The Slovenia Times

Three Seas Initiative panel discusses transport connectivity


At the event held as part of the summit's business forum in Ljubljana, European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc pointed to four priorities - decarbonisation, digitalisation, investment and innovation, putting a special emphasis on the last one.

Bulc said that investments were what really drives connectivity, adding that projects in the region had the opportunity to draw from numerous sources - the Connecting Europe Facility, the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the European Investment Bank and blending mechanism, to name a few.

The Slovenian commissioner also pointed to the negative externalities of transport - fatalities, injuries, pollution and health-related issues, stressing that the EU had vision zero for 2050 - zero pollution and zero fatalities.

Continuing in this vein, Czech Transport Minister Vladimir Kremlik said that his country understood connectivity as a catalyst of social cohesion, and that improved connectivity in transport could improve economic and social progress.

The Czech Republic is developing high-speed rail lines for passengers and high-capacity freight corridors in cooperation with other countries, including rail connections with Poland. It also focuses on decarbonisation of transport, he added.

In Slovenia, the most important rail project is the new line between the port of Koper and Divača, with Infrastructure Ministry State Secretary Nina Mauhler pointing out that Slovenia wanted to contribute to better connectivity in the region.

Slovenia is actively involved in rail freight corridors and our flagship project is the Koper rail, she said, while also singling out the second tube of the Karavanke motorway tunnel, which is to "eliminate the only bottleneck between Munich and Belgrade".

Also interested in the rail project is the port operator Luka Koper, whose chairman Dimitrij Zadel said that it was also important to the landlocked countries north of Slovenia with whom the port cooperated. "We need to have good infrastructure," he said.

Zadel would also like to see more maritime projects in the EU and region, noting that Koper was one of the largest car terminals in the Mediterranean. "What we are actually afraid of are the tensions between some big countries, we are hoping for a positive solution."

Polish Infrastructure Ministry State Secretary Rafal Weber focused on Via Carpathia, a planned motorway network connecting Lithuania and Greece, as the "most important priority for us and also for other CEE countries".

The project has great potential for vast and safe transport of people and also for transport of goods, he said, noting that an agreement had been signed to include it in the TEN-T projects, which meant there was interest in the EU.

Weber also mentioned a planned rail project connecting Helsinki and Warsaw, to be completed by 2026, and a planned airport serving some 45 million passengers, which would be accessible in three hours and a half from any location in Poland.

Vincent van Houten, the Deutsche Bahn director for Eastern Europe, said that the German national rail operator was understandably interested in Three Seas Initiative countries, as industries and exports from there were growing.

"We're also engaging in infrastructure projects in the region, also contributing technical expertise," he said, also expressing interest in the new track to the Koper port and the Rail Baltica project.

Joel Szabat of the US Department of Transportation meanwhile turned to the airline industry, noting that it was thriving in the US, largely due to deregulation of international air services, including the open skies agreements with foreign partners.

Szabat stressed that the trans-Atlantic routes are the most profitable routes, urging European partners to fully cooperate with US airlines as this directly contributed to growth on the market. He pointed to two problems - wet lease and environmental taxation, which he hopes will be resolved.

"The US government looks forward to working more closely with our friends in the Three Seas Initiative," he concluded.


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