Through a “green” corridor
The customs infrastructure of Belarus became one of the best in Europe owing to the Union programs
From time to time, I have to go to Ukraine through a border-crossing point “Novaya Rudnia” by virtue of different circumstances. Earlier all its services were located in wooden barracks, the execution of documents lasted several hours. Recently, having come here again, I didn’t recognize the familiar surroundings. A wonderful complex, made out of glass and beton, appeared instead of the old premises. Now a truck driver can execute documents calmly, without a fuss. A simple car enthusiast crosses the Belarusian border within several minutes not leaving his vehicle. The Head of the customs terminal Grigory Mazanik explains that now his employees execute almost 620 passenger cars, 240 cargo vehicles and 15 buses per day. In case of necessity, their number will be significantly increased. However, it doesn’t mean that a smuggler will be lost among the tourists. The modern equipment helps to discover immediately dangerous objects prohibited for conveyance even in a petrol tank of a car. Working conditions of the customs officers and frontiersmen were incomparably improved: they can take a shower, have a rest and change clothes in comfortable domestic rooms.
Such changes are typical of the border of Belarus with Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and Latvia, which is simultaneously the western border of the Union State. Its modernization became extremely necessary after the creation of several independent states instead of the former USSR, and Belarus and Russia agreed to create a common customs area. The clearance system of goods and cargo became more difficult. A transit role of Belarus, in any case essential, grew. Two international transport corridors go through it. 70–80 per cent of cargo, passing through it, is destined for Russia or is exported from it. That is why one of the first Belarusian-Russian programs, accepted by the Union State, was focused on the infrastructure development of the common western border of both the states.
The Chairman of the State Customs Committee of Belarus Alexander Shpilevsky reported that since that time almost 10 border checkpoints had been reconstructed at the expense of the funds, allocated from the Union budget. In the result the possibilities of “Kamenny Log” border checkpoint on the Belarusian-Lithuanian border were doubled, and of “Kozlovichi” border checkpoint on the Belarusian-Polish border — almost tripled at the expense of adding traffic lines, supplying the customs terminals with modern equipment, more operative clearance of goods, cars and buses. More than 80 per cent of them come to Belarus through the renovated border checkpoints. Project documents for the reconstruction of three more border checkpoints are being worked out.
Working methods of Belarusian customs officers and frontiersmen were also renovated. For example, standard hours for the clearance of the corresponding documents were introduced. 15 minutes are spent for a passenger car, 30 — for a bus, 40 — for a cargo vehicle. Border, customs and phytosanitary clearance shall be carried out during this time, if, of course, there are no questions to the travelers. In a word, everything is like in Europe. This is a result of the implementation of one more Union program focused to a greater degree on a wider application of information technologies.
“We can’t do without them, because the customs area of the Union State is enormous”, the First Deputy Chairman of the State Customs Committee of Belarus Vladimir Goshin thinks. “The custom houses of Belarus and Russia shall speak to each other in the same language, including a computer language. It is necessary to trace traffic streams and observe import and export rules of cargo as well as many other nuances in a real-time mode. That is why it is necessary to computerize customs processes, starting from the territory of one country and finishing in the other (for example, during execution of the temporary transport importation). The Union State provides this for the near years. This is the second development stage of the Unified computerized system of the Union State Customs Committee. In the result the time for cargo clearance will be reduced by 10 per cent and may be by 20–25 per cent, the cargo will cross the border faster, revenues to Belarusian and Russian budgets will be increased.
Besides, the customs clearance of cars with Belarusian exported cargo takes 15 minutes maximum, as there is electronic information, which was conveyed beforehand. The customs officer simply compares the documents, presented by a driver, with the electronic variant and fills in 4–5 positions. After the realization of the next Union program, Russian car enthusiasts will also spend thrice as little time at the border. Queues in rush days will be reduced correspondingly — now there are no queues in usual days. As for the rest, the clearance of Belarusian, Russian citizens and market participants crossing the common western border is absolutely identical. Moreover, a separate channel for the Union State citizens appeared in several border checkpoints — as well as in the European Union. The main principles of the Belarusian and Russian customs codes are identical.
“In particular, both new documents formalize such new approaches as a risk analysis system”, Vladimir Goshin continues. “This means that the cargo is checked not at the pleasure of an inspector, but by an electronic command. A computer, governed by a complicated mathematical model, will prompt which cargo or car has to be inspected and to which extent. This is why our border checkpoints are connected with the center by means of the fiber-optic communication.
In whole, 1.6 billion Russian rubles from the Union State budget have already been spent for the reconstruction of the common western border of Belarus and Russia. The funds are big! New joint projects are being discussed, focused on continuation of the reforms, which began more than ten years ago. Besides, the changes on the Belarusian border meet the European norms completely and are partially financed by the European Union. The opinion of the experts of the World Customs Organization testifies to the fact that these funds were invested profitably. After they got acquainted with the Belarusian customs infrastructure in detail, they acknowledged it to be one of the best in Europe. What are the perspectives?
“The Union State requires a megaprogram aimed at the creation of a transport corridor from Europe to the Far East”, the Deputy State Secretary of the Union State Vasily Khrol thinks. “With modern border checkpoints, hotels, fiber-optic communication and other infrastructure”. This is a project worth several billion US Dollars, but the expenses will pay off in 5–7 years. This is a very profitable business, to which it is necessary to attract the Union funds and the capitals of private investors.