Finland's Ministry of Transport is to issue an extra 14.7 thousand entry permits to Russian hauliers up to the end of this year. Konstantin Sharshakov, the deputy head of the North-West branch of the International Association of Road Hauliers (ASMAP), told Rosbalt's correspondent that an agreement was reached on Monday evening at talks in St. Petersburg between representatives of the Russian and Finnish transport ministries. Russian hauliers have already received 3,750 permits, which the Finnish representatives brought with them to the talks. ASMAP will receive the rest of the permits on December 16.
Sharshakov noted that the additional permits will be enough for Russian hauliers until the middle of January 2003. After this ASMAP is counting on receiving the first batch of permits for 2003. The volume of permits for next year was also agreed upon at the talks. Sharshakov also announced that the Russian Transport Ministry proposed to its Finnish equivalent that the quota of permits for 2003 be increased from 130 thousand to 200 thousand. However, the sides agreed on a figure of 135 thousand with the possibility of adjusting the quota in May 2003.
In turn, the Russian Transport Ministry gave Finnish lorries weighing up to 55 tonnes permission to cross the border at the Torfyanovka and Brusnichnoye crossing points over the winter of 2002-2003 (previously they could only use the Svetogorsk crossing). According to Sharshakov, the two sides also agreed at the talks to establish a joint working group. It is proposed that on January 15, 2003 the working group present the transport ministries of each country with its conclusions on agreeing new routes for Finnish lorries to take through Russia.
The problems regarding admission for Russian lorries into Finland began in August 2002 when the Finnish Transport Ministry introduced a ban on Russian lorries over 38 tonnes entering the country. Finland explained the ban on the grounds that August 1 marked the end of a special protocol agreed by the transport ministries of the two countries. The protocol allowed Finnish timber lorries weighing up to 55 tonnes to drive through Russia. After this Russian hauliers ran out of permits (130 thousand were issued, although Russia had asked for 160 thousand in 2001). The autumn saw a series of talks between the Russian and Finnish transport ministries, as a result of which ASMAP received enough additional permits to see it through o the end of November.