New Russia adds new image to border-cross points
For any person arriving in Russia our country begins from the border-crossing point where documents and cargoes pass the necessary formalities and where the words “welcome” or “access denied” have a real meaning. Some parts of the state border exist for hundreds of years, while others emerged together with the new Russia. Millions of people daily cross the border and everyone expects minimal delay and maximum comfort. Several controlling services operate at border-crossing points, including immigration and passport control, customs, sanitary and drug control, etc. Conditions for proper work of the agencies are to be provided by the federal state Directorate for the Construction and Operation of Russian State Border Objects (Rosgranstroi) set up in September 2008. Agency head Oleg Motov, who has been in charge of the organization since its creation, tells VIP-Premier about the activities of Rosgranstroi.
YEAR OF ORGANIZATIONAL EFFORTS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS
– Our agency is young and was set up in 2008. The Federal Agency for Russian State Border Buildup was created earlier and is in charge, first and foremost, of state policy issues. As any state organization it needs to have its policy applied. Rosgranstroi is in charge of the task.
We began operations in the first quarter of 2009, but have already succeeded to accomplish a major volume of work. The first task was to create the organization itself. It began literally from one sheet of paper which was a resolution signed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. At present the staff matrix and the structure have been approved. We gathered a team of like-minded people and highly-skilled professionals from among all services operating on the border. The workforce exceeds 1000 people. We are rapidly developing and building up both the headquarters and regional affiliates. We had to move close to the border to build up objects there as it is impossible to manage the whole of the business from Moscow. Therefore, we decided to create 24 affiliates. The regional network has been launched at present. What does it provide? Each affiliate is well aware of the situation and the problems in its area of responsibility and can reach the border with its hand, so to say. Everything has been arranged in such a way so that employees of the affiliates could quickly reach any checkpoint and resolve the emerging problem. During the organizational period we drafted normative documents and issued orders and schedules to implement the main provisions.
After that it was decided to transfer the property of automobile border-crossing points from the Russian Federal Customs Service to Rosgranstroi. We have to take over 107 checkpoints along the whole border and we have to complete the process by this summer, on July 1. Thus, Rosgranstroi will be the only property owner of all automobile border-crossing points. If automobile border points are the property of the federal government, railway, seaport, airport, river and lake-based points are owned by the RZD Company or other joint-stock companies and are private or municipal property.
Therefore, the second stage of our operations included agreements with border-crossing points’ owners on a free use of their property by controlling agencies. The main aim is to streamline the deployment of controlling agencies at the objects, which are not owned by the state. They have to be properly accommodated to fulfill the state tasks without wasting time to repair windows, arrange heating or buy chairs. Rosgranstroi bears all expenses related to the maintenance and operation of border-crossing points.
After all property is taken over Rosgranstroi will be the main border checkpoint operator. Since January 1, 2010 we have taken over 14 automobile border-crossing points in Kaliningrad, Bryansk, and Kursk regions. They are operating without faults round-the-clock. A question arises during property takeover and operations startup: what is the quality of the property? The state of border-crossing points depends on it.
Together with the federal agency we carried out major work in 2009 to monitor the state of border-crossing points. Unfortunately, we exposed considerable wear-and-tear of the property. Head of the federal agency Dmitry Bezdelov reported the situation to the Border commission. Much work has to be done to re-equip the points, many of which were built 20 or 30 years ago. All the tasks will be included into the federal goal-oriented program State Border of the Russian Federation, which is to be implemented by 2017.
The construction of new border points will be the next major step in our activities. Today we are accomplishing four construction objects in Sochi under the supervision of the federal agency. They comprise the Adler automobile point on the border with Abkhazia, a railway point in Adler in the village of Veseloe, as well as seaport and airport border points. The border-crossing point in the international terminal of the Sochi airport has been built and fully equipped at present. The four objects have been included into the Olympic construction program. In the Moscow transportation hub the interdepartmental commission has accepted the border point in terminal E of the Sheremetyevo-2 airport. All state agencies are accommodated there in premises with up-to-date equipment and can properly operate. In the Far East work is underway at five construction sites: the airports of Khabarovsk and Vladivostok and three seaports of Vostochny, Nakhodka, and Vladivostok. Thus, we are accomplishing our construction tasks with budget appropriations.
– While monitoring the state of border points did you compare the situation with the countries that have been dealing with major cargoes and big numbers of people
for long? For example, in Western Europe?
– In the past year we analyzed international experience. Our representatives visited numerous countries with developed cargo transportation systems in Western Europe and Asia and studied the work of numerous hubs operating at maximum load, the Charles de Gaulle airport with its transportation hub that operates faultlessly round-the-clock. It is difficult to say whether we lag behind or not. I think we do to a certain extent. Our norms differ considerably. For example, when a citizen of Finland comes back home he gets no stamp in passport. When crossing the border he attaches the passport to a biometric sensor that reads all the data and proceeds to the exit. In our Sheremetyevo airport a returning Russian national has to give the passport to an immigration official, who has to check the exit data and then stamp the entry into the passport. It takes much more time. I did not cite Finland by chance. The country copes with a major cargo and passenger flow and there is what to borrow from its advanced experience.
– If you reviewed their standards, didn’t you suggest introducing them at home?
– We work to study foreign experience to the maximum and borrow the best from it what corresponds to our normative and legal base. You may know the Americans, the Israelis, and the Japanese take fingerprints of visitors. There is no other way to enter. The Arabs take eyeprints, which is obligatory. We have our own large line of equipment based on own experience and capabilities.
