„There are gaps which need to be closed“
IRE-Chairman Franz Schausberger opened the conference in front of more than 85 participants from over eight European countries in Opatija, Croatia. Schausberger pointed out, that a Transport Association Agreement with five Western Balkan countries was signed at the Western Balkans Conference in Trieste on 12th of June 2017, which is also of particular importance for Croatia. This will pave the way for infrastructure improvements and better transport services throughout the region, bringing new investors to the region and contributing to their economic growth. Finally, this treaty will help the countries of the Western Balkans to strengthen neighborly relations, in particular with Croatia, to promote cross-border cooperation and, ultimately, to bring these countries closer to the European Union. Schausberger informed that at the summit in Trieste seven new additional connectivity projects with a total investment of more than 500 million were decided. Thus, the total connectivity financing since 2015 for a total of 20 investment projects amounted more than 1.4 billion euros.
Infrastructure as a sustainable investment
The infrastructure is crucial for Croatian tourism. It is important to modernize the way to Central Europe. The expansion of rail transport and the development of motorways (Rijeka-Zagreb-Wien-Budapest) play hence a decisive role. Collaboration with other ports is central to import and export. Increasing ocean traffic to the nearest port cities (Trieste, Koper, Rijeka), to the Black Sea and Baltic states is of immense importance. The aim is to promote regional specificities and to extend transport corridors (including Corridor Five and Ten). Croatia is open to enhanced cooperation and relations with the European Union is of key importance to the Primorsky-Gorski Kotar region, stressed Zlatko Komadina, President of the Croatian region Primorje-Gorski Kotar. The Deputy Mayor of Opatija, Vera Aničić, agreed that Opatija would not be so developed without its transport and that the consideration of the regions in the transport industry is a necessity.
The European way leads into the rural regions
Branko Baričević, Head of the Representation of the European Commission in Croatia, stressed in particular the importance of cross-border cooperation and the transport corridors of individual countries in order to maintain competitiveness in the European Union. He also referred to the “clean” transport to maintain the high standard.
EU projects are powerful tools to address the challenges, priorities and needs of the CEI Member States, underlined Paulo Dileno, CEI-Project Manager for EU-Transport Projects in Trieste, Italy. Since 2004, the CEI Secretariat has implemented 29 projects with a total value of about 53 million euros, in fields such as transport, energy, research & innovation and culture. Currently, 14 projects are under implementation, with a total value of 24 million euros. These are mainly funded by INTERREG programmes and largely focus on transport issues. Furthermore, Dileno referred to the project ACROSSEE, led by CEI between 2012 and 2014, focused on enhancing the accessibility and overall efficiency of the South East European transport network. ACROSSEE supported the definition of a transport model for the entire area, as well as an Action Plan for Border Crossing Points and bottlenecks. As a follow-up of ACROSSEE, the project ADRIPASS will start next January. In addition, Dileno pointed out to another project called CONNECT2CE, which focuses on improving multimodal passenger transport in border regions.
Cross-border opportunities – Port Rijeka can gain international importance
In order to facilitate cross-border development, investments in the development of Mediterranean corridors, in ports and in rail transport are of great benefit. The EU supports these investments, said IgorRadić, Advisor to the Minister of Sea, Transport and Infrastructure in Croatia. Although the port of Rijeka is currently of relatively low international importance, it may increase in the future if there is a large-scale shift of global freight flows to the Mediterranean, if the port itself is modernized, logistics improved and if hinterland connections are enhanced, highlighted Helmut Adelsberger, CEO of InfraConceptA in Vienna, Austria.
The planning of cross-border traffic and transport chain still requires faster implementation on what is agreed on the political level, emphasized Matjaž Vrčko, representative of the Slovenian Ministry of Infrastructure. In addition, he referred to the use of existing infrastructures and their modernization before new large investments are made. Therefore, transparency among the Western Balkans, the EU Member States and the European Commission is needed to ensure a legal base. The European Commission strongly supports the South-East European (SEE) Network, with core corridors to the Western Balkans which are inevitable, Vrčko further supplemented.
Logistics industry is undergoing structural change
Transport and logistics are decisive development and competitive factors of economic areas, explained Beatriz Schönstein-Wippel, Project Manager in the Transport and Logistics Industry of the Foreign Trade Austria of the Austrian Economic Chamber. The logistics industry has changed structurally, and partnerships between regional and international logistics providers within supply and value chains are becoming increasingly significant. This is essential in order to survive in global competition. The global, steady expansion of infrastructures and capacities such as traffic routes, logistics terminals, ports, Internet etc., is urgently needed. For example, only half of the demand for railway infrastructure between the EU and China is met. Here, the compression and adaptation to multimodal transport and transport concepts is increasingly substantial, taking into account ecological considerations. Green Logistics aims to reduce the environmental impact and sustainability of the entire process.
Transport corridors as a bridge to the EU
The Croatian Chamber of Economy has a particular focus on transport and logistics domain, with the city of Rijeka inter alia being an important transport hub. Rijeka is home to the largest Croatian port and its traffic corridors are of great importance to Croatia and the EU as it connects two major European territories with the rest of the world. Because of its size and importance, it has been designated a port of special international and economic interest to the Republic of Croatia, said Zlatko Mičetić, Senior Advisor to the Croatian Chamber of Economy in Rijeka. The Chamber recognizes the need for a modern logistic solution for the transport sector and has developed a project entitled “Digitalization of intermodal and multimodal transport of goods and passengers”. The project, presented at the ASCAME conference in Barcelona this June, was submitted to the Adriatic & Ionian Initiative as a key development project for the region.
In order to develop, above all, investments are needed, emphasized Damir Vukić, Managing Director of Rail Cargo Logistics in Croatia, and mainly referred to the port Koper, which is not able to cope everything, why the port Rijeka should be improved. Furthermore, railways should be able to transport more and heavier goods. In order to boost tourism throughout Croatia, functioning highways are the most important instrument. However, in order to grant this, Roland Raith from the Gebrüder Weiss Gesellschaft m.b.H in Graz, Austria, emphasized the importance of cooperation between the regions. In addition, Norbert Wenzel, CEO of Wenzel Logistik GmbH in Austria added, that political participation and collaboration are indispensable.
Transport systems must be considered pan-European
If you look at the whole of Europe, you have to see EU policy as a whole space. The faster goods are transported, the more profitable it is. The merger of the various areas in Europe is hence an important cornerstone, among other things, to get financing from the EU, said Georg Krauchenberg, Managing Director of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe (IDM).
Looking at Croatia, the existing transport system is not adapted to intermodal transport, emphasized Ljudevit Krpan, Head of Department of Development, Infrastructure and Project Management in Rijeka, Croatia. Therefore, clear policy, regulations, logistics centers, industrial terminals, better containerization of goods and transshipment stations at railway stations are necessary improvements to build and modernize the transport infrastructure within the intermodal transport system. The key element that determines the competitiveness of individual ports within Europe is the reliability of the service and transport links with the hinterland, i.e. the connection and integration with the network of the main European transport corridors. The implementation of the alternative scenario depends on investments in port and transport infrastructure.
Europe is connected and the infrastructure of Croatia needs to cooperate with partner countries. Above all, it is important that there is no competition between Rijeka and companies in Zagreb. The requirements of various cities, such as Zagreb, to connect to the traffic corridor are given and offer many opportunities. Subsequently, a central transshipment point of goods is crucial to drastically shorten, among other things, the long waiting times. Centers must therefore necessarily network, pointed out Franz Glanz, Managing Director of the Cargo Center Graz in Austria.