EUCATI Conference January 2010
1st international EUCATI Conference took place in Vienna
On January 28/29 the first international EUCATI conference took place in Vienna.
Around 30 participants were discussing about the topic transport logistics in the caucasian region.
EUCATI, die European-Caucasian-Asia-Trade-Initiative, represents an association of organisations which are interested in the in the caucasian and southasian market.
EUCATI will be organised as an open, informative group which includes the public sector, the academic area, education, transport and trading.
Ambassadors of companies and organisations but also political exponents of Commerce, Transport and Industry, which want to expand in these dircetions, introduced their ideas and experiences.
During the conference the objectives and operationa have been planned and concluded.
In his opening statement, Mr. Bauer, the managing director of PARADIGMA referred to the historic as well as the future importance of the Caucasus region for Europe. The increase of trade volumes between China, Southeast Asia and Europe makes the availability of secure, fast and efficient transport lanes ever more important. The Caucasus region lies at the junction of an alternative land based corridor connecting Asia and Europe, warranting Europe's interest there. However, the economic potential of the countries, both as suppliers and consumers provide ample motivation for Europe's businesses to turn their attention to the Eastern borders.
He sees the EUCATI network as a venue to develop cooperation and alliances in supranational institutions to argue the removal of identified barriers to cooperation and to provide support to raise and argue issues effecting the region; as a venue for partners to identify project and business opportunities in the transport, education & cultural sector, with an emphasis on manageable initiatives.
Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs www.bmeia.gv.at
acknowledging differences with the European Community regarding the Caucasus region, pointed to Brussels efforts to invest in the development of regions on Europe's borders. The commission will provide funding in the order of €11bn over the next seven years, o.w. €350 mio have been earmarked for projects in the Caucasus region up to 2013. He informed the participants about Austria's plans to open an embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan in the summer of 2010 and the Foreign Ministries initiative to focus on the Danube/Black Sea region. Both initiatives are expected to have a positive impact on EUCATI's efforts. Concluding, Mr. Henning alluded to the pioneering tradition of Austrian companies, exemplified in Eastern Europe and in the Balkans, which is now extended to the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Dr. Lassman, from Russia-Logistics www.russia.at reported on the potential of Baku to develop into an international hub. The lack of available ships in the Caspian is a bottleneck, requiring transport services to use alternative routes and modes to connect Europe with Central and East Asian markets. As regards transport relations between Europe and the Caucasus economies, multimodal transports via St.Petersburg to the Caspian, from the Black Sea using the Volga/Don channel to the Caspian as well as via Poti and Batumi using the rail link to Baku are viable options. Truck routes via Ukraine and Russia to Baku are fast and inexpensive; however they represent a security risk for high value cargo. Routes via Turkey and Georgia or alternatively via Turkey and Iran to Baku are volatile as regards adverse weather conditions, capacity constraints and border delays.
voiced his concern, that the EUCATI network might become a sequel to the TRASECA initiative, which in his opinion did not meet the expectations of business. He suggested that EUCATI should focus on the lynchpin role of the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea in connecting Central Asia to Europe. The idea to develop Baku as a transition point in East-West traffic currently faces shortages in vessel capacity. Only 2 ferries per week operate between Baku and Aktay; the 7 voyages per week from Baku to Turkmenbashy are partially used for military transports to support the war in Afghanistan. He regards the engagement of the political authorities in Afghanistan as critical to EUCATI's success.
Prof. Kummer and Dr. Fuerst from the department for transport economics and logistics at the Vienna University Of Economics And Business www.wu.ac.at presented the case for a rail based Eurasian landbridge from China via Russia to Central Europe. Although a decline of modal share for rail in international transports - from 58% in 1990 to 40,8% in 2005 provides evidence for disadvantages of rail services in comparison to trucking and maritime shipping, the expected liberalization in the sector will lead to larger, more aggressive players in the railroad theater. The joint venture between Austria, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine which intends to connect Kosice with the Austrian Border (the Vienna basin) providing access to Russia's broad gauge network has been presented as a case study.
Contrasting the presentation of Dr.Fuerst, Roman Mamuladze (Batumi Maritime Academy www.iamu-edu.org) argued the case for competition between corridors, pointing to the vulnerability of a transportation network that relies on a single corridor. He reported about Georgia's efforts in the area of port development, connecting Poti and Batumi by rail and road construction to Turkey, the Tiflis area and the Caspian. The Batumi Airport construction as well as the establishment of a customs free zone in the Port, are measures to increase the attractiveness of Batumi.
In his address to the conference plenary, Dr.Gerhard Burian (Ministry of Economics, Family and Youth, www.bmwfj.gv.at ) commented positively on the ideas and of EUCATI. To be successful however, EUCATI must define its role and sharpen its focus. It has to be clear what EUCATI would like to accomplish.
The first EUCATI conference identified the following intervention areas as crucial to the development of business relationships between Europe and the Caucasus. Although the topics are interdependent and related, the working group agreed to pursue them separately to allow the necessary focus.
Cultural understanding is considered an indispensible prerequisite of sustained and profitable business relationship. Curricula for business managers will have to comprise models for "receptive culture" and highlight the benefit that can accrue from cultural differences. EUCATI should therefore expend efforts to develop this topic.
Education, Training and Marketing of Transportation: Joint study programs, student exchange programs should be promoted and organized by EUCATI's academic institution. Addressing the requirements of the business community, EUCATI's research topics will have to be aligned with specific business needs.
Standardized Information Exchange:
The implementation of existing international information exchange standards, the promotion of transparent and common rules of trade and transport will be among EUCATI's activities. A research project will be defined to provide empirical support for the advantages and disadvantages associated with the adoption of international exchange standards.
Mitigation of political risk Create awareness among traders, business developers and the polity, that alternative transport links and competition in the transport sector is a desirable goal. To attain this goal, a reduction of the political and security risk associated with the Caucasus today is a necessary prerequisite. EUCATI will provide a venue to collect and structure security related issues and to alert the effected institutions.
The evaluation of alternative transport relations, provision of a current registry of existing infrastructure, as well as the identification of projects in the transportation area with tangible benefits are the main activities to be developed in this area.
An action plan for the coming months has been adopted by the participants.
• Perform a study on current trade barriers (Dr.Fuerst)
• Obtain current information on transportation flows (Paradigma)
• Use the results of these two studies to derive locally relevant themes/priorities
• Organize local conferences around these themes to identify parties interested in the ideas of EUCATI (government, business) (Paradigma, Galati, Batumi, Baku)
• Identify, describe & share project ideas generated by these local workshops reflecting local/regional interests (Paradigma, Galati, Batumi, Baku)
• Promote EUCATI using "viral marketing" LINKEDIN, XING - contribute to fora discussing supply chain issues. (all)
• Collect & share information on funding opportunities and funding priorities (both for preparatory work and project financing) (all)
• Reconvene in Batumi in the fall of 2010