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Interview with Ambassador Gerhard Pfanzelter, Secretary General of the Central European Initiative

Interview with Ambassador Gerhard Pfanzelter, Secretary General of the Central European Initiative

1. How did SEETAC contribute to the transnational cooperation among the CEI member states and what did SEETAC mean for the CEI Secretariat?

First of all, let me express the great satisfaction of the Central European Initiative with the results of the South East European Transport Axis Cooperation project. We were honoured to be the Lead partner of this strategic project. I am very thankful to our team at the CEI Secretariat for having done an admirable job. They succeeded in running the project smoothly and efficiently in full harmony with our partners. I am also grateful to all SEETAC partners for their enthusiasm and commitment to produce tangible and sustainable  results. Special thanks to the Joint Technical Secretariat of the South- East Europe programme for its continuous support and constructive cooperation.

The CEI is a champion of regional cooperation for European integration: the European perspective of its Member States remains its core mission. The objectives of SEETAC are completely in line with our mission:  it has improved some of the key aspects in transnational cooperation such as communication, institutional cooperation and harmonization of national plans. By improving the transport system in the region, SEETAC contributes to the competitiveness and economic development in the Western Balkans, preparing it for the European single market. The path ahead of us is still long, but I believe this approach is very challenging and promising.

SEETAC has also enhanced the CEI's visibility among the main EU players. The constant contact and collaboration with the EC, in particular with the DG Move and DG Regio is an important asset.


2. How do you think SEETAC has contributed to the transport system of the Western Balkans?

SEETAC has done an excellent job at the right time, when transport planning in the Western Balkans is being developed and the EC is engaged in the process of the TEN-T revision. The presence of both EU Member States and candidates/future candidates as SEETAC partners offered an added value to this strategic project.  After a three-year cooperation period, partners have already shifted their perspective to working in a team for a common goal. The huge efforts each state is making towards the creation of better transport infrastructures, conditions and services are part of an intriguing puzzle in the South-east Europe transport infrastructure.

On 12 December 2011, the European Commission issued a proposal, selecting a Core and Comprehensive network for all of Europe. Only the Comprehensive network includes the road and railroad sections of Western Balkan countries.

SEETAC through the joint cooperation between all its Balkan members in SEETO and the South East Europe Transport Observatory co-financed by the EU, is helping to define the requirements to make the existing networks efficient and at the same time to propose the inclusion of the South-East Europe into the Core Network.


3. What is according to you the role of this project with regard to the integration process of the IPA countries into the EU?

SEETAC has created numerous benefits with regard to the process of integration of the IPA countries into the EU. The results achieved so far in SEETAC will play an important role during the financing of the infrastructural improvements by IFIs and the EC.

SEETO's presence in our SEETAC partnership is crucial. SEETO guarantees the elaboration of the methodology for the selection of priority projects and its representatives underlined that SEETAC goes hand in hand with the activities foreseen by SEETO. In this partnership SEETAC can provide SEETO with the collected data and the analysis of future scenarios.

Finally, I strongly believe SEETAC is helping the IPA countries in their accession  progress with the EU by improving their transport system and infrastructures. It is also boosting their competitiveness and economic development, which are two crucial conditions the candidates need in order to meet the requirements  to finally access the EU.


4. To your mind, which are, the most important results achieved by SEETAC in the field of transport and transnational cooperation?

I would like to single out three main SEETAC results. The first one is the institutional cooperation: SEETAC served as a platform of cooperation on transport issues among Transport Ministries from EU Member States, EU candidates and potential EU candidates. We could never have achieved these important results without the active collaboration of the institutional representatives in the project's partnership.

The second result is the comprehensive transport analysis of South East Europe. The project provided technical topics and latest traffic data for the integration of the Western Balkans in the EU transport system, by demonstrating the benefits of an extension of the Trans-European Transport Network  TEN-T  to the Western Balkan countries.

The third result is the assessment of the present transport situation and future scenarios in the SEE region. The modelling analysis has provided a complete assessment of the current technical and functional characteristics of the road, rail and waterway systems in the region. Modelling outcomes have highlighted  the growth potential of SEE infrastructure. Important results have also been reached in the identification of necessary financial resources and financing mechanisms mainly focused on the need to eliminate cross-border bottlenecks.


5. How can the results of SEETAC be used in the future development of transport policies in the WB countries and why is it SEETAC 2 so important?

At European level SEETAC results will be of special interest in the development of transport policies in the Western Balkan countries. We have received a lot of positive feedbacks on the outcome of SEETAC. SEETO shows interest in cooperation in the project evaluation phase of infrastructural improvements and data exchange. Another input was given during the last SEETAC Ministerial conference in Bled, where the Coordinator of the Danube region strategy for mobility-road, air and rail  stressed the importance of the results achieved by the project which will be taken into consideration in the future.

The excellent results achieved by SEETAC are encouraging us to continue. The partners involved in SEETAC and the European Commission expressed their willingness to continue this joint collaboration to build a new initiative. Currently, the CEI is in the final stage of the negotiations with the SEE programme for the kick-off of a transport project "Accessibility improved at border CROSsings for the integration of South East Europe (ACROSSEE)"which was build on the results of SEETAC and foresees to improve and finally solve some of the criticalities exposed by SEETAC.

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