Good Practices - Serbia
Common Railway Border Crossing between Serbia and FYROM



Lack of interoperability, immigration policy and customs procedures are some of the main reasons that impede the efficient transport of people and goods between countries. Time loses are costly not only for transport operators but for competent authorities also as well as for trade and logistics costs of products in general. By applying bilateral or multilateral agreements between countries would enable reduction of dwell time at border crossing by using the integrated (joint) border procedures.

Example of implementation of the integrated border procedures shown, significantly contribute to faster "flow" of trains, simplifying and shortening the procedure of border crossing which increases the quality of rail transport.

Integrated (joint) railway border crossing is in second phase of implementation at border crossing point (BCP) Presevo-Tabanovce, between Serbia and FYR Macedonia. At the moment, only several passenger trains are treated in the regime of joint border procedure as a Pilot operations and testing. Passenger trains in single-stop customs and border police procedure are planned for last phase of implementation.

Railway BCP Presevo-Tabanovce is one of the most frequent BCPs in the WB6 region, regarding its position at Corridor 10, connecting ports in Greece, FYR Macedonia and Serbia to Central and West Europe. Integrated railway BCP is located on Macedonian side, at village of Tabanovce, where was easier to build, implement and operate customs, border police and inspection’s controls and operations. The Railway operations intensity increased significantly in last few years after entering of Chinese COSCO Shipping to Greece market by buying the part Port of Piraeus and started Railway operations over FYR Macedonia to Serbia and further, by organizing several block-trains on weekly or even daily basis as well as intensified operations from port of Thessaloniki.

Main stakeholders are two countries (FYR Macedonia and Republic of Serbia, local Railway operators, trade companies and citizens in general.

Approximate time of full implementation will be about 8 years. Back in 2014 by establishing WB6 (Western Balkan six countries) initiative under Berlin process, the Connectivity agenda was adopted resulting in creating of Transport Facilitation Working Group - TFWG within SEETO (South East European Transport Observatory) governed by DG MOVE and DG NEAR of European Commission. The TFWG is constituted by representatives of Ministry of Interior (border police), Ministry for Transport, Customs, Ministry for Trade and Chambers of Commerce as an observers, all of mentioned from all of six countries. In 2014. this body adopted the plan for implementation of “Soft” measures for Trade and Transport facilitation, among which was common railway border crossing between Serbia and FYR Macedonia. From that moment, number of administrative and technical issues was solved:

  • Feasibility study
  • Dedicated bilateral agreement negotiated, signed (February 2015) and ratified
  • Cooperation established at the level of:
    • Ministries of Internal affairs – border police
    • Customs
    • Phytosanitary inspections
    • Veterinary inspections
  • Conceptual design and main engineering project
  • Protocol for implementation of agreement (June 2016)
    • Zone for common operations (offices, rail tracks, trains)
    • Use of tracks by order
    • Traffic regulation
    • Border procedure and control procedure
    • Telecommunications and data exchange
  • Land use and expropriation
  • Funding

As it was announced at closing workshop held in Skopje in October 2018 construction works are planned to start 2019 or 2020 with 2022 as a deadline for completion.

Funds for construction are already approved by EBRD.

Meanwhile, pilot operations with several passenger trains are successfully tested. Still, lack of infrastructure (offices at first place) at Tabanovce railway station prevents regular common operations at this moment.

Trains and location of border crossing
3. Challenges and barriers in implementing /introducing selected good practice and respective ways used in order to overcome or limit risks

Biggest challenge for implementation of joint – integrated railway border crossing point was to reach positive political will and achieve agreement to start working together.
Second issue was to coordinate and achieve cooperation level among huge number of actors (different ministries, customs, inspections, local support, etc.)

As an example of how challenging is to achieve any progress in terms of joint border procedures, here is presented Serbian initiative to all neighbouring countries to sign agreements on defining of border procedures:

Agreements at the border crossings

Initiative was launched in 2005 and after 13 years of efforts only one can be considered as successful, which is a main topic of this report.

4. Funding mechanism, cooperation schemes developed and institutional reforms made

Funding of joint railway border crossing point in project phase was ensured through Western Balkan Investment Framework (WBIF) Steering Board decision to support production of Technical documentation and project, including environmental impact assessment.

Funding of Construction of joint border crossing at railway station Tabanovce, which is planned to be completed by 2022 the latest, is ensured by support of WBIF and approval of European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Other costs of implementation are on national budgets of Serbia and FYR Macedonia.

5. Factors of success

Significant role in overcoming main issues in terms of political will and organisational issues was played by international driving force through adopting Connectivity agenda and creation of “soft” measures as a list of tasks for each of WB6 regional participants, supported by common decision at the level of prime ministers of 6 WB countries and European Commission by involving high representatives of DG NEAR and DG MOVE. Additional driving power was generated by setting the SEETO as coordination, control and reporting body and process facilitation through TFWG.

6. Recommendations, transferability

In order to speed up and achieve better results in transport facilitation at border crossings through establishing joint border procedures and common border crossing points it is important to align strategic approach of neighbouring countries through international initiatives and process of accession to EU of candidate countries, supported by macro-regional strategies, newly ratified agreement on Transport Community Treaty (TCT) and expected establishing of TCT Secretariat and enhance inter-disciplinary cooperation of competent authorities by involving them in projects such Inter-Connect is.

Second important point is to align national strategic documents, development plans and incorporate transnational development strategies and objectives in national legislative and operational action plans at all vertical and horizontal levels by involving all necessary actors.