Sumario: September 17, 2002: Statement by H.E. Ambassador John B. Richardson on behalf of the European Community at the Third Annual Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries (New York)
Landlocked developing countries are a particularly vulnerable group. The lack of access to the sea, the remoteness and isolation from world markets and the high transit costs impose serious constraints on their development, preventing them from reaping the full benefit from the trade and investment opportunities offered by the process of globalisation. Addressing the specific problems of these countries requires action at different levels:
The regional dimension is key. Co-operation between landlocked countries and their neighbours is essential to achieve the economic growth needed to reduce poverty and promote development. It is important not only for infrastructure, but also in order to strengthen institutions and human resources dealing with transit transport.
In this context, I also wish to underline the importance of Official Development Assistance to help LLDCs improve their infrastructure. The European Community has long been among the major donors addressing the specific needs of the Landlocked and Transit Developing Countries and we will pursue our programmes in this field in the years to come. The recent decision, announced by the EU in Monterrey, to increase its development assistance by €8 billion by 2006 is a clear signal of European determination to continue being the major source of assistance, for developing countries in general, and for land-locked developing countries in particular.
The Cotonou Agreement between the ACP countries and the EU in fact combines regional integration with development assistance and reflects the importance we attach to the role of transport in development and to the specific problems of the landlocked countries. Indeed, of the 30 landlocked countries, 15 are ACP countries. Transport is a main sector of support in most of these countries(1); and a large share of sector allocations (+/- € 900 m) is earmarked for projects to facilitate port access for these countries. Helping recipient countries improve their policies and practices, particularly for road transport, also ensures the sustainability of such investments. The EC works with sub-regional organisations, (such as SADC, ECOWAS, and UEMOA) and gives them direct support for the development of regional transport strategies, regulations and procedures as well as support for specific roads to facilitate the smooth operation of long-distance transport corridors (often over 1000 Km) from ports to towns in landlocked countries. An initiative currently under preparation is the construction of joint border posts, and support for customs staff training to simplify border crossings in some West African countries.
Transportation and access to regional and international markets are also key issues for the sustainable development of the countries of Central Asia. We have identified the support to East-West Corridors from Central Asia to Europe as an important priority for future assistance. Our specific programmes (such as the TRACECA programme, which aims at improving performance of transport routes by rail, inland seas and roads, and the INOGATE programme that focuses on increasing performance, security and safety of energy networks) are key instruments to develop infrastructure and regulatory frameworks, supplying training and catalysing investments from the international financial institutions.
We should be clear that the problems of landlocked developing countries are not only problems of infrastructure. Obstacles to transit and non-harmonised customs and border crossing procedures constitute a major hindrance to the development of transport and trade flows. While specific programmes can alleviate these barriers, multilateral cooperation is an essential element of an overall strategy to assist among others landlocked countries. The WTO work programme on trade facilitation can help create an appropriate framework, reducing barriers and costs and clarifying existing rules on transit. The EU is willing to work with the landlocked developing countries to ensure that freedom of transit is effectively provided under the WTO, given problems faced by these countries on a daily basis. UNCTAD is also playing and should continue to play an important role in this area, in close co-operation with other relevant organisations of the UN system, in particular through its technical co-operation programmes (ASYCUDA, ACIS and Trade Point).
The European Commission welcomes the decision to convene an international Ministerial meeting of landlocked and transit developing countries, donor countries and representatives of international financial institutions on transit transport co-operation in 2003 in Kazakhstan. I am convinced that the meeting will provide a useful opportunity to review the current situation and to propose appropriate policy measures.
(1) Burkina Faso, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia.