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Schriftenreihe des Europa Institutes Budapest, Band 28:137–152.


The Trans-European Corridors

Piecemeal Extension of the Existing ones, or the Development of a Pan-European Network?


In the series of conferences entitled “Lectures on the Balkans” a very similar idea cropped up in several topics, though it was not particularly emphasized anywhere. Apparently our climatic and military, as well as social and territorial political situation is equally characterised by the desire of having an image of Hungary that would increasingly approximate countries located further north and west of us, while we could see that we are increasingly sliding towards the south and east on the basis of the trends outlined (or at least we are being classified as belonging there on the Pan-European map). Such a classification may have factual basis, but the attitude that the earlier maps of Western Europe have not been replaced in Brussels may also contribute to it, and the newly acceding countries are only ’attached’ to its edge.

One may experience a similar patchwork at the planning of the transport corridors, and the present paper would primarily discuss this issue.

Projecting the two most important lessons concerning the Balkan region one may state that:

1. In an inter-regional context it is the effect of networks determined elsewhere that is becoming dominant on this territory, as contrasted to planning based on the assertion of internal contexts.

2. Due to making the possibility of financing individual projects exclusive only the formerly evolved structures and elements of the network can be strengthened by corrections, and the chance of creating new structures vanes.

The structure of this paper is the following. After having defined the region we are talking about there would be a brief summary of how this area fits into the European territorial policy. Next the build of the European transport networks, structuring the region is presented. Three, four and five-letter acronyms such as TEN, PEN, PETRA, TINA, TIRS, REBIS would indicate that networks are involved here (but we are not going to speak about the AGR, AGC, AGTC, TEM and TER networks also existing in the region). It is a prominent issue of discussion whether these networks and their methods of design applied so far are suitable to create a uniform European transport network or not.


The Balkans and Its Environment

It has become an almost compulsory starting point to indicate where the borders of the Balkans can be located from the angle of the given topic. Strictly speaking the entire region constitutes a single peninsula south of the line drawn between Trieste and the estuary of the Dnieper. A narrower delimitation by natural geography indicates only the region south of the basins of the Rivers Sava and Danube as the Balkans; whereas a political classification often considers even the Romanian territories as belonging here. As far as our topic, the transport corridors and the European contacts are concerned, it is fully justified to study as broad an area as possible.

On Figure 1 taken from tourist use it is also worth pointing out that the recently often heard slogan saying that “we are the gateway to the Balkans” is true with restrictions at the most: we are one of the gateways of the Balkans. Another important land gate of the region is Slovenia from the direction of Western Europe. There are entrances also from Ukraine, Greece and Turkey, not speaking about the several possibilities of marine approach. Another lesson is offered from this fact: Hungary with its gateway role can primarily target the northern zone of the region.1

The point where the dominant image of the Balkans was outlined from changed significantly during the course of history: the Classical Greek perspective was different, and maps of the 18th century show something else, where only Hungary and Turkey could be mentioned in the region.

Our contemporary image of the Balkans is also inevitably influenced by the perspective currently determining it. The European regional concepts name the south-eastern part of Europe as one of the “Interreg cooperation Area”. As it is shown by Figure 2, the majority of the cooperation Area are characterised by co-operation that has emerged along a characteristic inland sea or coastline, such as around the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, in the region of the English Channel, at the Atlantic coasts of Europe, or in the western basin of the Mediterranean (Figure 2).2 Though there is an example also for land-based co-operation (such as the region of the Alps), yet it is conspicuous that already the name of the area under survey, the “Central European, Adriatic, Danubian and South-East European Co-operation Space” (CADSES) bears on itself the traces of the residue principle and of being swept together by an external perspective; namely that here a typically non-co-operating space was delimited as a unit out of comfort, due to considerations of economizing, or because of inattention. Therefore the question surely emerges whether it would not be logical here too, similarly to the West European examples, to delimit co-operation spaces separately for the Adriatic, another for the Aegean Sea (or one comprising the eastern basin of the Mediterranean), and another one for the Black Sea? And then there still would remain a zone not covered by the ones listed here, which is linked by the Danube, including countries the majority of which have no sea (Bavaria, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Romania).

If the CADSES space and the Balkans within it are divided into several co-operating areas, even then it is necessary to have networks of European scale to establish connections among those regions (Figure 3). Before turning to the level of continental transport it is worth referring to an analysis where the Balkan region is viewed from inside and structured by units.

