There is a lot of talk about the suspension and limitation of the agreements on the free movement of people and goods following the COVID emergency19.
In a time of great suffering for the health of people, but equally serious for the "health" of the economies of all countries, the Transport Community of South Eastern Europe and CEFTA signed a common proposal for better transport management and trade in goods, especially basic necessities.
The proposal was approved by the Albanian government with the Decree n. 269 of 01.04.2020.
La Transport Community of South Eastern Europe is an intergovernmental organization between the countries of the European Community and those of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) and has as its objective the progressive integration of the transport sector between the parties, as well as an adaptation of the regulations and procedures of the countries of South-Eastern Europe with those of Europe. The former will, above all, develop intelligent intermodal transport systems and simplify customs procedures, getting as close as possible to the acquis.
CEFTAinstead, it is a central European free trade agreement, which has slowly seen most of its member states come out, joined the EC, currently becoming a kind of antechamber towards accession, the ultimate goal for all countries members.
On March 16, 2020, the European Commission requested the closure for 30 days of the external borders of the Community, suspending the free movement of people, but leaving the free movement of goods affected, except for some exceptions. The Balkan countries are adopting rules, sometimes conflicting with each other, creating confusion and long lines in the customs of the countries involved, a negative factor for the regular supply of basic necessities and essential for overcoming the crisis.
For this reason, the two intergovernmental organizations have decided to adopt a single proposal that can meanwhile, until the end of the health and economic crisis, avoid the interruption of the supply of primary goods. Furthermore, this avoids leaving each of the member states behind by not changing customs and control procedures in any way, but only adding new measures to deal with the situation created.
Two important pillars lie at the basis of the proposal: the identification of a limited number of priority cross-border transit points, which must continue to operate in all circumstances and degree of emergency, and, the identification of a series of "green corridors" which they will connect the Balkan countries with each other, together with a limited number of petrol stations available for trucks.
The pivot of the whole proposal is continuous information between the countries involved which will respect the criteria of immediacy and completeness.
70% of the goods needs of the Balkan countries are met by importing from the EC, so ensuring these flows is vital for everyone.
According to the document approved by all member states, the estimated time for the means of transport to remain in their territory is 12 hours, sufficient for loading and unloading the goods. Throughout this process, priority will be given to basic necessities, such as medicines, health supplies, food for people and animals, creating a single 8-digit customs code, dedicated to the emergency.
Regarding the health aspect, the member states have agreed not to ban in any way the passage of drivers and crew members who are in good health according to WHO guidelines.
Another important aspect that this proposal highlights is the prior electronic communication of all customs documentation to the competent authorities between the member states and the creation of a digital platform towards the external borders of the European Community. Initially this platform will have to start via a call center that will inform drivers of waiting times at checkpoints, giving the possibility of a scheduled approach to customs.
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