route. The three components that define competitiveness in the transport branch are speed, safety and price. With respect to all three parameters, our corridor has advantages, including those that are obvious and those that have potential.
What does the GUAM Transport Corridor comprise today?
First of all, it represents a complex of all of the traditional transport components of the corridor – automobile, railway, sea, air and pipeline.
The main components of this complex are:
- 900 km of the Baku – Poti/ Batumi segment;
At the moment, the quality of automobile and railway components in this particular segment is steadily improving. Active construction and rehabilitation activities are taking place in both Azerbaijan and in Georgia, and the network of European standard motorways is also expanding. Our aim is to develop a two- to three-lane highway and a two-lane railway to connect the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. Once the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project becomes operational, our common regional potential will experience a qualitatively notable upgrade.
- The Georgia – Ukraine sea connection;
Today the Poti – Ilyichevsk, Batumi – Ilyichevsk and Poti – Kerch railway ferries are in operation. I would like to express my gratitude to the “Ukrferry” company – the operator of the line – and its head Alexander Kurliand, with whom we initiated this project. At that time, there were a lot of people who expressed doubts about this project. On December 16, 1997, I remember signing the Trilateral Azerbaijan – Ukrainian – Georgian Agreement and attending the ceremony for launching a ferry in the presence of the Ministers of Transport from Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan, at which time 16 trucks descended after being on board the first ferry to arrive at the Ilyichevsk port. At that time, the trade turnover of Ukraine with Georgia and Azerbaijan did not exceed 75 million US dollars. At present, this figure exceeds 1.5 billion US dollars. As well, keeping in mind the expansion of transit cargo traffic, it becomes apparent why there are cargo lines in the sea ports. It is clear that it is necessary to further develop the transport capacity in the Black Sea. Moreover, it is the right time to invest.
- The corridor Ilyichevsk – Kyiv – the Western border of Ukraine and the corridor Ilyichevsk – Chisinau – the Western border of Moldova.
The Odessa – Kyiv highway already meets international standards, the section from Kyiv to the Western border of Ukraine is still undergoing serious reconstruction, which is about to be finalised soon. These works are also stimulated by the EURO – 2012 football championship. The corridor Ilyichevsk – Chisinau – Western border of Moldova still requires significant attention and financial investment.
In developing all of these components, unanimously accepted by all member states and based on the Concept of the GUAM Transport Corridor Development, the Common GUAM Action Plan would seriously increase our competitiveness and our ability to involve new investors in its implementation. The GUAM Secretariat will gladly contribute to the implementation of this idea with all its organisational and institutional infrastructure.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.