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Estonian transit companies post representative to Kazakhstan for a year at own expense

Estonian private and public sector transit firms have pooled resources and posted a representative to the Estonian embassy in Kazakhstan for one year for which the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and Enterprise Estonia did not find money, the daily Eesti Paevaleht says.

The owner of Alexela, Heiti Haal, does not pin too many or concrete expectations on the project but says that there are enough goods it would pay the Kazakh side to move through Estonia. "I don't claim something will start happening right away but if you don't try certainly nothing will happen. Each ton coming this way will help share the burden of the taxes we have to pay. If Finland and Latvia are taking the trouble to stay on the so-called Silk Road path Estonia too should contribute in some way."

If necessary, the companies will pay the expenses of the foreign representative for a second year as well, Haal said 

Alongside Alexela, Vopak and the port of Sillamae, also the state-owned Estonian Railways, EVR Cargo and Port of Tallinn shouldered the expense. The amount for one year which neither Enterprise Estonia nor the ministry could find was 110,000 euros.

Transit operators tried last year several times to persuade the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications to send an economic representative to Kazakhstan. The Central Asian country is a part of the new Silk Road through which around 100 freight trains reach Europe every month at present and the quantities of freight are constantly increasing.

A large part of it has been passing for a long time already through Latvia and Finland who have worked very hard on both the political and economic level to secure goods flows. Transit operators think Estonia too could ensure a slice of the business. For example, container goods from China could be shipped from Estonia to Europe or Kazakhstan's own liquid cargoes, grain or metal could be moved through this country. But in order to obtain such deals, the presence of a representative and establishing long-term contacts is a must.

Since neither the government nor Enterprise Estonia found the necessary funds, members of the Logistics and Transit Association pooled their resources and sent the former head of the logistics company Alekon Erkki Veismann to Central Asia. Both the business support organization and entrepreneurs say that Veismann has done a good job in eight months.

In order to get a foot in the door, it is very important for an embassy representative to be present in that cultural space, Veismann says. He therefore hopes the government will be able to avoid a political decision to close the embassy. "But long-term interest at the state level is also important. It doesn't pay to only stick to oil transit which Russia wants to divert to its own ports, but one should look at the broader picture. E-commerce, for example, has created a new and attractive field in east-west trade for which land transport is best suited. Estonia shouldn't throw the towel into the ring in advance but should take a very active part in dividing the market share," he underlined.


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