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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia, EU to Develop 3 Baltic Ports

Russia and the European Union on Monday reached an agreement to develop three new Baltic Sea ports and speed up the integration of Russia into continental trade and transport routes.


EU Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock, on a three-day visit to Russia, signed a memorandum of understanding with Russian Transport Minister Nikolai Tsakh aimed at boosting the role of shipping in international trade, a document already signed by eight other countries that border the Baltic.


"There will be tremendous advantages for Russia and other Baltic-facing countries," Kinnock, former leader of Britain's Labour Party, told a news conference.


The three new ports, which will handle primarily oil, gas and coal shipments, would facilitate "more efficient, comfortable, and competitive trade between Russia, Western Europe and the Nordic countries," he said.


The officials did not name which ports would be developed under the program, specify how much it would cost or give a target date for completion.


The agreement should encourage more foreign investment in Russia's port infrastructure, said Tsakh, who praised the EU for its "integrated approach" toward upgrading transport in Russia.


The ports are currently financed by a $50 million credit package from a European multilateral lender, along with investments by Russian oil and gas companies that would use the sites for future exports, he said.


Other issues raised during the talks were the need to modernize Russia's air traffic management systems due to increased demand to overfly Russian airspace; the mutual opening of inland waterways; and the development of transport corridors through several Russian and Commonwealth of Independent States cities.


One such route is a Berlin-Moscow rail link, already completed. Another will connect Finland to Greece via St. Petersburg and Moscow, and another will join Russia's two major metropolises with other provincial cities and Central Asia.


Kinnock said the Russian government and the EU had been "vigilant" in examining and evaluating the results of the TACIS aid program, under which the EU had allotted 84 million ecus ($107 million) toward transport-related development projects in Russia.


He cited one Tacis-backed program -- the Moscow-St Petersburg high-speed rail link -- as an example of a project that would both contribute to the efficiency of the Russian rail system and form part of a pan-European transport corridor.


Future Russian-EU projects include development of a European-Russian navigation satellite and the creation of a working group to exchange research.