Nothing will change for the transport of goods from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, claim the Croatian Customs Administration and the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) for Radio Free Europe (RFE).
They said this a day after that country, on December 8, became the 27th member state of the Schengen duty-free and visa-free area of European countries.
- In connection with the accession of the Republic of Croatia to the full Schengen area, we inform you that nothing changes at the external border with third countries in relation to the customs procedures relevant for the entry of goods – the Customs Administration of the Ministry of Finance of Croatia stated in a response to RSE.
The Croatian Customs Administration has been operating at 13 border customs offices on the external border of the European Union (EU) since July 1, 2013. Since then, customs supervision has been carried out, as they state, in accordance with EU customs regulations.
They add that the Customs Administration will continue to apply the same rules even after the Republic of Croatia enters the Schengen area.
The answer from the Croatian Chamber of Commerce is identical.
- For carriers from third countries, everything remains the same as before. The external borders of the EU, i.e. Croatia’s borders with Serbia, BiH and Montenegro, will undergo border and customs control as before, with the exception that there will no longer be border controls between Croatia and Slovenia, and between Croatia and Hungary – said the Croatian Economy chambers for RFE/RL.
They added that there will be no change in the entry regime for citizens, nor for transport companies and truck drivers transporting goods from third countries.
What are the expectations in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
- I expect that the situation will improve a little, because Croatia’s borders with its western neighbors are being abolished, so there will be no stoppages in the inspection of documents and goods at the Croatian-Slovenian and Croatian-Hungarian border – the director of BiH told Radio Free Europe (RSE). International forwarding company Centar-Jelah, Suad Hasanbašić.
Hasanbašić explains that, except for this benefit, he does not expect any significant changes for the economy and businessmen of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- Everything else will remain the same. There will be no minor expenses either. Croatia will now be a filter for us, as it has been until now. We stood there and did documents, checks, weighing, everything – says Hasanbašić, and adds that it will remain so after January 1 next year.
However, not everyone shares Hasanbašić’s optimism.
The Foreign Trade Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina (VTK BiH) says that from the beginning of next year they expect stricter controls and longer waiting times at the border with Croatia.
- Bh. Exporters will be faced with stricter measures in cargo traffic with Croatia’s entry into the Schengen zone, and similar tightening of controls in passenger traffic is expected – VTK BiH told RFE.
VTK BiH states that drivers will have to pass a security check, which will last three years.
- Croatia will practically protect the external borders of Schengen, which means that there will be increased controls at the border, as well as stricter conditions for entering the country, which will probably cause more crowds at the border crossings – they say.
They add that at only two border crossings for international transport, all types of goods can be exported from Bosnia and Herzegovina to the EU, and that problems are particularly expected for the transport of perishable goods, which require a phytosanitary inspection.
- Therefore, in the future, it is necessary to strive for the opening of additional crossings, in order to reduce the waiting time – VTK BiH points out.
Why do they expect problems in Serbia?
Next year, the existing problem of limited stay in the Schengen zone for Serbian professional drivers and transport companies will increase, Aleksandar Spasić, Secretary General of the International Transport Business Association, told RFE/RL.
He explains that professional drivers from Serbia, like all other citizens, can spend a maximum of 90 days in Schengen territory within 180 days.
- When Croatia enters Schengen, the Serbian driver literally leaves Serbia in front of the house and automatically starts to count down those 90 days. Until now, this was not the case, and in Croatia we managed to save some of that time – said Spasić.
He says that this means that Serbian professional drivers will have less time to do their work.
- Their job is to be on the road every day outside of Serbia, for him every day on that tour, which is being shortened, is big. In addition, a driver who drives in Schengen uses up his ninety days, and if after that, for example, he wants to go privately to the sea in Greece, he cannot – states Spasić.
According to him, the solution would be to give professional drivers a different status.
- It is necessary for the state to react and ask the EU to exempt professional truck and passenger vehicle drivers from the restriction of stay in the Schengen zone – he points out.
On the other hand, the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia told RSE that with Croatia’s entry into Schengen, the waiting time for freight vehicles at border crossings with that country can be expected to decrease significantly.
- Currently, that time is longer than acceptable. Based on the daily reports available to the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, the average time at the most important border crossing with the Republic of Croatia, Batrovci-Bajakovo, is longer than six hours – the Serbian Chamber of Commerce points out.
They state that the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and the Croatian Chamber of Commerce have launched initiatives to speed up the flow of goods across border crossings.
- Therefore, it is necessary to harmonize the working hours of the inspection services, increase the number of employees at crossings, build the missing infrastructure, provide and install equipment that will enable more efficient implementation of the necessary procedures – explained the Serbian Chamber of Commerce.
No answer In Montenegro
None of the competent institutions and contacted forwarding companies in Montenegro responded to RSE’s inquiry regarding the expected changes in the movement of goods and people after Croatia’s entry into the Schengen area.
After the abolition of land and sea borders with the rest of the EU, it is planned that on March 26 next year, Croatia will also abolish air traffic controls with EU countries at the airports.
The countries of the Schengen area carry out checks on goods and people entering and exiting the area, but do not have internal border controls, local media reports.