Problems at Russian border worsening

  • 2004-05-13
  • By TBT staff
RIGA - Problems with the new border control system activated as of May 1 has led to long lines, delays and the suspension of the State Revenue Service's general customs administration head Martins Tols, who was blamed for the delays.

"The current situation is not good," said Kalvis Vitolins, a partner of the transit consultancy Logistics Partners. He did add, however, that the main problems were occurring with goods being imported from non-EU member states, such as Russia, America, and Israel.
In fact, Vitolins estimated the amount currently suffering was only 10 percent of overall imports. But ten percent still means many trucks stalled for long periods of time at the boarder.
"Lithuania and Estonia have fewer problems with imports than Latvia has right now," Vitolins added.
He laid some of the blame for the border problems on the inexperience of the top three people in charge, including Tols and Finance Minister Oskars Sprudzins, who was fired on May 8.
Former Finance Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, who appointed Tols, decried the suspension, labeling it "political revenge."
However, Prime Minister Indulis Emsis supported it, saying that the customs department showed its "organizational impotence" as the long lines and confusion occurred after EU accession.
Custom experts said that Tols was well respected and had good methodology but may have had problems with the managerial side of running the new customs service.
Still, Latvia was not the only country to suffer from border congestion and backlog.
"This was a problem for all accession countries," said Aivars Taurins, president of the Logistics and Customs Brokers Association, adding that the glitches were slowly being solved.
Many of the difficulties associated with bringing in new goods on May 1 were tied to the changing relationship Latvia now has with Europe.
A large portion of goods stopped at the border were from accession countries that, now being a part of the EU, are not subject to the same checks or taxes as those originating outside the economic bloc.