"Strategy is a Bible for infrastructure", minister Volodymyr Omelian gave such eloquent name to the National Transport Strategy of Ukraine to 2030. During the past year the document had been discussing on conferences and roundtables. The business assessments were very controversial: the strategy was criticized because of its declarative nature and because of lack of specified development scenarios of country's transport industry. Now the government is preparing for its approving as soon as possible. Whether the controversies with business were solved and to fill the document with a real sense or the industry will receive the next "document for drawer" – the question is still open.
"As for the National Strategy, it is ready, and we are waiting for the next Cabinet of Ministers meeting to adopt it", the head of transport ministry said yesterday, talking at the common briefing with Henrik Hololei, Director-General for Mobility and Transport at European Commission. The EU representative also talked about the important role of the transport strategy and on the law that Ukraine should adopt due to taking into force of Association Agreement.
We met with Henrik Hololei after the briefing (held on February, 20) to ask his opinion about the National Transport Strategy of Ukraine that will be adopted soon as well as about the measures that Ukrainian government should fulfill in order the document will avoid the destiny of its predecessors and will not become the next set of declarations.
Mister Hololei, what do you think about the National Transport Strategy of Ukraine that was developed with EU finance assistance?
I believe that the transport strategy is a very important framework to plan and prioritize your actions. That's the first thing. Secondly, European Union welcomes the creation of the document that shows how Ukraine sees the development of its infrastructure, its transport policy, its market. This will be a very useful tool for us in order to plan our cooperation, in order to plan our assistance and to conduct our transport dialog with Ukraine.
Third thing is that the National Transport Strategy should be seen as a living document. It means that life around us is changing very fast, and for transport sector there are many changes that we cannot anticipate because of a digitalization, use of artificial intelligence. That's why it is very important to keep a strategy open for amendments and updates. You should understand that this document must be adopted but not forever, it should be open for changes.
The business representatives often complaints that Ukrainian government reacts very slowly on changes. At what conditions the amendments and changes should be implemented into the strategy?
It is very important to be available to react not slowly but swiftly. The transport system should be in line with the business development. For example, export from Ukraine to European Union have increased significantly during last year. Moreover, it will definitely increase this year. It means that there is much more need for moving cargo and products from Ukraine to Central and Western Europe by rail. This in its turn requires to make necessary adjustments to the capacity and to improve the efficiency of operations on tracks. Of course, if you do not anticipate such a big increase, you will lose.
If the economic environment changes, then you should change your strategy. We see that Ukraine approved a very big change. In the past the key export market was Russia. Today Ukraine due to strained relations with Russia has to find the new markets. And the launching of the new trains between Ukraine and the EU will open this new opportunity. At the same time, it means more traffic westwards and much more pressure on rail infrastructure. That's why you should improve rail connection with EU. That's how you should react, you should anticipate.
Minister Volodymyr Omelian mentioned today some infrastructure projects – construction of European-gauge railway, GO Highway. How do appreciate them?
We consider such projects as positive ones. For us it is very important to hear clearly what are the priorities of Ukrainian government. And I understand that, for example, GO Highway is such a priority. This project will connect two seaports and two countries. And, of course, it is a project that increases a potential of Ukraine as a logistic and transit hub. The European financing would be available for GO Highway. But EU cannot be the only donor, you also need to attract other international financial institutions.
When we are talking about the European-gauge railway, it also has a good potential. It means that you can supply products to Western Europe directly by rail without any additional reloading operations. The European-gauge railway will increase the cargo turnover between EU and Ukraine significantly. If Ukraine will be more connected with the EU, it will be better for all participants. Moreover, if we look at the EU itself, the construction of the European-gauge railways is also important for improving connectivity between EU members.
A lot of business representatives in Ukraine complaints that the draft of the National Transport Strategy has a lack of specified goals and mechanisms for their achievement. What can you say about it, how it can be fixed?
I think that the strategy is a big framework which gives you directions, certain priorities and a focus. The strategy itself cannot be detailed. I want to emphasize that it is important what will follow after the adopting of the strategy. I mean the action plan that will give you more detailed and specified actions you need to undertake for implementing the strategy. That is after adopting the strategy you need to approve some action plan. Implementation of the strategy is impossible without actions. So you need to act in every specified industry mentioned in the document.
Today the minister told that the National Transport Strategy can be adopted on the next session of Ukraine's Cabinet of Ministers. How do you think is this term real?
I hope so. I think this document is very important for Ukraine, so its adoption is unavoidable.