• 2006-11-08

cartoon by TBT STAFF

Trucks on the border, trucks on the border, forever it seems we write about trucks on the border. Again on Nov. 6, there were over 1,165 freight trucks idling in the snow at the Latvian and Russian border. More than just threatening traffic safety and bothering local residents with constant diesel fumes, the trucks are a visible reminder of the road ahead for EU /Russian relations. As of Nov. 6 there were 830 vehicles at the Terehova crossing point and 335 in queue at Grebneva. Since late August between 500 and 1,000 trucks have been waiting at the border crossing points daily to cross the Latvian-Russian border.

Back in August, Russian customs officials put the blame on Belarus, claiming that trucks from the EU drive around Belarus due to onerous customs procedures causing bottlenecks at Russia's existing border points. However, it is widely known that crossing into Belarus is an unpredictable affair and tense EU / Belarus relations have caused companies to play it safe and go around.
The ineffectual Latvian-Russian intergovernmental commission has been headed by the minster of transit for years now and has failed to get the job done. Russia is having a hard time accepting the fact that what was once a part of a greater Russia is now the borderland of its largest trading partner, and is using the ongoing border dispute to continue to play games with its European neighbor.

Latvian politicians need to forget about Abrene and work to sign a border agreement with Russia, or better yet, to save face they could ask the EU to find a solution with Russia. When the EU allowed Latvia into its club 2004, it also inherited the border issue as well. Latvia will not be able to reach its potential, nor will Europe be able to obtain maximum profit from its relationship with Russia as its goods sit stalled on snowy Baltic roads

But, as the Oct. 20 lunch with Putin demonstrated, the EU is undecided on how to represent the interests of its new member states without upsetting their relations with Russia. Perhaps getting an energy charter with Russia was too ambitious, the EU should instead start by stepping into this dispute. This would allow a more distant voice which is not entrapped in the recent history of occupation and colonial nostalgia to bring a kind of neutrality to the current stuck process. With the majority of the Russian budget coming from customs one would think that they would be anxious to have this matter settled once and for all, perhaps Brussels is the place where this could happen.