Newsletter 23/2012 - In focus

CONNECT TO EUROPE TO CONNECT EUROPE, by Amna Redzepagic, Expert on Infrastructure, RCC Secretariat

A major portion of transport investments in the South East European (SEE) countries were realized during 1970s and 1980s. And, with the impact of the 1990s wars, economic instability and political chaos, transport infrastructure of in SEE became both damaged and poorly developed leaving the necessary repairs and maintenance operations neglected to a large extent. It is lagging behind the European Union (EU) countries with respect to the intensity, quality and efficiency of the transport networks and services delivered to the end users. At the same time, transport needs have been continuously changing over the recent years in response to new requirements. Therefore, development of an efficient transportation infrastructure is one of the most fundamental challenges for the region.

Naturally, governments tend to prioritize national needs. Still the need to have a regional approach rather than a national one firmly remains because, in practice, this is a precondition for unhindered implementation of projects, especially the large-scale infrastructure ones. The regional approach in the transport area is strongly recommended and should play a major role in transport planning and selection of priority projects. Thinking “out of the national box” is the first step in this direction.

Air Traffic

The Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Secretariat has been focusing on providing conditions aimed at improving the current airspace structure and increasing air traffic flow in the region. To that end, the RCC and its partners submitted an application form for a study on air traffic development in SEE, to the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF) Secretariat. It is expected that the study would provide a more comprehensive picture on the development of the air transport sector, supporting the overall economic development of the region. The RCC will continue to be further engaged in contributing to the improvement of the air traffic connectivity in the region.

Road Infrastructure

The Roads Congress held in September 2012 in Sarajevo was an opportunity for the countries of the region to stress the importance of an integrated approach to the development of road infrastructure in SEE. Due to its complexity in terms of necessary financing but also the time needed for its completion, the participating SEE countries also recognized the need for more efficient planning, design and implementation of ongoing and future transport infrastructure projects. The RCC Secretariat plans to promote such an approach in order to contribute to an improved mobility and accessibility to the region and within the region.


The railways of the region should be an engine for growth with vast potential, in particular due to the superiority of rail transport in terms of pollution and transport safety, but mostly due to transport costs against road or sea transport. They should be the driving factor in reviving rail freight transport as well, which has experienced a period of decline over the past years, but also in improving the economy of the countries in the region. Of course, things are not that easy in practice as they seem on paper. Major companies and logistics operators seek a reliable railway network that provides access to sea ports. By redirecting cargo volumes towards rails, leaving aside the much more expensive “traditional” road-sea corridors, value will be added to the economy. Unfortunately, the situation in railway sector in SEE is far from expected level of services due to the deteriorated infrastructure condition.

To overcome the current challenges in the infrastructure area, it is of a crucial importance to engage all relevant actors, which requires a firm political commitment of national governments (transport, finance ministries), into improving internal communication inside national administrations and with EU and regional structures. It also requires engaging railway experts, all with the aim of commencing to invest joint efforts towards this challenging goal. The RCC has been engaged in promoting the regional approach towards urgent railway reconstruction and modernisation in SEE and in Western Balkans in particular.

Past experiences teach us that achieving consensus and political agreement is perhaps the most difficult and the most time consuming part of implementing change and innovation in the transport sector. In light of the new RCC strategy timeframe 2014-2016, a balance will need to be found between the operational and political engagement of the RCC, having in mind the expectations of the region, especially in the infrastructure area. Thus, there is a demanding period ahead of the RCC, in which it has a prominent role to play in transposing the strong needs of the countries in the region into visible and viable infrastructure projects.

Amna Redzepagic joined the Regional Cooperation Council’s Secretariat in 2009 as an Expert on Infrastructure. Prior to this post, Redzepagic spent nine years at the Montenegrin Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Telecommunications as an Advisor for European integration in the Cabinet of the Minister and  in the  Sector for railways and maritime transport and European integration. From 2005-2009 she was a member of Steering Committee of the South East Europe Transport Observatory (SEETO). Redzepagic holds Master of Applied Science degree from the University of Montenegro in Podgorica.


Amna Redzepagic, Expert on Infrastructure, RCC Secretariat (Photo: RCC/Dado Ruvic)

Amna Redzepagic, Expert on Infrastructure, RCC Secretariat (Photo: RCC/Dado Ruvic)