In the analyses of Papadaskalopoulos and his associates (2005) the core of the region is made of a triangle constituted by Belgrade, Bucharest and Thessaloniki, with the fourth big city, Sofia located in its centre (Figure 4). The influence of the core extends to the areas (grey on the map) neighbouring that zone, while part of the countries involved is in a developmental shadow (dark zone). The highly optimistic approach presented assumes that the poles of the region turn towards one another and build a common macro-structure. This does not seem to be justified in the short run, because the capital cities in the region regard the establishment of separate contacts towards the West as their priority. This is pointed out also by the protracted Romanian–Bulgarian disputes on the location of the Danube bridge3, or the corridors built parallel on both sides of the Serbian– Romanian border4.


The Evolution of European Corridors

The guiding principle at the development of the railway networks from the 19th century onwards as well as of the main highway networks was to create an internal connecting system in each country as well as access to the sea ports ensuring a significant part of exports and imports as soon as possible. Any other form of international connections in a larger space was only accidental and emerged much later. As a result even in the western part of Europe the creation of a uniform system of international corridors of continental (or more exactly of Union) scale was the task of the 1980s. (See the slogan of the first Union transport policy of 1992: “a single network for the single market”.)

Though at the time of the introduction of the 1975 route numbering system, replacing the earlier European road designation by radiuses with London as their centre and presented in Figure 5, nobody spoke about corridors, yet this system, indicating the east-west directions with numbers ending in ’0’, and the north-south directions with two-digit numbers ending in ’5’ can be regarded as the point from where thinking in terms of Pan-European corridors emerged a decade later.

The process crystallised into overlapping infrastructural corridors called as Trans-European Networks (TEN) by the time of the Maastricht Treaty of 1992. Within TEN the overlapping systems of energy (TEN-E), telecommunications (TEN-C) and transport (TEN-T) networks of Union scale can be distinguished. At that time the Union meant 12 countries, but they were already thinking about the networks in terms of an expected enlargement to include 16 countries in 1995. (Ultimately it became the EU–15 because Norway withdrew.) Gradually there has been less talk about the networks themselves, and the selected 14 projects came primarily into the focus of attention from 1996 onward. With some leap forward it should be noted that the number of selected projects was increased to thirty on 29 April 2004 (one day before the admission of ten newly acceding countries).

Meanwhile the system of Trans-European corridors has been severely criticised – “it is a process governed by regional interests, the solutions are expensive”5 –, but these voices were suppressed by the noise of lobbying: partly to be admitted among the projects on Union level, and even more to use the state of belonging to a corridor as an argument on national level for the priority of building the different segments of the track, to obtain priority for them within a country, and to the acquisition of Cohesion, or at least national support.


The Expansion of the TEN: the system of Pan-European Corridors

By the time the ideas formulated in the 1980s became Union documents in the 1990s, the map of Europe changed. In 1989 the Berlin Wall collapsed, the Iron Curtain disappeared, and it became obvious that one should think in terms of a Europe larger than ever before. The acceptance and approval of the TEN-concepts had been progressing on its Union track, but parallel to it a process of negotiations called “Pan-European transport conference” was launched in 1991, in the course of which it was in three steps (1991: Prague, 1994: Crete, 1997: Helsinki) that delegates of the respective ministries accepted the plans of the so-called “Helsinki corridors”, or “Pan-European corridors”, in other words, the eastern extension of the TEN.

What does that eastern extension of the TEN mean?

Let us have the scheme in Figure 6 indicate the TEN-T network.

The eastern extension of the TEN can be seen the network presented in Figure 7, for this would be the assertion of all the principles on the basis of which the TEN-network had been created but now in a larger area.

This, however, did not happen during the process. No doubt the improvement of East-West relations seemed to be the most urgent issue in the West as well as in the East in the euphoria of the 1990s. This effort overshadowed even thinking in perspective.

Instead of the eastern expansion of the TEN-network priority was accorded to the extension of the east-west corridors of the TEN, and with some exaggeration exclusivity (Figure 8).

More exactly the extension of the east-west corridors did not remain so pure as shown by Figure 8, because of the eastern enlargement of Europe, and also because people wanted to go north from Italy within the Union, and south from Germany, but it began to resemble Figure 9 rather, which may already be called a network.

In the actual Pan-European network there are no north-south corridors with the exception of corridor 9 (linking Finland and Greece), there are only ones going east from the Union, then turning to the north or to the south (Figure 10). Though from the pieces of the latter ones the north-south connection can be established, visibly it is more accidental than planned. At any rate, whatever has emerged is far away from the basic idea which intended to develop a grid network.6

It should be noted because it affects the Balkan region, that four Pan-European transport Areas were also delineated besides the ten corridors in Helsinki under the name PETRA (Pan-European Transport Areas). They are basins of marine navigation. The Black Sea is one of the PETRA areas (BS-PETRA). Its main development priority is the strengthening of the port of Constanţa. The region under survey is also involved in another PETRA area, the Adriatic–Ionian one. This approach strengthens the formerly indicated idea from the side of transport that logically the co-operating areas in regional development could be precisely these basins of marine navigation.