A major issue today is the new image concept for border points that have to enjoy the latest technologies… It often happens that we first build a house and then think how to accommodate people in it, i.e. we initially pay no attention to room layout and fittings. Now we want to proceed from technology, to comprehend its demands, means and equipment and then design a border point that will meet all the necessary requirements both of the state controlling agencies and of tourists and businessmen.
– People complain about huge vehicle queues at border points, specifically in Baltic countries. They say they have to queue for two-three days.
– We are dealing with the problem, which emerged due to various circumstances. Believe me, improper operation of border points is not always the reason. Today they operate at maximum capacity and work to comply with the time limits envisaged for people and cargoes. But there are situations when truck drivers queue to wait for a certain border official or customs officer to come on duty. They do not start up their engines until he comes. Our situation is completely different to what happens at the entry to West European countries. Thus, if you arrive in Finland you do not know who checks you. There is black window glass and you cannot even see the hand that takes your passport.
Definitely, that is not the only reason for queues. We are dealing with the problem. We see a way out in the creation of the so-called automobile compounds close to the border. They will be car parks technically linked to the border points to synchronize the passage. The compounds have to have their own infrastructure: toilets, shower rooms, mini hotels, car services, and eateries. That will provide not only normal conditions for travelers, but also traffic safety. Today when people begin to drive at nighttime after queuing in long lines for hours they are often tired and inattentive. Accidents happen with loss of life. The Concept to be considered by Rosgranitsa will take all that into account. Its implementation will not demand budget appropriations, as it envisages state-private partnership. It is an interesting scheme that offers wide possibilities for businessmen.
– You have earlier mentioned equipment operation. Do you charge money for that or are you fully financed by the state budget?
– According to a government resolution, the federal budget finances all expenses of border points, including equipment operation and maintenance. It is an obligation of the state to provide free movement of people and cargoes across the border. It is impossible to plan a payback from border-crossing points and every border guard. How can you calculate economic efficiency of a border guard at a checkpoint? Actually, he is standing there with a submachine gun and doing nothing. But if he cuts short a drug trafficking channel or a smuggling attempt, he will protect the interests of the whole state, although it is impossible to estimate the payback. Anyway, border-crossing points have to be properly built and operated to optimize foreign economic activities, accelerate the movement of people and cargoes, eliminate disruptions in supplies, and cut short contraband. That is the essence of border service.
– Thus, Rosgranstroi has no task of earning on equipment operations?
– It is out of question. Equipment operation and maintenance costs are calculated according to approved norms and methods. We are a very assiduous owner.
There are two major advantages in Rosgranstroi creation. Firstly, I repeat, controlling agencies are freed from non-core activity of maintaining and developing border checkpoints. Secondly, the Russian business is moving to a new quality level today. Foreign economic ties are expanding, new hubs are being built, and new border points are constructed with contribution of private business that is interested in expanded foreign trade.
WHO IS IN CHARGE?
– The documents ordering the creation of Rosgranstroi mention “objects”, but do not list them. There is the border between the crossing points. Is it also an object and do you build it up?
– No, that is not our task. The border, I mean the borderline, is outside our sphere of responsibility.
– Border checkpoints have two exits – to Russia and to the neighboring country. Do the neighbors participate in border checkpoint development?
– A border point is not located on the very border, but before it. The border is inviolable and nothing can be located there. A checkpoint has to be nearby. We fully pay for it. We build up the entry and the exit. The neighbors have their own border point with an exit and an entry which is also located at a distance from the border. Germany and France use the most advanced technologies at border checkpoints. Germany is now paying less attention to the issue as it is surrounded by Schengen states, while Finland is constantly upgrading border points as one of the main transport arteries runs across its territory. Baltic republics borrow Finnish experience to build up border checkpoints at the expense of the European Union.
– What is the situation with CIS borders?
– The situation is different due to specific circumstances for each party. The border with Kazakhstan is subject to Common Economic Space creation. Relations with Belarus are determined by the process of Union State formation. Checkpoints are being built on the border with Ukraine. Competent state agencies are working to delimitate and demarcate the borders. All passenger and cargo flows move in both directions in a permanent regime. Fortunately, we have very experienced controlling agencies that have perfected technologies to cope with peak loads. Existing border points cope with current tasks. If new tasks are set that will require new affiliates, we shall definitely fulfill them.
– You said the headquarters and affiliates employ skilled personnel. Did you hire people from the so-called power structures?
– We are a civilian organization. We employ both former military and civilian staff depending on activity guidelines.
– Why do people go to work in the federal state agency? Do you offer high material remuneration or social benefits?
– First and foremost, state establishments offer stability in our unstable time. People are confident of tomorrow as they feel the government needs the agencies. Secondly, it is a new business. You will agree it is a rare chance to begin something from scratch. As a rule, any new business is restricted by existing regulations, provisions and instructions, while the sphere of the state border buildup is very young. It offers a chance to use the accumulated experience, implement most ambitious ideas, and enjoy success by ignoring outdated rules and norms. We have a new view of everything. There is nothing more exciting than to deal with a new and unknown business, including the drafting of a new normative and legal base.
We work in an open regime. We constantly monitor and select companies that are capable of fulfilling state orders with high quality. We created a database of domestic enterprises. We prefer domestic producers and in technical issues consider import replacements with Russian technologies. We are very interested in that as it supports domestic enterprises. I can definitely say that Russian technologies, and not only military ones, are at a high level and can compete with western analogues. Thus, Russian border checkpoints get modernized and completely upgraded with domestic equipment.
By Valentin ALEXANDROV