On the photo: (right to left) Ambassador Atageldi Haljanov, Permanent Representative of Turkmenistan to the UN in Geneva , Dr Igor Runov, Executive Secretary of ICTD
The round table “Transport and connectivity potential of the Caspian Sea region: Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan – the shortest route” was organised on the margins of the 82nd Session of the UNECE Inland Transport Commitee and attracted over 100 diplomatic and industry representatives from Europe, Asia and many international organizations
In her opening remarks H.E. Ms. Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of UNECE, praised the co-organisers of the Round table, governments of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, for their initiative to organize the roundtable and for their efforts to facilitate trade and transit along the central t route of the ancient Silk Road.
Follow up discussion touched upon a number of critical issues related to latest developments in creation of hard and soft infrastructure as well as remaining problems which do not allow to fully exploit the potential of this shortest route from China to Europe.
Azerbaijan Ambassador to the UN Mr Sadiqov and Deputy Minister of Transport, Communications and Technology of Azerbaijan Mr Valizadeh provided a detailed overview of large scale investments in the transport infrastructure of Azerbaijan, in particular, modernization of port Alyat (Azerbaijan) , railway Baku- Tbilisi- Kars (BTK), development of North-South Corridor, airport modernization, oil and gas pipelines.
In his background presentation Ambassador of Turkmenistan to the UN Mr Haljanov underlined the importance attributed by the government of his country to creation of first class basic and supplementary transport infrastructure incl marine ( Port of Turkmenbashi- 17 mln t annual capacity), Road ( Highway- Ashkhabad- Turkmenbashi and eastwards to Turkmenabad). In this context, the importance of maintaining of friendly and cooperative relationships with its neighbors was emphasized – on bilateral, regional and global basis.
Recent creation of Black Sea-Caspian Sea Transport Route from Turkmenistan to Romania (port of Constanta) provide an excellent example of synergizing global vision and regional approach. As reflected in the agreement signed by ministers of foreign affairs of 4 countries, “the parties agreed to implement practical steps to promote jointly the BSCS international transportation route with other interested states and international organizations, notably with the EU for further development of relevant infrastructure and attraction of additional cargo flows and … to encourage the use of digital technologies for simplification of export and import procedures”.
This regional initiative seems to be fully in line with the Europen Union long term vision and attitudes towards euroasian transport linkages reflected in the Joint Communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the European Investment Bank “Connecting Europe and Asia – Building blocks for an EU Strategy”. In his detailed address Mr Stefano Paci, representative of the European Union, underlined a special role of Caspian Sea in maintaining euroasian multimodal connectivity on principles of sustainability, comprehensiveness and rule of law. An important role of Eastern Partnership was underlined in this context , including in promoting “ soft measures”.
The latest developments in implementation of the “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) Initiative were presented by Ambassador of China to the UN in Geneva Mr Xu Chen who confirmed China’s commitment to this mega project, underlying, in particular, the importance of ongoing policy coordination in the area of technical standards, safety and customs efficiency. The importance of the upcoming 2 UN Conference on sustainable transport in Beijing in early May was mentioned as the main Silk Road global event in 2020.
Finally, the views of the road transport sector towards development of the Caspian Sea – Black Sea route were reflected in the presentation of Mr Umberto de Pretto, Secretary General of IRU. He started his presentation with words of appreciation of UN ECE for the interest and support of Road transport industry and , in particular, congratulated everybody with recent long awaited adoption of e-TIR- the digital version of well known “ TIR carnets” – providing invaluable assistance to international haulers for over sixty years. Many other UN Conventions , according to Mr De Pretto, are still awaiting for many countries, especially landlocked, to fully appreciate their importance and join them.
Summarizing the discussion, the moderator Dr Igor Runov, ICTD Executive Secretary, thanked panelists and participants for excellent presentations and productive exchange of views. Representing the shortest way from China to EU, the central route of the ancient Silk Road , nevertheless, have been facing many challenges in attracting commercial transport and tourism – due to multiple border crossings, need for multimodal transport, lack of sufficient basic infrastructure. Due to massive investments n the 5-10 years the situation is currently changing fast to the better and the focus is now changing from “ hard “ to “ soft» infrastructure- reducing cross border barriers, harmonizing legislation and introducing modern IT.
UN has contributed a lot to this process by adopting at the highest level of 4 Resolutions of UN General Assembly on sustainable transport and transport corridors. Several positive developments currently happening at regional and sectoral level ( adoption of e-TIR, simplification of legal regime in railways). But there is obvious and urgent need for bold moves and innovative approaches- similar to recent initiative to develop multimodal and fully digital Global Transit Document(GTrD)., announced recently by TRACECA and her partners. Once developed and tested along Black Sea-Caspian Sea transporte Route it could be later extended to other sections of the Silk Road and introduced worldwide , servicing other sections of the global supply chains.