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Queues at the borders: why not decreased and what to do


Global change in traffic flows has exacerbated the problem of queues at the border between Ukraine and the European Union, especially the Ukrainian-Polish. It was thought that this was due to the large number of used cars imported by Ukrainians from abroad due to temporary exemption from customs duties. Only three checkpoints have been set aside for such vehicles, and a corresponding resolution has been passed. However, queues at the border are not decreasing, and drivers have to wait for days for both entry and exit from Ukraine. The research institute of the car market was looking for reasons and ways to solve this problem.

Context of the problem

On April 6, 2022, the law on "zero" customs clearance came into force, ie temporary exemption from customs duties, VAT and excise tax on imports of cars from abroad for individuals. The "action" included almost all types of vehicles, except for tractors (trucks), tractors and special equipment.

Such rules, combined with temporary exemptions from customs duties and other groups of goods, have led to increased queues at checkpoints. To import goods or cars you have to wait for even a few days.

As this situation made it difficult, among other things, to transport cars for the army or other types of humanitarian aid, the authorities began to look for ways to solve this problem.

Initially, the Verkhovna Rada registered several bills proposing to effectively abolish or significantly limit "zero" customs clearance. In practice, this step only created an information wave and led to excitement among those wishing to take advantage of benefits until they are abolished.

Subsequently, in order to share cars purchased for their own needs and as humanitarian aid, on May 3, the Cabinet of Ministers passed an order № 354-r. They identified only three checkpoints for cars driven by Ukrainians. However, this decision turned out to be imperfect and did not solve the problem.

Causes of problems

Initially, the border with the EU was seen primarily as a way to evacuate citizens and receive humanitarian aid. Accordingly, the decisions of the authorities, mostly successful, though not without mistakes, were made to ensure these goals, explains Levko Prokipchuk, an expert on the practical application of customs legislation of the Association of Professional Customs Intermediaries. However, after some time it became clear that this part of the border is actually the only opportunity for trade, both in the direction of import and export.

Although the total turnover decreased, including due to the cessation of trade with Russia and Belarus, but due to the inability to use maritime transport and transit through the aggressor countries, as well as a significant increase in cars moving humanitarian aid, the load on the western border of Ukraine has increased significantly.

" In peacetime, the situation at checkpoints periodically led to significant queues, so the crossings were compared to the neck of a bottle. During the war, given the challenges facing Ukraine, you can confidently compare them to the eye of the needle. "- says the expert.

Why didnʼt the division of checkpoints work?

The Government order has identified three checkpoints for personal use: Hrushiv (Lviv region), Ustyluh (Volyn) and Maly Berezny (Transcarpathia).

The first problem with this solution is that the infrastructure of these checkpoints does not provide for the possibility of moving cars with cars (both those without license plates and technically defective) and trucks that are transported for customs clearance. These checkpoints are passenger and the maximum weight of vehicles is 3.5 tons.

The second is that the order came into force on the day of its publication. This did not allow to plan transportation, rebuild routes, choose the right checkpoints in advance. Understandable emotions of people who waited in line for two days, passed the Polish side, and already in Ukraine they were told to go to another checkpoint.

However, having officially exported the car from the EU, even if the Ukrainian side refuses to allow it, such vehicles have closed export declarations, cannot be returned, and receive refusal cards. It turns out almost the plot of the film "Terminal", when a person is denied registration, but there is no way to return to the EU.

The third is weak cooperation with neighboring countries. When passing through certain checkpoints was banned, neighboring countries "forgot" to notify. It was later reported, but not explained enough, which led to the fact that even car carriers moving cars purchased by legal entities were also directed to certain checkpoints, although they are not covered by the order. Even later, due to lack of outreach, Polish border guards began directing cars to these checkpoints for the army.

About a week later, the situation returned to normal, in part because other checkpoints began to allow trucks and carriages to pass, although no changes were made to the order. A new version of the decree is still being developed.

In general, the situation with queues in front of car checkpoints has not improved significantly, and queues are observed both at the entrance and exit of Ukraine.

How can this be solved

The situation with the fuel shortage in Ukraine has forced the authorities to look for ways to solve the problem. One of the options was a proposal to define a separate checkpoint for fuel trucks. However, the available number of car checkpoints with the EU is insufficient, and if we follow this path, they will definitely not be enough for each type of goods, says Levko Prokipchuk.

Obviously, options should be sought to speed up the flow of goods, simplify and automate processes, the possibility of dividing or separating lanes, and identify and prioritize border crossings. These include:

  1. Simplification and automation of bureaucratic procedures carried out at the border: abolition of the preliminary declaration and the general declaration of arrival, simplification of the form of the customs declaration like the one currently used for the import of humid aid; abolition or simplification of the form of the customs inspection act; registration of a car by means of the application "Action".

Since the cost of customs clearance now does not depend on the customs value, but is "zero" — the risks are minimal. Most of the formalities can be transferred to the internal customs terminal and the Service Centers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Thus, the time of registration of one car at the checkpoint can be spent not 45 but 15 minutes.

  1. Construction of specialized parking lots in front of checkpoints, where it would be possible to perform both sludge and prioritize the crossing, and in the future, separate control operations to speed up the crossing. Something similar was organized today at the Krakovets-Korchova checkpoint on the Polish side. This will create comfort and organization for those who cross the border.
  2. Review of dimensional and weight restrictions at checkpoints, due to which trucks are not allowed to pass at the moment, and increase their tonnage. This will increase the number of cars that can be issued during the day.

In any case, the solution should be sought not in an extensive way, forbidding something, but in an effective way: to reorganize processes, simplify procedures and automate processes.

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