Head of the Federal Agency for the Buildup of the State Border of the Russian Federation Dmitry Bezdelov tells VIP-Premier about the government policy to build up the state border and future activities in the framework of the Customs Union.
Dmitry A. Bezdelov was born in 1970 and graduated from the Plekhanov Economic Academy as an expert in social and economic planning. He holds the degree of a Candidate of Sciences, Economy, and co-authored several manuals on human resource management. In 2002-2003 he was department director of Gazcomplectimpex Company and then an adviser to the director general of Almaz-Antei Air Defense Corporation. In 2005-2008 he was deputy director of the Federal Service for Defense Orders. He has been heading the Federal Agency for the Buildup of the State Border of the Russian Federation (Rosgranitsa) since August 2008.
– Russia plans massive modernization and reconstruction of border checkpoints. Do we have at least one model border-crossing point which needs no modernization?
– Modernization is an ongoing process. Technologies are developing at a rapid pace. Therefore a present-day model checkpoint will tomorrow fall behind modern requirements. New technical solutions constantly emerge. For example, the introduction of new-generation passports and visas, i.e. the so-called biometric passports that accelerate immigration control procedures several-fold, demand a major modernization of checkpoints.
Nevertheless, we have border checkpoints today that fully meet world standards. Airports are mostly developed. For example, it is Domodedovo airport and the recently commissioned project in Koltsovo in Yekaterinburg. Terminal E in Sheremetyevo airport will begin operations shortly. We have fully prepared the startup of a checkpoint in Sochi which awaits the launch of the airport itself. Among automobile border-crossing points there are Verkhny Lars in North Ossetia, Chernyshevskoe in Kaliningrad enclave, and Troebortnoe in Bryansk region. I believe the Naval Façade in St. Petersburg is an interesting and beautiful sea border-crossing point. It has been recognized the best sea terminal in Europe and has a modern and high-tech border checkpoint. As for railway border-crossing points, there is nothing we can boast of.
Future modernization plans for border checkpoints have been listed in the federal goal-oriented program State Border of the Russian Federation up to 2017.
– What do you believe are the main reasons for a poor buildup and, consequently, operations of checkpoints?
– To build up anything you have first to comprehend the general situation. Today Russia has 401 checkpoints. Their proper technological operation depends on equipment and buildup. The state of access communications, the presence of nearby infrastructure and other factors are of major significance. Pinpoint buildup which is not synchronized with the transportation and social-economic strategy of the country does not bring the desired result. The absence of a conceptual approach imbalances the buildup and operations of border checkpoints. Therefore, the main problem is the absence of fundamental documents. A strict and substantiated scientific approach is necessary to determine where and why checkpoints should be located, what passenger and cargo flows are going and will go through which transport corridors. A well-calculated and substantiated comprehension will clarify the situation and show which measures are necessary to improve it. The Economic Development Ministry has intensified the work on the guideline of late. After we receive a good-quality program we shall quietly and routinely resolve all problems.
– The borders with which countries do you believe are posing most problems?
– The most dangerous border section is the one that does not meet modern requirements. We consider the problem as a whole. It is necessary to build up the border in compliance with the decisions regarding the Customs Union and our geopolitical interests and on the basis of the national security concept, the implementation concept for the state policy in the sphere of border buildup, the basics of the border policy, the transportation strategy and a series of fundamental documents that determine business and foreign economic activity development and definitely ensure high protection level of the
Problems are caused not only by poor buildup of border sections with Central and Southeast Asian countries, by drug trafficking from Afghanistan and illegal migration and transit through our territory. The problem is larger in scope. We have also the Arctic coast, Kamchatka, and the Caucasus. There are a lot of problems there. A complex approach is necessary to counter the negative phenomena on the land border which is over 14.5 thousand kilometers long: build up and technically re-equip the border and checkpoints, promote interdepartmental cooperation and real-time information exchange with competent authorities of neighboring countries.
STATE IS ASSIDUOUS GOVERNOR
– Mr. Bezdelov, which directions do you believe may call for new border checkpoints?
– The concept of long-term social and economic development of the Russian Federation up to 2020 calls to create a competitive transportation infrastructure that will move most of trade flows between Europe and Asia to the Russian transit routes. Can you imagine what cargo flows can go through Russian transit routes from Asia to Europe and back? According to various estimates, we can annually earn from 200 to 500 billion dollars.
