Well-developed and interconnected infrastructure key for
On this day 198 years ago the world's first fare paying
passenger railway service started in Great Britain. The railway
was not as you might expect in London, it was in South Wales,
connecting the port of Swansea with it's under developed
hinterland, bringing access to jobs, markets and new
The same simple lesson of two centuries ago applies today,
perhaps more than ever: well-developed and interconnected
infrastructure for transport and energy is a key driver for
economic growth and jobs as well as for attracting new
However, there are some other cautionary lessons to learn. First
the railway was horse drawn, perhaps not the best choice for the
21st Century. Second, it stopped operating after a few years due
to competition from a new toll road.
From this we can see that no transport project, no transport
policy can act in isolation.
This is why the transport policy of the European Union aims to
close the gaps between Member States' transport networks and
remove bottlenecks that still hamper the smooth functioning of
the internal market.
Agreement on core network is vital
The main building block comprises the core network linking all
capitals, main economic centres and major ports. These priority
links only become part of the core network if Member States are
able to commit to completing all related investments and other
'soft' measures by 2030.
The core network therefore involves focusing on the most
important inter-connectors and ensuring that the countries have
the necessary fiscal and budgetary means to complete them on
time. This mutual commitment makes the process credible.
The aim is, therefore, not to have the largest possible regional
core network but to focus on the most important segments which
could be implemented within a reasonable time frame. We do not
want "grand designs" we want "good designs".
Mutual commitment is the essential foundation. It ensures the
added value of the process and provides the necessary guarantee
for each country that its investments will be worthwhile. And,
each country knows that its neighbours share the same commitment
to the same core network.
This is the framework into which we want to connect the Western
Balkans, not just a physical connection, through road and rail
but a political and legal connection as well.
If we add the regional core network to the Transport Community
Treaty it will become legally binding for the Western Balkans as
well as for the EU thereby further strengthening the credibility
of the process.
Single sector pipelines
I have spoken of the need to develop realistic plans but we must
also be realistic when we look at how these plans will be
Public funds are scarce and we need to get the maximum value for
every Euro we spend. To deliver on the most important
investments and bring real benefits sooner rather than later,
there is a clear need to carefully select priorities and to
explore all possible sources of funding including private
The functioning of the National Investment Committees will be
crucial in this regard. They bring together the Ministry of
Finance, the relevant line ministries, the Commission, IFIs and
the main actors of the private sector. They will be responsible
for establishing single sector pipelines with the most relevant
investment projects to be financed in the country over the
There are a lot of lessons which can be learned from existing
National Investment Committees. We will hear later this morning
about the Serbian experience with the sector pipelines.
I urge you to take as much inspiration as possible from this
good practice and from other positive experiences from around
Europe and the region.
Agreeing on this approach and methodology would send a clear
signal – to your business, to your citizens and to potential
investors – that you are determined to boost the economy in the
Western Balkans by working closely together in the common
Credible sector strategies and single sector pipelines are as
important for us as they are for other investors. Theywill be
pre-conditions for getting access to multi-country and national
IPA funding for investment co-financing.
Adding value to infrastructure investments
Let me also emphasise the importance of adding value to these
investments. It is easy to think about connectivity in terms of
the "hardware", bridges, intersections and the like. But I would
emphasise that, like a computer, the hardware needs software to
operate effectively. And the better the software the easier it
is for the hardware to maximise its potential.
Let me give an example: implementing EU standards of road safety
will reinforce the added value of investments in infrastructure
There will be even greater gains if this is combined with more
efficient border crossings. Obviously it makes little sense to
invest heavily in state of the art roads or railways if trucks
or trains get stuck at the borders.
The good news is that significant improvements can be made
fairly rapidly in reducing transportation time at relatively low
costs. In this regard, I look forward to the presentation later
this morning about the joint work carried out by the authorities
at the Hani e Elezit crossing point.
I have spoken about establishing a core transport network. This
reflects the importance and the scale of the task ahead of us.
But the connectivity agenda is not limited to transport. In the
Energy sector, the Guidelines for trans-European energy
infrastructure establish common rules for the timely development
and interoperability of priority corridors.
Projects of Energy Community Interest
Here too we need a strategic overview and a clear priority given
to the Projects of Energy Community Interest (PECI).
We are working with Energy Community Secretariat to establish a
short list of the most vital projects.
And for energy, just as with transport, operating under
EU-compatible rules such as unbundling utilities or allowing
third-party access will be an essential element of the
Next steps and the Vienna summit in August
At the start of my presentation I expressed the hope that here
today we would be able to reach an agreement on the core
network. Such an agreement would pave the way for the next
Commissioner Bulc and I are looking forward to host your Prime
Ministers on 21 April in Brussels. This will be the occasion to
give the agreement we intend reaching today political
confirmation at the very highest level.
Such a political commitment will be a strong signal of our
mutual engagement in the connectivity agenda.
With the political commitment confirmed we can then work
together to turn this commitment into action.
In June, we would use the TEN T days in Riga to organise a
specific WB6 Ministerial to agree on the appointment of corridor
The coordinators would help organise discussions where all
relevant stakeholders work towards identifying short term
regulatory and operational improvements as well as priority
investments in cross border connections and bottlenecks for each
Finally, in August we would use the Vienna Summit to present a
list of specific investment priorities on energy and on the
regional transport core network. The list would comprise mature
projects already included in the framework of the Western
Balkans Investment Framework and which would make a clear
contribution to the connectivity agenda.
Of course these projects will need financing. As a first step up
to 130 million euro in IPA II funds will be available from the
2015 multi-country programme as grant investment co-financing to
move these projectsforward together with loan-financing from
European Financial Institutions.
Strong commitment to improving connectivity in the region
I say a first step because I am strongly committed to improving
the connectivity within this region and between the region and
the European Union. We are ready to commit as much as 1 billion
euro from IPA II to this end.
This is a substantial effort and with the appropriate
loan-financing leverage it could bring about significant
connectivity improvements to the region, boosting overall
competitiveness, leading to growth, job creation and a real
improvement in the lives of all who live here.
This is my commitment but we must work together and I know that
you are committed too.
Your commitment means focusing on the core investment priorities
(core network) and establishing a credible planning and funding
mechanism in the form of single sector pipelines.
It also means ensuring that you have the fiscal space to take up
the necessary loan financing to get all the projects implemented
And I will work with you on implementing EU-compatible reforms
in order to ensure the best regulatory environment to implement
and operate these projects.
From this it is clear that the connectivity agenda is closely
linked to economic governance and notably the Economic Reform
Programmes your Governments submitted to us earlier this year.
I count on you to pursue with vigour all the structural measures
included in these reform programmes. You will get the maximum
support possible from us in order to achieve this.
I have tried to highlight the challenges linked to connectivity
that lie ahead for the region as I see them, and to offer my
commitment and the support of the European Commission to help
you tackle them.
I would be very grateful for your views on these challenges and
for suggestions on ways we can better help you address them. And
I would urge you to look at this constructively and make it a