RIGA - The line of trucks that appeared last month on the Lithuanian-Latvian border decreased as soon as the NATO summit was concluded, as Latvian border guards lifted a number of temporary restrictions. Still, the core problem remains, as the number of waiting trucks surpassed 1,000 again as of Dec. 4.
Relief may soon materialize, however, as it was announced on Dec. 5 that European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso had called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to build a third crossing on the Latvian-Russian border and expand capacity at the two existing points.
Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis told SWH radio on Dec. 5 that Barroso has promised funds for both Latvia and Russia to alleviate the long truck lines at the border crossings. Truckers have to wait up to four days to drive into Russia.
Kalvitis said Latvia planned to build a new road from Ludza to Terehova next year and a new parking area by the border as well.
Meanwhile, Lithuanian haulers counted their losses and Latvian diplomats denied any wrongdoing. In short, there continues to be no light at the end of the road to Russia, where trade with the EU continues to soar.
Jonas Grybauskas, head of Linava, Lithuania's road carriers association, told the Lietuvos Rytas daily that the association was gathering data and tallying up the losses related to the restrictions imposed by Latvia.
"We started collecting information from carriers on [Nov. 29]. Some cargoes have not been delivered yet, and it is not clear how customers are going to react," he said. "Nor is it clear the condition perishable goods are in. But I can say that every idle day causes a loss of between 860 to 930 litas [249 's 270 euros] per truck."
He added that lawyers had advised the association to wait for the European Commission to decide who was responsible for the lines before seeking compensation.
Some observers have speculated that by imposing restrictions on truck movement and forming a line on the Lithuanian border, Latvia's government wanted to avoid an embarrassment during the NATO summit and "share the pain" with another EU member state, thereby forcing the EU to help alleviate the problem.
Latvian Interior Minister Ivars Godmanis said last week that he saw no quick solution to the problem and has suggested a bilateral government commission be formed to address the problem. "We 's the two interior ministers 's have used up our powers," he told the Baltic News Service.
Lithuanian Interior Minister Raimondas Sukys visited Latvia on Nov. 27 in hope of somehow finding a solution to the problem.
Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks, meanwhile, tried to iron out the diplomatic fallout.
"The problem is not on the Lithuanian-Latvian border, but the root of the problem is that people and vehicles cannot cross the Russian border as Russia, for some reason, is not able to deal with these issues," Pabriks told the TV program 900 Seconds on Nov. 30.
"It would not be right to make it a fight between us [Latvia and Lithuania] if the problem is somewhere else," said the minister.
The truck lines at the Terehova and Grebneva crossings in eastern Latvia began to grow in late August as more Lithuanian truckers chose to avoid Belarusian customs, which have become increasingly unpredictable and started charging large sums of money. Truckers have to wait up to four days to cross into Russia, while local residents are complaining of noise, pollution and copious amounts of trash.
Godmanis has warned that if the situation is not addressed immediately, the line of trucks in Latvia may grow to 2,000 by the end of the year.
One solution being discussed is the creation of parking lots for trucks, but this would require additional police, Godmanis said.