SLOVENIA, A COUNTRY AT THE CROSSROADS OF TRANSPORT LINKS
Slovenia is situated at the intersection of the Alps, the Dinaric Mountains, the Pannonian Plain and the Adriatic Sea. It is linked to the Danube region and the Balkans by the Sava and Drava rivers, while mountain passes and valleys provide routes into Austria, northern Italy and Central Europe. Created in Roman times, the principle transport links still follow almost the same course. For a long time, Slovenia has been the crossroads for trade routes, linking the East with the West and the North with the South; this geographical advantage gives the country a special position in current European integration processes as well as in the economic reconstruction Central and Eastern Europe countries.
Both rail and road transport are major sectors of transport in Slovenia, with air traffic being of lesser importance due primarily to the country's small size (app. 20,000 square kilometres). There are three international airports (Ljubljana - Brnik, Maribor - Orehova vas and Portoroz), and the largest port is Koper. Slovene roads, railways, air space and the sea see over two million journeys made and over 720,000 tonnes of cargo transported per day. Public transport is used by 370,000 passengers of a total of two million of Slovene citizens. As a result Slovenia requires an integrated transport system which consists of nearly 15,000 kilometres of modern road routes, 1,200 kilometres of railway lines, airports for international passenger and freight transport, an international cargo port and several smaller ports.
Fifth and tenth transport corridors run through Slovenia
Known as the fifth and the tenth transport corridors, the railway and road transport routes are two out of ten pan-European transport corridors going across Slovene territory which further highlight the role of the country in its integration into the transport networks. With the Port of Koper, Slovenia's only international port for cargo, the country offers the shortest link for transporters to the Mediterranean, and, through the Suez Canal, also to the Middle and the Far East. The Port of Koper is within a day's reach of Central Europe. A train journey to the distribution centre in the Port of Koper is seven to ten days shorter than a voyage cargo makes if it is handled in North European ports.
The Slovene transport axis was given international approval when what is termed European transport corridors were defined, namely corridor no. V Venice - Trieste/Koper - Ljubljana - Budapest - Kiev, which was declared a priority at the Pan-European Transport Conference in Crete in 1994, and corridor no. X Salzburg - Ljubljana - Zagreb - Belgrade - Thessalonike, which was approved at the Pan-European Conference in Helsinki in 1997.
Representing the fastest link between the North Adriatic, and Central and Eastern Europe in addition to being part of the Transport European Network (TEN) since it links Barcelona with Kiev, corridor no. V is given more attention at the moment. As part of this corridor, Slovenia would like to see transport run smoothly as soon as possible on what has been labelled the Slovene transport backbone, namely a diagonal transport route running from Pince near Lendava on the Slovene-Hungarian border, to the Port of Koper, in the southwestern corner of Slovenia. The country is currently facing the construction of the most difficult motorway sections needed: tunnelling and viaduct building is being carried out at the pass of Trojane, some 30 kilometres from the capital of Ljubljana towards the second largest city, Maribor, in the northeast. The largest viaduct in Slovenia is about to be built, running from the edge of the Karst, in the southwest, to the coast.
Slovenia is constructing motorways and reconstructing railways
Slovenia is building motorways as part of the national programme of motorway construction, a document adopted by the National Assembly. A total of 198 kilometres of motorways were built in Slovenia from 1970 to 1994, that is prior to the current programme's implementation. A further 554 kilometres of motorways, highways and roads leading to the motorway network in the directions from east to west (corridor no. V) and north to south (corridor no. X) are to be built under the national programme by the end of 2004. Two thirds or slightly more than 400 kilometres of these roads will overlap with pan-European transport corridor no. V.
Since the national programme began to be implemented in January 1994 slightly less than 200 kilometres of motorways have been constructed and opened to traffic. The greatest share of the rest of the roads in the national programme will have been opened to traffic by the end of 2004, while the completion of some sections will be delayed until 2007, or 2008. While the entire investment is estimated at US$ 4.5 billion, (excluding the cost of funding) the final sum is expected to be somewhat higher. The most important source of funds for the implementation of the national programme is what has been termed a petrol tax, which accounts for 20 percent of the retail price of a litre of petrol, with motorway tolls the second most vital source. Motorway tolls in Slovenia have already reached the European level.
Also as part of pan-European transport corridor no. V Slovenia is speedily renovating its railway infrastructure in addition to building a 25-kilometre direct railway line with neighbouring Hungary. The remaining 19 kilometres will be constructed by Hungary.
