To promote the EU’s comprehensive, sustainable, rules-based and people-centered approach to connectivity – and contribute to the implementation of the EU Strategy on Central Asia (2019) and the Global Gateway Strategy (2021) – the European Commission conducted a study on sustainable transport corridors connecting Europe with Central Asia. The study was led and funded by the European Commission and implemented by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) between November 2021 and June 2023.
The study had two objectives:
- Identifying the most sustainable transport corridors connecting the five Central Asian republics (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) with the EU’s extended Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), following a corridor assessment based on a strict sustainability criteria where environmental, social, economic, fiscal/debt sustainability as well as political viability would be taken into account.
- Proposing key actions for corridor development – in terms of both physical infrastructure (hard connectivity) and enabling environment (soft connectivity), including their prioritisation based on a coherent and sustainable transport corridor development approach.
Geographically, the study assessed existing and potential new corridors that would ensure the most sustainable transport connections between all the five Central Asian republics (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) and the EU’s Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), which covers the 27 EU Member States, but also extensions to the Western Balkans, Eastern Partnership countries (including the Caucasus) and Türkiye.
This was done following the assessment of the current situation of transport networks in the region, as well as consultations with stakeholders including not only the Central Asian countries themselves, but also EU Member States, private sector, relevant UN bodies, relevant international organisations and associations, International Financial Institutions (IFIs), civil society organisations, interest groups, and many others).
The study (full results available below) identifies 33 hard infrastructure investment needs across the region (related to modernisation/reconstruction of existing railways/roads, additional rail/road links, fleet expansion, port capacity expansion, rolling stock, logistics centres, warehousing, etc.), as well as 7 coordinated actions on soft connectivity measures (trade facilitation, regulatory measures, digitalisation, harmonisation of tariffs, customs procedures, border controls, interoperability, market liberalisation, etc.). These are all specific, concrete, implementable and realistic actions that can contribute to the competitiveness, economic attractiveness and operational efficiency of the trans-Caspian transport connections and offer opportunities for all the five Central Asian countries to maximise their sustainable economic development by linking up better with each other – and with Europe.