At BSEC-URTA General Assembly in Bucharest, I made an interview with the Turk Secretary General, Haydar Ozkan. He told us that he respects the more conservative position of Russia in BSEC, as the Russian transport union, ASMAP, in fact, in BSEC-URTA – which between brackets, it did not attended the Bucharest meeting. Ozkan recalled the most important achievement of the last two years – the emergence of BSEC license for trucks and told us what it must be done to overcome the economic crisis.
What are the main topics of the 19th General Assembly of BSEC-URTA?
We will focus on the analysis report on the transport situation in Black Sea countries. As transport union in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Region, I always said that governments that established BSEC in 1991 want to develop the economic cooperation. This means to trade. If you want to facilitate trade, you can not do it without facilitating transport, especially road transport between neighboring states. This is why, from the founding in 2001, BSEC-URTA explored the relationship between the number of transport, loads transported and waiting time at border.
If trade volume increases, then there will be several transports made by carriers. If there is more than one shipment, then it is important to see if the waiting time at border decreases or increases. In Bucharest, we look at how the situation evolved in the last six months in the BSEC countries. In recent months, our international secretariat, under the instructions of the BSEC-URTA Management Board, conducted a regional study on the conditions of competition on the road transport market of BSEC. Due to the global financial crisis, some of our member associations face a really difficult period. There are a lot of complaints and critics that we shall receive about the conditions of competition in the region.
Relations with Russia are the most sensitive issue in the area, because they have their own authoritarian tendencies in the area and generally, they say nobody suggested them to do something. What is BSEC-URTA doing in this sensitive issue? We are finally talking about control over commercial routes from East to West and the ideal is, of course, the legendary „Silk Road”.
Each country has the right to defend its interests. You can only analyze the differences.Russiaprefers to establish the international transport regulations in its country under bilateral agreements, instead of multilateral. It is their decision and must be respected. According to us, is not fair, but it is their position and must be respected.Russiais a target country for transport, but also a transit country. This is why I believe that theRussian Federationwill agree to support and enter this multilateral system, which will be created by other countries. Probably, they don’t want to be the first. We must respect their position. But I am convinced that sooner or later Russia would not like to be excluded from the BSEC region transport network.
Some are out of this kind of business because of the crisis.
Some operators lose the market, lose money and are not afraid even to go bankrupt. Then say that economic competition is not fair; it does not ensure fairness in the region. This is why, in order to relate to this situation, we conducted a special study, covering the situation in all 12 Member States, where we tried to analyze what are the conditions in which you become a driver in BSEC countries, which is the introduction stage of the United Nations Conventions of road transport, which is the situation on the waiting times in borders and the conditions set by national legislation. For example, some countries impose high taxes and fees on oil, while others don’t. There are many difficulties, complaints and critics coming from the transport industry, for violations of competition rules.
We shall have experts from universities inRomaniathat shall explain what free and fair competition means, a single market and then we shall examine whether our study gets to the same conclusions as the experts tell us. Finally, but not least, we shall focus on activities that we have in the next few months, that will be related to the tenth anniversary of BSEC-URTA. We want to use this tenth anniversary as an opportunity to review what we have achieved in this decade and also to foreshadow plans for the next decade. Then to develop a route map to set such goals. We shall organize a brain-storming session with members of BSEC-URTA and transport ministers from BSEC countries, which will be held inAntalya, in September.
Let’s take a brief interlude. Currently, Turkey is economically in full development. This does not apply to other BSEC countries. As Romania and Bulgaria, affected by the crisis. From this point of view, which is your advice for countries that are in the situation of Romania? What should we do?
I am not a representative of Turkey. I can comment, but these are comments of an ordinary human. Looking at the past 50 years, the United Nations developed 58 agreements on the economic cooperation. They were all aiming to facilitate traffic customs, trade and transport. In the past 50 years, the European Union, especially when the world was bipolar, was able to take full advantage of these free trade global tools. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Internet development and advance of multinational companies, we became witnesses to the world financial integration. We do not know where the money comes.
It can be your money or my money and can be anywhere in the world. In this modern economy, with a new world order, that does not mean a bipolar system, we faced the situation where many eastern economies, but especiallyChina, gained much power. The production facilities are moving east and consumers are mostly in the West. This is a new phenomenon. In order to compete with powerful rivals in the East, EU economies took offense to the old Soviet system: they implemented and now they are introducing protectionist measures. They raised walls of protectionism against foreign economic influences.
When you do that, you disconnect from the global economy and lose competitiveness. In my opinion, on long term, it will be an important boomerang effect in future EU health. What we see today is a symptom – that you raised the wall, not the disease. AcrossEurope, governments increase taxes, lower wages, put more and more pressure on the economy, leading to lower production and thus, to lower economic power. This means that you accepted from the start that the score is 0-2. So you have to score, to win the match.
BSEC-URTA countries are at the crossroads of political and economic interests between East and West. From this point of view, which is the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is the political and economic differences between the agendas of BSEC Member States. First, we have the CIS member states with their own agenda. Then, there are the EU Member States, with another agenda; therefore we have no homogeneous group of countries. On the other hand, transports are not like governments. They always work abroad, hand in hand, over the nations. This is why BSEC-URTA managed to transform these weaknesses – differences in strength. There are very few organizations in the world where the group of members is not homogeneous. The motto of BSEC-URTA is very interesting: “Coming solutions for coming problems (We find solutions to problems that arise)”. Not being uniform, we say „Let’s find common solutions to our problems”.
On May 12, 2009, BSEC-URTA noted „with concern” in Yerevan, Armenia, „the impact of global crisis on the transport sector in the Black Sea Region” and „noted that the statistics confirmed the immense pressure on the transport of goods in the Black Sea region, due to decreased volume of goods traffic, but also enlarged tendencies to increase the barriers of transport” and the presence of an „irrational price competition, threatening the existence of true cargo transport operators in the region”. What was it done in the meantime to improve this situation?
We are an association of carriers. This is why we are no in the position to make government agendas. What we did was, first, to track the economic performance of Member States. In these two years, every six months we conducted a study and we always tried to analyze what is the road to trade and transport. Second, we created an international coalition between national unions of carriers, with IRU and also with BSEC Permanent Secretariat, which is an intergovernmental organization. Since 2009, one of our main efforts was to introduce universal crossing license in the region, called BSEC license.
But it is easy to say: „Let’s liberalize.” It is however difficult to implement it. Therefore, in 2010, the first pilot project was conducted on this topic. After the meeting inYerevan, I convinced seven BSEC countries(Albania, Serbia, Romania, Moldova, Turkey, Georgia and Armenia) to come to the negotiating table and participate in a BSEC unique license project. In 2010, it was only about a simple BSEC transit license, and in 2011 it is for bilateral transport of goods. Trucks from these countries now have a single transport document. This is one of our greatest achievements.