The Extension of the Pan-European Corridors: the TINA Network

The development of the Pan-European network linked to the east-west elements of the TEN resulted in the realisation after the first happiness waned that the Pan-European corridors are by far not able to cover those demands for inter-regional and supra-national transport connections that emerge in the area as a result of enlargement. For instance, east of Bratislava not a single Pan-European corridor crosses the east-west borderline between Slovakia and Hungary which is more than six hundred km long. Because of these problems the so-called TINA process (Transport Infrastructure Needs Assessment) was launched from 1995 on, at the time of a series of the Pan-European conferences. In this framework the transport experts of the EU-15 give professional advice to the high-level transport administration of the 11 potentially acceding countries (the EU-10s with the exception of Malta, and considering Romania and Bulgaria) how to assess their transport infrastructural needs. The 1999 closing report slipped from advice to the declaration of further corridors, and defined elements of network of first and second priority. The first priority corridors – to the glory of the methodological knowledge transferred – were unanimously accepted, or at least voted for “without visible opposition”: they should be identical with the Helsinki corridors evolved by that time (we have seen how).7 It is impossible to know what secondary priority means, at any rate, the countries have recommended further corridors within that category.

Up to the completion of the closing paper of 1999 Hungary had two segments of corridor increasing the density of the missing north-south contacts as TINA elements, namely the route coming to Budapest from the north and the domestic segment of the Košice–Oradea connection (Figure 11). The latter one also means a connection to the Balkans, in this context domestic plans were drawn up to conduct the Warsaw–Bucharest railway link this way, and to have this route accepted as an alternative of the Pan-European corridor No. 9.8 It was also in 2000 when Hungary tried to add two other corridors to the secondary TINA corridors earlier proposed (Figure 11). This experiment was not successful because the process was closed down, but it does not hinder the domestic authorities in indicating the respective segments as TINA-elements in their documents.


The Extension of the TINA Network: the TIRS

The systems of TEN, as it was seen, and PEN (Pan-European corridors) extending it to the east and TINA supplementing the latter one with density were fixed by 1999. As a next step TIRS (Transport Infrastructure Regional Study in the Balkans), the process of studying the infrastructural network of the Balkans began. The study initially covering seven countries (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia-Montenegro, Macedonia, Romania, and subsequently eight states after the separation of Serbia and Montenegro) was completed by 2002. The documentation states that as far as Bulgaria and Romania are concerned the basic network is identical with the corridors earlier defined by the TINA process, and for the other countries the European Investment Bank had made a survey (Western Balkans Transport Infrastructure Inventory). The survey named 223 potential projects and categorised them by the possibility of financing. From then onwards it is the order thus obtained which would decide the chances of a project for being accepted in the TIRS process.

In addition several maps were attached to the TIRS documentation (such as the one on Figure 12), which partly records points of assessing the situation (like the exhaustion of the highway capacities), but it also confirms the networks of sub-branches planned for 2015. To this extent the projects are not without moorings but are linked to networks. The network linkages, however, are only indirectly asserted because of the dominance of the financing criteria. This set of considerations for choice is also reflected in the 90-page closing document.9


A Reconsideration of the TIRS Process – REBIS

REBIS (Regional Balkans Infrastructure Study) does not want to expand but aims to narrow further choices, and it would even make a revision in progress concerning the network of the countries concerned. These are the TIRS countries not covered by the TINA process (i.e. five countries in 2003: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia-Montenegro, Macedonia). Obviously the project list of the TIRS was made too ample, for the 223 projects (and later on 153) have even made the possibility of arranging them in order of precedence uncertain and unauthentic. The aim of the new process is to look for and select projects and put them into an order of precedence that can be financed on the territory of the countries mentioned above. Altogether twenty projects were selected by the survey (or rather by a restarted assessment project) for which detailed preliminary feasibility studies were also made. This time, however, it was preceded by a rather detailed and profound network survey (which continues to regard the formerly indicated Pan-European corridors as fixed ones).

The final document10 defines the so-called core transport infrastructural network of the area (which in depth approximately corresponds to the Pan-European+TINA networks of the former territories of enlargement), and also allocates costs to its realisation up to 2015.

Figure 13 shows the REBIS area and the core highway network proposed to be built up to 2015. The cost of construction at an acceptable quality is estimated to be 4 billion Euros, where private capital involvement may be less expected. The building of a similar acceptable railway network would cost 12 billion Euros even if some of its characteristics are reduced (Figure 14). For the short term, up to 2009 the REBIS-study contains the implementation of a 3.8 billion Euro programme for the entire transport network.


