International investments in Ukraine’s border infrastructure will have a positive effect.
With the Ukrainian forces successfully resisting the Russian army’s offensive in the critical first days of the invasion, a growing number of European experts and politicians have begun discussing Ukraine’s victory as well as how to restore and modernize the country in order to integrate it into the EU and NATO. In other words, they are drawing up a new Marshall Plan.
Figures like President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and Head of the European Council Charles Michel have already underscored that this rebuilding should start even if Ukraine is still at war with Russia.
Kyiv must thus begin with investing in key areas such as infrastructure. This applies to those parts of Ukraine that the Russian army has razed to the ground and areas that ensure a reliable, fast, and diversified connection between Ukraine and the West. After all, not only has the country become part of the latter, but it also heavily relies on it.
Investments in infrastructure have always fueled development. In Ukraine’s case, it is also provides the foundation for resilience. The border infrastructure in western Ukraine, which neighbors EU and NATO member states, is Ukraine’s current lifeline and gate into the future.
In this article, we outline seven reasons why the restoration of embattled Ukraine must start with the Western border’s modernization. Foremost, the reconstruction and development of new checkpoints.
1. If we indeed choose to commence Ukraine’s restoration and modernization while the country is still battling with the Russian army, we need to focus on those areas and objects that are least susceptible to Russia’s attacks. Ukraine-EU/NATO checkpoints fall into that category. Because these objects are civilian and close to NATO territory, Russia is unlikely to bomb them and initiate an open armed conflict with NATO, which protects its territories via Article 5 of the organization’s Treaty.
2. New checkpoints at Ukraine’s western border are an export/import matter. Our country is critically dependent on receiving humanitarian aid and gas that the country is short of at the moment. The export of Ukrainian goods, such as crops, contributes to the country’s budget.
In some respects, Kyiv and its neighbors are already addressing the problem, with Poland and Ukraine creating a special line for the freight carriers to import gas. Similarly, Slovakia and Ukraine launched a special line at the Uzhorod checkpoint for freight carriers. It, therefore, makes sense to develop and approve decisions based on the Integrated Border Management (IBM) principle, making Ukraine’s western border systematically more effective in critical conditions. For instance, avoiding situations, where the changes in the customs clearance of used cars (that resulted in increased demand) led, though temporarily, to huge queues at the border.
3. The checkpoints are an enticing investment option even outside the so-called Marshall Plan. More so since Ukraine has recent experience in that respect: in 2014, the EU allotted over 29 million euros to reconstruct six checkpoints on Ukraine’s western border.
4. Unfortunately, however, Ukraine failed to put these funds to use properly. As a result, in 2018, the EU terminated the funding, demanding that Ukraine reimburse these funds. It will, therefore, be difficult to convince the EU to participate in this sort of project once again. Yet should Ukraine succeed and spend the money properly, the outcome’s effectiveness will be amplified, compensating for the reputational losses. It would also reduce the EU’s prejudice toward Ukraine, with the county proving that it has changed, is ready to be effective and European, and keep promises.
5. In the past several years, the mantra of renovating and creating checkpoints has gone through all stages of ‘Ukrainian bureaucratic hell’. Accordingly, the stakeholders have formed priority lists and prepared all the necessary paperwork and international agreements. The situation looks all the brighter since just several months before Russia launched an all-out war in Ukraine, the Ukrainian government unveiled the “Big Renovation” of Ukraine’s western border, finishing the reconstruction of checkpoints like Krasnoilsk and Dyakivtsi at the Romanian border alongside Uzhorod at the Ukraine-Slovakia border. Free from the red tape, these checkpoints are of primary interest to the investors.
These developments are part of the Integrated Bundorder Management (IBM) Strategy, the implementation of which against the backdrop of war also becomes an important security factor. One should not underestimate the emotional and political effect that the completion and launch of these checkpoints will have in the short term. It would be an important signal from Ukraine to all Ukrainians: the renovation has begun.
6. By modernizing old checkpoints or creating new ones, Ukraine will pave the way for the creation of new supply links. It is vital that Ukraine is integrated into the process of creating new trade routes, especially since many Ukrainian businesses had to relocate to the western regions. It is likewise a great way for enhancing the dialogue with Ukraine’s neighbors not just politically but also at the level of mutual interests, trade, and regional development.
7. Checkpoints are ideal for creating jobs at every stage of their development – from building the premises to employing border guards who continuously nag about being understaffed. Their modernization and development also support many branches of the economy, enhancing the ability of western Ukraine to help out the regions that have suffered from Russia’s aggression the most. Today, every western region has turned into a humanitarian hub. The improvement of the border infrastructure would only serve to enhance the effort.
For all these arguments to become part of concrete actions aimed at the development, reconstruction, or modernization of Ukraine’s western border it is necessary to carry out extra planning and budgeting. The Integrated Border Management Strategy approved by the Ukrainian government would help to do so fast and effectively. It must now be done without ado.
The article was created as part of the project “The Multicomponent Civil Support in the area of Integrated Border Management” implemented by the “Europe without Barriers” NGO within the project “EU’s support in reinforcing Integrated Border Management (EU4IBM)”, financed by the European and implemented by the ICMPD.
** The opinions expressed in the article belong to the authors only. They do not necessarily reflect the EU or ICMPD’s stance.
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