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European millions at Armenian border28.11.2012 | 21:08
Recently government of Armenia and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) signed an agreement to provide the Armenian side a loan of 10.3 million euros for the construction of a new bridge at the Armenian-Georgian border as a part of the program of improvement of border checkpoints. In general, as stated by the official sources, the European institutions and the UN allocate Yerevan about 62 million euros for construction and equipping of all checkpoints at the Armenian-Georgian border. However, the residents of the country and observers believe it unlikely that the prolonged problem with the border crossing will be resolved soon.
Donors of the programs for upgrading and modernizing checkpoints at the Armenian-Georgian border - Bagratash, Bavrinsk and Gogavansk checkpounts - in addition to the EBRD, are the European Investment Bank, the European Union, the investment program of the European Neighbourhood and United Nations Development Programme.
Work on the construction of the bridge at the main northern corridor of the Armenian-Georgian border starts in spring 2013. Modernization of checkpoints for 62 million euros, as noted by responsible persons, implies the latest equipment for them. Construction will be carried out in accordance with European standards, which greatly facilitate the people movement and cargo transportation.
Distrust of ordinary citizens, often crossing the Armenian-Georgian border, and observers on the speedy resolution of problems after the upgrade of checkpoints at the Armenian border can be accounted for the fact that over the last five years, much has been said about this at the level of official dignitaries, but no significant progress in this direction is seen.
Currently Armenian checkpoints significantly yield to the Georgian customs control points in comfort and equipment. At Armenian checkpoint a driver passes registration and passport control in different areas. At Georgian checkpoint everything is simple: the documents are being verified and registered in one window, and passengers do not have to get out of the car.
Customs system of Armenia and Georgia, according to official statements, should be harmonized across the EU program on regional integration. The goal of the program is to make the people of both countries deal with only one customs service at the border.
However, the official words on the modernization have nothing to do with the ordinary citizens, who often face difficulties and delays at the Armenian border which is very annoying. "Sometimes, at the Armenian checkpoint a queue lines up because the staff is working inefficiently. Also unnerving is the fact that in the two places you need to get out when crossing the border with the Armenian side by car: one for passport control, and the other - for registration. Is not it possible to do everything in one window?", Georgian citizen of Armenian descent Harutyun who often crosses the Armenian-Georgian border said in an interview with GTImes.
According to him, another "headache" at the border is a mandatory registration of vehicle insurance (obligatory insurance of an autocivil liability). "For example, on the Georgian side there are no such rules. Why should I have to buy a vehicle insurance every time when I go home? It's pointless. Moreover, at the border not all the insurance companies of the country are represented, and I have no choice. If they set a rule, they must provide conditions. Also, until recently there happened delays in executing vehicle insurance, since it was hard to find even a printer or scanner at the checkpoint", he told us.
At the moment, at the Bagratashen checkpoint, in the north of Armenia, some new facilities are under construction. As told by the customs employees, this will greatly facilitate crossing the border for the drivers and passengers. In general, experts explain, over the years at border checkpoints of Armenia there has formed a situation when improvements take place at a very slow pace. Sometimes they are almost invisible, but "the amount of funds allocated or promised to provide for the improvement of the checkpoints has an impressive character".