The European Union evolved an overlapping Trans-European Network on the basis of the transport network of its 12 (15) member states in the late 1980s, next, in 1992, it was fixed (TEN) in the transport policy and Treaty on European Union. Since that time the entire network has been pushed into the background in the documentations, and there is mostly talk about the building of 14 projects (1996), (and 30 projects (2004) after the expansion of the list).

The PEN (Pan-European Network) tried to cover the eastern part of Europe by extending the east-west corridors of the TEN (1994, 1997).

The TINA process valid for the territory of the acceding countries of the eastern enlargement retained the PEN network, but it made the inclusion of secondary corridors and increasing the density of corridors (1995–1999) possible.

The TIRS process involving the seven Balkan countries regarded the PEN and TINA corridors as starting points, and extended the latter ones towards five more countries (2002).

The REBIS has once again surveyed the latter five countries and though it did not revise the results of earlier processes, reconsidered each of the elements of the TIRS supplementary networks involving the five countries and made recommendations for the comprehensive transport networks of the REBIS region (2003).

The project-oriented approach dominates in the entire process, including the changes of the TEN-network of the EU-15 from the early 1990s on, and the network is almost exclusively influenced by the financing possibilities of the major projects.

The revision of the TEN network failed to consider the actual function and continental structure of an overlapping network in the context of the enlarged Europe. As a consequence advices extending over the areas of enlargement do not help recognise the need for thinking in the framework of the functional role of the overlapping network. Instead the former structures are preserved (strengthened) that have developed within the national borders, or are further fragmented because of new borders11 and there is no way for the emergence of a structure of European scale even in places where the networks are currently being built.

As a consequence, and because of the radial piecemeal mending of the TEN-structure initially formed, the developing network further strengthens the dominance of more developed areas instead of an open grid network that would promote equalisation on European scale.



Bakács András–Novák Tamás–Somai Miklós–Túry Gábor: Rendszerváltás a gazdaságban. (System Change in the Economy) MTA Társadalomkutató Központ–MTA Világgazdasági Kutatóintézet, Bp., 2006. 187.


Zonneveld, Wil: Expansive Spatial Planning: The New European Transnational Spatial Visions. European Planning Studies, 2005. Vol. 13. No. 1. 137–155.


Erdősi Ferenc dr.: A szintetikus államalakulatok létrejöttének és szétesésének vasúthálózati problémái Európa keleti felében. (II. rész.) (Railway Network Problems of the Emergence and Disintegration of Synthetic State Formation in the Eastern Part of Europe.) (Part II.) Közlekedéstudományi Szemle, 2006. Vol. 56. No. 3. 94–103.


Howkins T. J.: Changing Hegemonies and New External Pressures: South East European Railway Networks in Transition. Journal of Transport Geography, 2005. Vol. 13. No. 2. 87–197.; Erdősi F.: i. m.


Turro, Mateu: Going Trans-European: Planning and Financing Transport Networks for Europe. Elsevier, 1999.


It is worth noting that the Union documents have not gone beyond the unilateral effort described here to the most recent times, which is reflected by a description in a White Paper published in 2004. White Paper on Services of General Interest. COM(2004) 374 final. Commission of the European Communities, Brussels, 12. 5. 2004. 3. 3. White Paper on Services of General Interest. COM(2004) 374 final. Commission of the European Communities, Brussels, 12. 5. 2004. 3. 3. “…the Commission’s policy in the area of Trans-European Networks is improving access to transport, energy and communications networks in the more remote area and will assist in linking the new Member States with the infrastructure of the Fifteen…” (Italics by author)


Transport Infrastructure Needs Assessment (TINA) Final Report. Vienna, Phare EC DG IA – EC DG VII – TINA Secretariat Vienna, October, 1999.


Köller László: A Krakkó–Kassa–Miskolc–Nagyvárad útirány vizsgálata a vasúti forgalomban. (The Study of the Kraców–Košice–Miskolc–Oradea Route in Railway Traffic.) Közlekedéstudományi Szemle, 2000. Vol. 50. No. 12. 448–454.


Transport Infrastructure Regional Study (TIRS) in the Balkans.Final Report. Prepared by Louis Berger SA March 2002. ECMT – Agence Française de Développement (AFD). http://www.cemt.org/topics/tirs/TIRSfinal.pdf.


Regional Balkans Infrastructure Study.Transport Final Study. July, 2003. European Commission, 2000 Cards Programme. http://www.seerecon.org/infrastructure/sectors/ transport/documents/REBIS/.


Erdősi Ferenc dr.: A szintetikus államalakulatok létrejöttének és szétesésének vasúthálózati problémái Európa keleti felében. (I. rész.) (Railway Network Problems of the Emergence and Disintegration of Synthetic State Formation in the Eastern Part of Europe.) (Part I.) Közlekedéstudományi Szemle, 2006. Vol. 56. No. 2. 42–52.