Our foreign colleagues are aware of the situation. For example, China adopted several fundamental decisions to develop border infrastructure in the northeast of the country. It earmarked close to 15 billion dollars to develop checkpoints on the border with Russia. In our turn, we plan to expand the capacity of existing checkpoints and open new ones in international transport corridors West-East, Primorye 1 and 2, North-South, Pan-European transport corridors #1 and 2, Transpolar air routes, and the Northern Sea Route.
We also have to reserve border-crossing capacity to ensure stable operation of the transportation system in case cargo flows fluctuate directionally because of changes in the situation on global commodity markets.
– How do you reduce their numbers to optimize the whole system?
– Two years ago when I took office there were 421 border-crossing points in Russia. Today we have 401. Russia is set to close another 60 checkpoints. The work to optimize the network of checkpoints is a joint decision drafted by Rosgranitsa together with the foreign ministry and other competent executive authorities and controlling agencies in the framework of the Interdepartmental commission for the promotion of the crossing capacity of the Russian state border. A corresponding instruction was issued by the State Border Commission.
Checkpoints are closed for various reasons: low workload or actual inaction. Some have not been developed since the time of construction. Checkpoints subject for closure have been thoroughly examined. We checked their workload, compliance with technical and equipment requirements for proper border, customs, and other types of control.
The closure of inactive and inefficient checkpoints will ease the burden on the Russian budget, systemize the work of border guards and customs officials and help them properly re-distribute funds and resources. Finances will be concentrated on the most intensive border sections to modernize checkpoints that truly need it. As a result, the optimization of checkpoints will accelerate border-crossing process and improve the quality of services.
To ease the life of locals on border territories where checkpoints are closed we plan to open the so-called crossing points there. Commercial cargoes will be banned, while local residents will easily and quickly cross the border if they need to visit relatives.
The closure of a checkpoint does not mean it will disappear forever. It will be no problem to reopen and reequip it if business and industrial interests expand or there emerges a mighty tourist flow or other grounds. The recent opening of Skovorodino checkpoint is an example. The state should be an assiduous governor and control the sphere. Complex approach to the problem will harm neither the interests of businessmen or population nor of the national security.
BEIJING – HELSINKI - MOSCOW
– You said there is nothing to boast of regarding railway border-crossing points. Do you plan to build up railway checkpoints?
– Jointly with other agencies Rosgranitsa analyzed foreign trade flows and determined 25 out of existing 60 railway border-crossing points that account for 80 percent of cargo and passenger flows. That is due to their location in international transport corridors. Definitely, such checkpoints need to be developed and properly modernized.
At present poor development of railway border points shifts the cargoes to automobile transport. For example, cargoes bound from China to Moscow are carried by sea to Finland as it has well developed checkpoint infrastructure in seaports and then by road to Russia. If railway checkpoints are built up according to world standards the logistics will shift cargoes to railways. It is logical for business to skip reloading and carry cargoes directly by rail to our country or Europe. Many neighboring states are well aware of the situation and use border checkpoint network to attract international transport routes to their territory. Unfortunately, we did not pay proper attention to the problem. Some railway checkpoints are far away from the border. We propose two approaches to resolve the problem. It is a costly business to move a checkpoint close to the border and it is feasible only in case of intensive cargo and passenger flows or high risk of trans-border illegal activities. In other cases it is appropriate to build up the corridor from the state border to the checkpoint and equip it with modern controlling devices like it is done on the borderline. That will save budget money.
– All railway border checkpoints are owned by various affiliates of the Russian Railways (RZD) Company. How can Rosgranitsa influence them? Can it appropriate money to the monopoly for modernization?
– State and business interaction is a major condition for efficient economic policy. The monopoly often offers the money itself rather than asks the government for it. I believe business will invest into the infrastructure if priorities are properly defined, the normative and legal base is clear and transparent, and the efficiency criteria of border checkpoints are strictly specified. We can see it in air transportation and at border points for energy carriers. Private companies are interested in business expansion and are willingly investing into state projects that meet their interests.
– You analyzed border checkpoint experience of many countries. Which experience do you believe is the most fruitful and adaptable to Russian conditions?
– It would be wrong to say you can copy the experience of a single country. The Russian Federation has sea, river, air, and land borders with countries that differ from the political, economic, and geographical points of view. We work to select and use the best technical solutions from what we have analyzed. It would be optimal to combine the most successful and well-oiled border buildup models.