The route is to be completed by the end of 2000, with a regular train service being introduced in Spring 2001, after which Slovenia and Hungary will cease to be the only two European countries without a direct railway link. The route on the Slovene side will run from Puconci via Hodos to the state border. The first stage will involve the construction of a non-electrified single-track route for goods and passenger transport which will enable trains to drive at a speed of up to 160 kilometres per hour. The Slovene section of the link will cost around 750 million Slovene tolars. Depending on the volume of traffic on the new line, a second track might be constructed, with construction works being launched between 2010 and 2015. The new route will be the shortest link between North-Adriatic ports and countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
Railway transport is operated by Slovene Railways (SZ), a 100-percent state owned public company with around 9,000 employees. Railway infrastructure, which consists of land, tracks, devices and buildings, is considered the common good. The state secures funds from the national budget on a yearly basis for the maintenance and development of infrastructure and to cover the gap between the costs of and revenues from passenger and multi-modal transport. While the prices of passenger transport are set by the government, the prices of freight transport have been fully liberalised. SZ is upgrading its vehicles: three new Pendolino trains run between Ljubljana and Maribor, and 30 new trains will be gradually introduced into the intercity railway service.
Port of Koper aims for status of entry/exit European port
A second railway track on the Divaca - Koper route, southwest, will have been built by the year 2006 in line with the national programme of railway infrastructure development. On the basis of bilateral agreements Slovenia has signed, it is realistic to expect that the yearly limit of 10 million tonnes of cargo transhipped at the Port of Koper will be exceeded as early as 2005 (the limit is currently 8.5 million tonnes), a volume of freight necessitating a second track.
The Port of Koper will undertake the construction of a third pier, a project which will increase the port's loading capacity. The company is striving for a status of an entry/exit port for the European internal market, which would enable it to make a good use of modern terminals for cars, as well as those for fruit, vegetables and livestock. Furthermore, the port would avoid double tax control on the border between Slovenia and the EU. The main reason for aiming at a status of a European port is undoubtedly the EU's protective maritime transport policy, which invalidates all the advantages the port of Koper has in relation to EU ports, namely the shorter maritime route, cheaper land transport and good-quality services. By obtaining a status of a European port, customs and veterinary services as well as fitopathological and other inspectors would have a licence and the status to work on behalf of and for EU member states.
Furthermore, the Port of Koper wishes to be granted the status because it would enable the company to tranship groups of goods which are regulated in preferential agreements between the EU and developing countries. The company would also become an entry port for agricultural products. Preferential agreements are another protective instrument of the EU's maritime transport policy which prevents EU member states importing products made by the food-processing industry from developing countries via the Port of Koper; the use of EU ports for this purpose is specified in the agreements. Approval of the European Commission customs committee is a prerequisite for being granted the status of a European port. Prior to full EU membership, Slovenia could only expect to be granted the status if that is in the interest of EU member states.
Civil aviation is well-developed
Slovenia's civil aviation is fairly advanced, with around 350 various aircraft, including 200 registered airplanes. Slovenia's national air carrier Adria Airways' fleet contains some state of the art planes, including three A-320 Airbuses (156 seats) and four CRJ 200LR Canadair Regional Jets, produced by the Canadian manufacturer Bombardier (48 seats), which is one of the reasons why the European Commission considers Slovenia's civil aviation problem-free. Adria Airways carries around 800,000 passengers annually, flying regularly to 17 European cities (Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, London, Moscow, Munich, Ohrid, Paris, Pristina, Sarajevo, Skopje, Split, Tel Aviv, Tirana, Vienna and Zurich) either on a daily basis or several times a week. Adria Airways airplanes also carry over 4,000 tonnes of cargo per year. The central Slovene airport, which is situated 20 kilometres north of the capital of Ljubljana, is managed by Aerodrom Ljubljana plc.. Its airport services are used by the national airline in addition to Russia's Aeroflot, Austrian Airlines, Macedonia's Avioimpex, British Airways, Croatia Airlines, Montenegro Airlines, Belgium's Sabena, Swiss Air, and Ukrainian Mediterranean Airlines - all of which land at the airport at least once a week - as well as by some others. Aerodrom Ljubljana services are used by nearly 100,000 passengers a year, and over 11,000 tonnes of goods are annually handled by the company.
Slovene transport system must become part of EU's transport system
According to the Slovene Ministry of Transport and Communications, the integration of Slovenia's transport system into that of the EU should be taken into account in implementing the transport policy; the EU has drawn up its transport policy with a focus on three areas: improvement of the quality of transport with the help of modern technology, taking into consideration the environment and safety; improvement of the internal market mechanisms by expanding the range of transport options available to passengers, whilst keeping in mind the standard of living; expansion of the volume of work for transport companies by improvement of transport connections between countries and the penetration of new markets. As set down in the National Programme for Adoption of the Acquis, Slovenia will allocate around 152.2 billion Slovene tolars for transport per year until 1st January 2003, the date by which the country will be fully ready for EU membership. In line with EU transport regulations the majority of the sum will be used to establish links with the pan-European road network. In this same period, Slovenia expects to receive around six million euros in aid from the Phare programme and ten million euros of ISPA funds annually.