Latvia wants to link the Baltics with Central Asia
Latvia will start a pilot service for transport to the Baltic and Scandinavian countries from Central Asia. It is doing so by linking to the Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA). If succesful, this could create an alternative transport corridor from Central Asia to Scandinavia.
According to Andris Maldups, deputy director of the Latvian Ministry of Transport, the role of rail in this initiative, especially concerning long-distance, is tied to the development of the Rail Baltica project. The first transports are planned for the road, however, Latvian Railways “uses every opportunity to find new cargo and create new services”, as Maldups said. In addition, Latvia can count on reliable ferry services to Stockholm from the port of Ventspils and is planning new ones from Liepaja.
The decision was made public during Maldups’ visit to Azerbaijan, where he met with TRACECA Secretary General Asset Assavbajev. As TRACECA pointed out, Assavbajev “also shared information about the procedures for obtaining observer status in the Intergovernmental Commission” of the programme. If granted, an observers status at TRACECA would allow Latvia to appoint a permanent representative at the Intergovernmental Commission of the organisation. According to the organisation, moreover, Latvia is open to further exploring the prospects for the active use of the current routes by Latvian carriers.
The TRACECA programme
TRACECA is an intergovernmental transportation programme that involves 12 countries in Central Asia, Caucasus, and Eastern Europe, as well as all the EU Member States. The 12 countries are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Moldova, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. The programme was first presented in 1993. The main of the EU, via the European Commission, is to fund projects and the Permanent Secretariat.
However, Latvia is not the first EU country to try and join the TRACECA programme. Bulgaria and Romania are already TRACECA Member Countries. In 2009, Lithuania was granted observer status, while Greece obtained it in 2018.