Remarks by Commissioner Vălean on increasing the capacities of the Solidarity Lanes and investments in transport infrastructure

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear Deputy Prime-Minister Kubrakov, welcome to Brussels.

We had one of our regular meetings. I am very glad that we could do this in person. Last time we saw each other in person it was at G7, in Japan, where the whole G7 reaffirmed its commitment to support Ukraine's efforts, investments into Solidarity Lanes and help for Ukrainian exports


As you may know, the Solidarity Lanes were set up in May last year, to establish alternative routes for Ukraine's agricultural exports and for Ukraine to import what its people desperately need. This became necessary because Russia's aggression against Ukraine had closed the Black Sea route – which was the traditional trade route for Ukrainian commerce.

When we launched the Solidarity Lanes, 2 million tons of Ukraine's exports of grain, oilseeds and related products were transported via them. This August, that figure was 4 million tons.

We had challenges – bottlenecks, limited capacity, higher logistics costs. But we also had partners; partners who have shown commitment, and – most importantly – solidarity.

Solidarity has seen unprecedented cooperation between Romania, and Moldova, for example, on the Danube cluster. But also from further afield. France has played a key role in defining the navigation aids needed to improve safety and capacity along Romania's Sulina channel, and more recently training barge pilots.

On the Danube, 85% of the barges operating to and from Ukrainian ports come from EU Member States – not only those close to Ukraine, but also from the Netherlands and Germany.

Since May 2022, soft measures have streamlined procedures, improved traffic management systems and increased staffing levels.

Going forward, there has been agreement to increase capacity along the Danube route by making better use of unused capacity at certain ports. Even stronger cooperation between Ukraine, Romania and Moldova, specifically on streamlining border control procedures, will also increase capacity along the land routes to the Danube ports and the port of Constanța.

I am grateful to all involved for their commitment to increasing capacity at Constanța  port by identifying additional anchorage for grain trans-shipment and improving how access to the port, plus traffic within the port, is managed.

All sides have also invested significantly in infrastructure, including industry.

This has paid off. Over the last year, we have exceeded initial expectations on volumes transported through the Solidarity Lanes, and the Lanes have effectively become a lifeline for Ukraine. Since the Black Sea Grain Initiative ended in July, they have become the only routes available for Ukraine's exports and imports.

Between May 2022 and August 2023, the Solidarity have allowed Ukraine to export more than 53 million tons of agricultural products, including about 48 million tons of grain, oilseeds and other related products.

These exports are estimated to have brought around 38 billion euros in total income to Ukraine. At the same time, Ukraine has imported almost 34Mt of goods via the Solidarity Lanes – with a value of around 70 billion euros. This shows that our economic partnership is increasing with both exports and imports.

Tomorrow, we will launch a new call under the EU's Connecting Europe Facility. For the first time, Ukraine and Moldova will be able to apply for funding for infrastructure projects along the Solidarity Lanes, and without needing EU partners.

They can do it on their feet as equal partners in the Connecting Europe Facility.

In short, they can apply on the same basis as any other EU Member State. Commission's services had good preliminary discussions with the Ukrainian teams and we will organise more technical meetings to identify the best projects to be financed.

We want to ensure the future integration of Ukraine's railway systems into the EU transport system by deploying the European standard gauge, with the purpose of having a rail connection through Ukraine from Lyviv to Iasi and further to Chisinau.

The resulting infrastructure – and that which we have already modernised over the last 16 months – is here to stay and represents de facto the future integration, from an infrastructure point of view, of Ukraine into the EU's Single Market.