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Schriftenreihe des Europa Institutes Budapest, Band 27:51–55.


European Transportation System and the Southeast European Space


A unified European transportation system is the basic condition for the economic development of the European Union. Up to now, however, only parts of the scheduled improvements have been realised. Just a typical example of it is the continued existence of five different electric systems of the European railways; in addition even the legal unification of railway transportation has not been completed. The regulations concerning road traffic are also different in the Member States. Navigation along the internal waters is periodically restricted by narrow cross sections making only short stretches navigable at times. Listing examples could go on as with the exception of flight regulations there are still a number of unsolved and rather costly tasks in the field of transportation. It is beyond doubt, however, that the economic integration of the EU and the resulting economic (and social) success can only be realised by the fulfilment of the already scheduled development of transportation. The integration of the transportation of the Balkans fits into this line of tasks, apart from the fact whether the Balkan countries possess full membership or are just associate members (perhaps not even members) of the Union.


The Geographical Situation of the Balkans

By reviewing Europe’s map it is obvious that the economically most developed western, north-western and central regions receive the major part of their most important raw materials through the ports of the Atlantic Ocean (and its seas) and of the Mediterranean Sea, and the shipping of export products is also done at the same locations. These ports and sea routes are overloaded similarly to the transalpine transportation routes. In comparison the shores of the Balkans are unexploited and its internal transportation system is underdeveloped. In order to relieve the strain on the overloaded western sea shores the transportation network must be transformed to become an integral part of the unified European transportation system.

It is particularly important to join Russia, the southern parts of Ukraine, the republics of the Caucasus and the region of the Caspian Sea into the commercial traffic. Considering the current traffic the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus already means a narrow cross section of naval transport, therefore it is the primary interest of the EU to develop the ports at the western coast of the Black Sea and the adjoining inland transportation network as well as the dissolution of the narrow cross sections of the inland water route of the Danube-Main-Rhine.

With the possible accession of Turkey the EU will have a direct contact with the countries of the Middle East. This will gradually upgrade the strategic role of the Balkans and would make the development of its road and railway network as well as its ports important even from a military point of view.

The seas of the Balkans and Turkey are warm and with the possible EU accession of these countries the length of the sea shores suitable for summer leisure will almost duplicate. The current standard of development of the beaches cannot be compared to the French, Italian and Spanish ones but knowing the dynamism of the tourism industry an explosive development can be expected. It is not the underdeveloped beaches that constitute a narrow cross section but rather the limited internal, continental transportation network.

The long-term EU pan-European transportation corridors are aware of these expected changes in traffic. The development of inland navigation as well as that of railways and highways is expected both from Member States and from those who are currently not Member States (Figure 1). The density of transportation corridors, however, has not even been approximating the density of the central and western part of the EU (Figure 2). By comparing both networks the transportation concept of the EU should be examined and redefined from time to time in the light of the changes in the actual transportation needs.

Considering the long-term plans the economy of the particular region has to be examined. The industry of the Balkans is less developed than of the western part of Europe; therefore this difference could only be balanced in a rather long term. Until a balanced situation is reached the migration of foreign workers that currently can be considered traditional must be taken into account.


The Main Factors Influencing the Transportation
(and the Vehicle Industry) of the Balkans

According to the geographical and economic situation outlined above, the main factors influencing the changes in transportation can be summarised as follows:

1. Seasonal targeted traffic to the Balkans with high peaks:

– Summer tourism toward the seashores of the Balkans;

– Holiday and vacation time traffic of foreign workers;

– Local trade.

2. Transit traffic through the Balkans (permanent trade and seasonal passenger traffic):

– Transportation of raw materials and products (the role of the Caucasus, Russia, Ukraine and the Danube);

– Holiday and vacation time traffic of foreign workers;

– Summer tourism to the Turkish beaches.

It was mentioned earlier that compared to the West the industry of the Balkans is underdeveloped, yet in some areas, such as the vehicle industry, a notable capacity has been building up within the ex-Yugoslavian republics. The Yugoslav vehicle industry was traditionally based on a strong Western European co-operation and licence policy. These Western industrial relations survived irrespective of the Balkan war. The local expertise is also available so it is expected that the Balkans’ vehicle industry is going to regenerate within a short time and will integrate into the European vehicle industry. In the future it could be an important element of the development of the Balkans’ transportation. The initial steps have been made by the companies concerned. Recently the export of the main units and fittings of vehicles to the Balkans has been vigorously increasing.



By involving the experts of the Balkan countries and by utilising the EU – Hungarian experiences the harmonisation tasks must be elaborated in relation to the development of the transportation infrastructure and the operation of the traffic systems, including the issues of economic, and financial regulation, institutional development and legal regulation. The most important elements of this complex series of tasks are:

– The analysis and evaluation of the current network and appliances and the indication of strengths and weaknesses.

– Reviewing the planned pan-European corridors, ranking and possible additions to their development. Planning the links between the local networks to the pan-European one.

– The exploration and solution of the interoperability issues (e.g. contradictory regulations, different electrical traction systems).

– A prioritised development of combined transport and logistics (to downsize peak loads, to solve the massive transit trade).

While elaborating the outlined tasks in all cases a complex impact study must be presented, because these costly investments of long-term returns and developments will only be realised by the countries involved if they unambiguously beneficially influence the entire European region including the quality of life of local regions. The development of the Balkans’ transportation and a direct involvement in its expansion is a high priority task of the neighbouring countries and at the same time it is an opportunity not to be missed for normalising economic and political relations.