Russia: Wake Up!

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HELSINKI — Russian trucks have lined up for 100 kilometers at the Finnish border ahead of the holiday season, prompting Helsinki to ask the European Union for help eliminating the record blockage.

While trucks are stuck at the border, retailers in Russia and the transportation firms are losing money, and local people are afraid to drive on the roads with one lane blocked by trucks……(Click; read more for rest of article!)

Finland’s government said Friday that Transportation Minister Anu Vehvilainen had pleaded for the European Commission to influence Russia to reduce the traffic blockage by increasing electronic customs services, reducing border bureaucracy and developing roads on the Russian side.

Truck lines were about 50 kilometers long on Sunday morning at Finland’s busiest border, Vaalimaa, east of Helsinki. They extended to more than 100 kilometers late Saturday, the Finnish Road Administration said.

“They now probably beat all records so far. A year ago the situation was similarly tough,” senior road administration official Jukka Tamminen said Sunday.

Tamminen said he expected the lines to ease and nearly dissolve by Monday.

Customs officials at Vaalimaa have said there were lines 300 days last year.

Finland has raised the issue with Russia. Finnish President Tarja Halonen said after a meeting in September with President Vladimir Putin that Russia had made decisions that would help improve border traffic but had not carried them out fully.

Russians prefer to import goods through Finland to minimize theft and because harbors near St. Petersburg lack sufficient unloading equipment and warehouses.

Finnish customs have said they could double the amount of trucks that pass through as processing export papers takes only a couple of minutes. But procedures on the Russian side take longer.

The amount of goods imported through Finland has doubled since 2002 to about 3 million tons in 2006 and Russia’s Transportation Ministry has admitted its officials cannot handle the growing number of vehicles.

Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said earlier this month in an interview he was considering the introduction of a road tax for Russian trucks by 2011.

Kyle

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