It is important for civilisation that we build highways, but without a developed railway network, modern ports and intermodal terminals, we won’t give our economy a chance to efficiently produce and export. I believe that during this year and next we are awaited by the realisation of precisely those transport projects that lead to Serbia’s full inclusion in Europe’s trade flows.
Where does Serbia stand today when it comes to the country’s more active involvement in European trade flows? I believe that the optimal and illustrative answer to this question would be a comparison of where Serbia was until 2014 and where we are today.
I would remind you that until 2014, we hadn’t managed to organise ourselves sufficiently as a society even to use what has been given to us by the nature of things, i.e. by our geographical position.
That which was started by generations several decades ago – and that is the construction of a highway that would connect Serbia with Hungary and Central Europe to the north, and with North Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey to the south and southeast – we continued in 2014, I would say in a sufficiently organised and efficient way for the first time, and completed in the summer of 2019.
However, I actually view 2014 as a crucial year for this society in a way, because I believe that what was launched then, and the way it was launched, as well as the plans that were defined that year, irreversibly initiated a process that will ultimately change the image of this country entirely.
The then Government, the prime minister of which, I will remind you, was Aleksandar Vučić, defined priorities for the development of transport and began working according to that action plan. What is of essential importance is the fact that this transport policy, unlike all the previous ones, was not short-term and didn’t look only one step ahead.
Specifically, it didn’t start from the assumption that it would be sufficient to complete Corridor X for all our problems to be solved. On the contrary, it was clearly stated even back then that this would only be a precondition for us to finally start exploiting the transit position given to us by nature, but also to prevent the dying out of cities and municipalities in central and southern Serbia. We completed this civilisation-promoting work without error. Then began the defining of other projects for the development of road transport infrastructure that aim to better connect Serbia with the region, as well as creating the basic preconditions for the arrival of large investments, not only in Belgrade or Novi Sad, but also in Pirot, Leskovac, Kruševac, Kraljevo and elsewhere. The result of that consideration was the launch of works on the Moravian Corridor, the Fruška Gora Corridor, the highway that will connect us with Bosnia-Herzegovina, the planning of the Vožd Karađorđe Highway, along with numerous works on the reconstruction of regional roads. All of these projects will enable the full utilisation of this country’s transit capacity.
The Port of Belgrade is this country’s most important facility for water transport and overall logistics, and its construction has been planned for a century
However, it became clear even then that Serbia has the capabilities and the capacity to do much more, and that the construction of road infrastructure alone would not be sufficient to ensure Serbia’s full inclusion in European trade flows. That’s why works didn’t stop with the securing of funds and the efficient management of road infrastructure development projects, rather there was the start of serious investments in the railway network, as well as water transport infrastructure. These are two forms of transport that this country needs to develop in order to realise its logistical capacities, and I will remind you that it is logistics that create additional value in the transport flows of every country. Just take a look at Ireland, for example, and everything will be clear to you.
It is important from the perspective of civilisation for us to build highways and thus connect and accelerate Serbia. But without a developed rail network, then modern ports that will be compatible with the large seaports in the area through the concept of their planning, such as so-called ‘dry ports’, without intermodal terminals, we won’t provide a chance for our economy to sell domestic products on foreign markets, nor to import raw materials used in production, in a way that’s more economical and efficient.
In that sense, I believe that during this year and next we are awaited by the realisation of precisely those transport projects that will mean the fulfilling of all infrastructure preconditions for Serbia’s full inclusion in Europe’s trade flows. Also of undoubted importance here is the new leadership of this ministry, which Tomislav Momirović brought with him.
The most important project is undoubtedly the reconstruction of the rail section of Corridor X, from the Hungarian border all the way to the border with North Macedonia, but also the reconstruction of some other important railway routes, one of the most important of which, in my deep conviction, is the railway line from Niš to Zaječar, Bor and Prahovo, where large industrial complexes are located, and especially because of the Chemical Park that’s planned for Prahovo. That’s the very reason why the project to expand the Port of Prahovo, which is the logistical heart of the future chemical park, is also of great importance.
Of equal importance is the reconstruction of several railway lines in Vojvodina, where the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure is preparing a project to expand the capacity of the Port of Bogojevo, which is predominantly linked to agribusiness and which isn’t currently connected to the national rail network, which is one of its biggest shortcomings.
Viewed in general terms, Serbia has a pronounced problem in the form of a lack of modern port infrastructure and superstructure facilities that would enable the more efficient storage and export of grain to foreign markets, which has a negative impact on the price achieved by our producers, and has a devastating but reversible impact on agribusiness. We have identified this problem and are working on it seriously today.
Our agenda doesn’t only include the Port of Bogojevo or the Port of Novi Sad, where we’ve brought the world’s third largest port operator that will launch works at this port in September and will invest 35 million euros. There is also, for example, the new Port of Belgrade, a project that will mark the current generation of engineers specialising in transport and hydraulics, because the Port of Belgrade is this country’s most important facility for water transport and overall logistics, the construction of which has been planned for a century. With the construction of a new port in Belgrade, the Republic of Serbia will gain a hub that will enable the linking of road, rail and water transport. The project to revitalise the railway section of Corridor X in Serbia, with its routes Xb and Xc, will enable the connecting of the Port of Belgrade with some of the most important TEN-T corridors, such as the Orient/Eastern Mediterranean Corridor, the Mediterranean Corridor and the Baltic-Adriatic Corridor.
This brief overview of one small part of the project activity of the the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure shows that we have understood what we need to do to connect Serbia with the EU and the region, but also, as a society, to become sufficiently competitive against the largest players in the EU. Of course, none of this would be possible without financial stability and budgetary discipline, which allows major investments in transport infrastructure, which is why working at this Ministry today brings with it far greater responsibility, but also satisfaction, compared to the period only eight or nine years ago.