The European Commission has presented a set of actions to help Ukraine export agricultural products, the so-called “Solidarity Lanes.”
The plan was presented by European Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean in Brussels on Thursday.
The European Commission said these proposals are presented as part of the EU solidarity reaction with Ukraine and will help Ukraine export its agricultural products. “Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its blockade of Ukrainian ports, Ukrainian grain and other agricultural goods can no longer reach their destinations. The situation is threatening global food security and there is an urgent need to establish alternative logistics routes using all relevant transport modes,” the European Commission said.
According to the European Commissioner, some 20 million tonnes of grains have to leave Ukraine in less than three months using the EU infrastructure. “This is a gigantesque challenge, so it is essential to coordinate and optimize the logistic chains, put in place new routes, and avoid, as much as possible, the bottlenecks. Our communication addresses the emergency solutions but also medium and long time measures to better connect and integrate Ukraine’s infrastructure with the EU one. For both short-term and long-term solutions, we will work with the Ukrainian authorities and in close collaboration, especially with the neighbouring Member States, who spared no effort in helping during this crisis,” Vălean said.
According to the press release issued in this regard, as of today, in spite of immediate efforts by the EU and its Member States to ease border crossings between Ukraine and the EU, thousands of wagons and lorries are waiting for clearance on the Ukrainian side. “The average current waiting time for wagons is 16 days, while it is up to 30 days at some borders. More grain is still stored and held back in Ukrainian silos ready for export. Among the challenges are differing rail gauge widths: Ukrainian wagons are not compatible with most of the EU rail network, so most goods need to be transhipped to lorries or wagons that fit the EU standard gauge. This process is time-consuming and transhipment facilities along the borders are scarce,” the European Commission said.
In address these obstacles and set up the Solidarity Lanes, the Commission, together with Member States and stakeholders, will work on the following priority actions in the short term.
The first priorities are additional freight rolling stock, vessels and lorries. “The Commission calls on EU market players to urgently make additional vehicles available. In order to match demand and supply and establish the relevant contacts, the Commission will set up a matchmaking logistics platform and ask Member States to designate dedicated Solidarity Lanes contact points (a ‘one-stop-shop’).”
Another priority is the capacity of transport networks and transshipment terminals: the export of Ukrainian agricultural products should be prioritized, and infrastructure managers should make rail slots available for these exports. “The Commission also calls on market players to urgently transfer mobile grain loaders to the relevant border terminals to speed up transhipment. A road transport agreement with Ukraine will also remove bottlenecks,” the European Commission said.
Among the priorities are customs operations and other inspections and storage of products in the EU. To this end, the Commission urges national authorities to apply maximum flexibility and to ensure adequate staffing to accelerate procedures at border crossing points.
In the medium to long term, the Commission will also work on increasing the infrastructure capacity of new export corridors and on establishing new infrastructure connections in the framework of the reconstruction of Ukraine. “The next round of Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) calls for proposals will allow support for projects improving transport connections to Ukraine, including for railway connections and rail-road terminals. Against this background, the Commission today adopted a Decision with a view to signing a high-level agreement with Ukraine, updating the maps for the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), as part of the Commission’s policy on extending the TEN-T to neighbouring countries.”