8th SEETO Annual Meeting of Ministers

ZAGREB- The South East European Transport Observatory (SEETO) in cooperation with the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure of the Republic of Croatia hosted the 8th Annual Meeting of Ministers on the development of the SEETO Comprehensive Network, which was held in Zagreb on December 4th, 2012.

The Meeting was attended by high level delegations from the Transport and Infrastructure Ministries of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo* as well as the European Commission, EU Member States, International Financial Institutions and various transport related organisations.

The Meeting was opened by Mr. Sinisa Hajdas Doncic, Minister for Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure of the Republic of Croatia, who expressed satisfaction from the regional transport planning exercised through SEETO, which contributes to the economic and geo-strategic interconnection of the region, noting that Croatia remains strong partner and supporter of that process upon the forthcoming accession to the EU and inclusion to the TEN-T. He encouraged the Regional Participants to follow the EU integration path, which would lead to significantly more available funds for the development of the transport networks.

The EU Ambassador to the Republic of Croatia, H.E. Paul Vandoren conveyed a message from the EU Commissioner Siim Kallas that the European Commission unveils continuous and very firm support to the region and highlighted the crucial role Croatia has been playing for the progressive implementation of the MoU. He underlined the substantial progress in the development of the SEETO Comprehensive Network and other achievements in 2012, notably the revision of the TEN-T Guidelines and the new SEETO Multi annual Plan 2013, as well as the progress made by the region in the transport legal and institutional framework, with emphasis on the setting of the railway market scene. The Ambassador Vandoren pointed out the further steps needed for establishing efficient, reliable and safe transport systems and for integration to the common EU Transport policy which underpins the freedom of services and circulation of goods: to improve the connectivity and interoperability by removing the missing links and the administrative bottlenecks. Along that way, the Regional Participants have the EU support mainly through IPA, but also through TAIEX, sector studies, expert working groups etc.; however, transparent regulation, fiscal framework and adequate administrative capacities are indispensable for attracting further investments. At the end, he called the Regional Participants to sign the Transport Community Treaty which will facilitate and accelerate the regional cooperation.

The Meeting continued with presentations from the Ministers Damir Hadzic, Mile Janakieski, Fehmi Mujota, Deputy Minister Ylii Manjani and other representatives of the SEETO Regional Participants, who elaborated the achievements and the ongoing efforts for improving the regional and neighbouring transport connections.

The discussion was complemented from the angle of Slovenia as EU Member State- in his speech, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Spatial planning of Slovenia, Mr. Ljubo Znidar, stressed the importance of removing the transport barriers rather than engaging in big projects, calling for use of primarily the existing infrastructure and developing the competitive rail freight corridors.

On the occasion of the 8th SEETO Annual Meeting of Ministers, the 2013 Multi Annual Comprehensive Network Development Plan was delivered. As presented my Ms. Angelina Zivkovic, SEETO Steering Committee Chairperson, the total reported investments in the Plan in completed and finance secured/ongoing projects on the SEETO Comprehensive Network from 2006 to 2011 amounted €10.8 billion, while the total estimated costs for all priority projects for implementation from the 2013 Priority Project List amounts to € 8,2 billion, to be carried out in the next midterm rolling period. She stressed the priorities for SEETO in 2013 are the conduct of the Regional Transport Study (update of REBIS) and further implementation of the horizontal measures form the SEETO Strategic Work Programme.

In the Conclusions released at the 8th SEETO Annual Ministerial Meeting and summarized by the General Manager of SEETO, Mr. Nenad Nikolic, all Ministers committed to establish a fully connected South East European extension of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), as well as to create the conditions for the EC to define the TEN-T Core Network in the South East Europe, and agreed to work together for facilitating the transport operations along the network. They would undertake a model of cross-border cooperation along the transport axes, aiming to address the obstacles which hamper the smooth traffic flows and to reduce travel time and transport costs. At last, but not at least, the Annual Meeting of Ministers encouraged Croatia to remain actively involved in the SEETO structures and recommended to all parties to rapidly conclude the process of initialling the Transport Community Treaty.