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The Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration has revealed some of Ukraines plans, which includes modernization of several checkpoints.

Ukraine has long wanted to modernize its checkpoints, which will help with EU integration. After a long time, the Ukrainian government is now ready with a plan, says Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna, according to Ukrinform.

“We are working on integration into the EU internal market, which will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the further growth of our trade. The load on checkpoints will grow. All this requires the development of checkpoints across the state border – both the opening of new and modernization of existing ones. First of all, it concerns the development of infrastructure, the quality of access roads, the arrangement of service areas and capacity increase,” she said.

She mentioned that modernization of the checkpoints at Yahodyn, Krakivets, Uzhhorod, Chop (Tysa), and Luzhanka will be prioritized. Among other things, these checkpoints will receive better vehicle inspection scanning systems, better video surveillance and warehouses of European quality to store confiscated goods. 

Really big need

Lesia Dubenko and Pavlo Kravchuk, analysts at Kyiv-based think tank Europe Without Barriers (EWB), recently wrote in the Atlantic Council about the urgent need for modernization of the Ukrainian checkpoints. They point out that not much has been done to modernize these border crossings with the EU since the Maidan Revolution back in 2014. It is a problem, the authors argue, when trade with the EU has multiplied in the same period. 

“The crossing points along Ukraine’s western border with EU member states Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania have all witnessed increasing traffic during recent years as Ukraine has embraced historic changes and adopted a Euro-Atlantic national trajectory,” they argue, “In 2019, the last year before COVID considerations turned international travel upside down, more than 32 million people crossed at these border points. Growing volumes of border traffic have often led to congestion and long queues, especially for those seeking to cross in cars or other vehicles.”

The authors argue that despite much attention from both the EU and Ukraine, not much has been done to modernize the Ukrainian checkpoints, affecting trade. They argue that it is not only a question about building more checkpoints, but also about finding common ground in regulation and finding solutions for dealing with citizens with dual citizenship. 

“The current congestion and infrastructural chaos at the Ukraine-EU border is expensive. It hinders deeper bilateral cooperation and negatively affects a wide range of businesses involved in cross-border trade. To cite just one among thousands of examples, Ukrainian export company Modern-Expo reports annual losses of USD 50 million due to border delays,” they wrote. 

“In order to improve the situation on the EU-Ukraine border, Kyiv must deliver on its promises and complete the renovation and construction of checkpoints funded by both the EU and Poland. The Ukrainian authorities also need to learn to prioritize border upgrade initiatives, enhance inter-agency communication, and review existing legislation. Kyiv must take further steps to promote alternative options for crossing the border, such as expanded railway services.”

EU tired of lack of progress

Trying to modernize the Ukrainian crosspoint towards the EU is nothing new. It has received funding from EU countries before, but with little to show for it. In 2018, Reuters spoke to several sources in the EU, who said that they were losing patience with Ukraine. 

“There is a certain Ukraine fatigue. People are exasperated by the lack of reform, especially on corruption. Things have stalled,” said one EU diplomat to Reuters and refers to how Ukraine, for example, back in 2017 received 36 million dollars to modernize six checkpoints, but that nothing has happened. 

The Ukrainian government is now hoping to change that and make sure that the Ukrainian checkpoints with the EU are modernized. 

“We are forming a work plan for each of the checkpoints. That will signal that we are committed to cooperation and open access to the opportunities of the largest regional programs of the European Union – the Danube and Carpathian strategies. They will allow developing regional cooperation with the EU in general and with the countries of the Carpathian and Danube regions in particular. As soon as we start working on these problematic checkpoints, we will unlock our participation in much broader projects,” said Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna, back in July.

“The second component is joint border and customs control. This is when Ukrainian and, for example, Slovak border guards carry out joint border customs control and do not need to be re-checked on each side. We already have political agreements with neighboring countries and the European Commission. All this will help to simplify procedures, reduce queues and increase the capacity of the border while maintaining security,” explained Olha Stefanishyna.