The world experience in checkpoint buildup can be divided by the transport component. For example, China has created a proper network of automobile border-crossing points. We visited the Huangyan checkpoint. Over 40 thousand vehicles and some 500 thousand passengers cross the border there. The sea checkpoint experience of Singapore and Finland is of interest. We currently face the task of creating conditions for biometric passport introduction, preliminary cargo declaration, “one-window” single information system that is to streamline cooperation of all border services, and the creation of a single EU-type database. We mostly introduce foreign best practice that makes border crossing comfortable to the maximum and does not harm national security interests.
– You said interdepartmental agreements are being drafted to optimize the operations of border checkpoints. Can you elaborate?
– We are intensively working to draft interdepartmental agreements between Rosgranitsa and competent agencies of other countries authorized to make decisions in the sphere of border buildup and operations. We want to ensure efficient cooperation with corresponding agencies of neighboring countries and better understand each other. For example, we want to synchronize checkpoint buildup, modernization, business hours, and access communications, and to timely exchange information on changes in national legislation. Draft agreements have already been submitted to corresponding authorities in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Norway, Mongolia, China, Abkhazia, and Kazakhstan. The drafting of international agreements on checkpoint buildup and international communications by various means of transport demands considerable efforts. Russia borders on 18 countries. The agreements demand long negotiations, as they have to meet the interests of Russia and neighboring countries.
Rosgranitsa also analyzed acting agreements signed before the agency was created. As a result, we proposed to amend some of them or draft new ones, for example, with Norway and Latvia. We are successfully cooperating with newly independent states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which have to create their international legal base from scratch. The work on checkpoint agreements for the Russian-Abkhazian and Russian-South Ossetian border is nearing completion.
GREAT AND MIGHTY CUSTOMS UNION
– In late April Prime Minister Vladimir Putin instructed you to shortly submit amendments to the State Border program and adjust the concept of
a new program for 2012-2017 to the emergence of the Customs Union. What are the priority tasks and the goals of your effort?
– It is vital and necessary to adjust the federal goal-oriented program that is acting up to 2011. According to the Customs Union concept, from July 1, 2011 only immigration control will remain on the Russian-Kazakh border. Other types of control will move to the outside
A meeting chaired by Vladimir Putin on April 27 decided to build up the border with Kazakhstan exclusively according to the demands of border guards. Therefore, we suggested the following action plan: to complete the construction of all almost ready objects in the framework of acting federal program. Nothing has to be abandoned, even the objects intended for customs control. The border service has to submit proposals on their use for border control. All design and exploration works intended for non-started construction projects shall be suspended and adjusted according to border service requirements. Related state border sections will be built up according to new requirements. We submitted our proposals to competent agencies, including the border service and customs. We shall consider and analyze their remarks and offer a conceptual vision of future activities that will be submitted for the approval of the prime minister.
– Is Rosgranitsa in any way involved in the modernization of Kazakh and Belarussian border checkpoints?
– Neither Kazakhstan nor Belarus has a special agency dealing with border buildup. So it would be logical to entrust the task to us. We have declared our readiness and advocate the idea. The mechanism can be discussed, but we believe Rosgranitsa shall coordinate the issue. Our representative was elected chairman of the Interdepartmental commission that drafts the goal-oriented program for the buildup of borders of member-states of the Eurasian Economic Community. Besides, the latest meeting of the Customs Union commission created a new taskforce in charge of buildup and equipment of checkpoints on the outside borders of Customs Union’s member-states. Rosgranitsa is planned to head the taskforce.
– Will you elaborate on the basic provisions of the drafted federal program for 2012–2017?
– The new program for the first time takes into account all fundamental national development documents up to 2020 which I mentioned above and which promote harmonious and complex development of the whole checkpoint network and state border infrastructure. The program plans to develop close to 200 checkpoints and border-crossing points, as well as airfields for border patrol planes, deployment bases of special task forces that protect the underwater border, and other objects.
The program aims to form a modern image of the border infrastructure that ensures reliable protection of the state border and at the same time creates favorable conditions for foreign economic activities, trans-border cooperation and international communications at Russian border-crossing checkpoints.
– How did the 2012-2017 concept had to be adjusted due to the emergence of the Customs Union?
– Considerable adjustments are related to the buildup of the Russian-Kazakh border section. Firstly, customs buildup was cut. Secondly, border buildup requirements have changed. Besides, it is planned to optimize capex structure and invest into priority guidelines for state security and social and economic development of the country. However, the document has not yet been finalized. We still have to receive and analyze remarks to comprehend the concept which is to be approved shortly.
By Valeria BURLAKOVA