Ministry of Transport of the Ukraine

European Commission

Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail OTIF







Conference on international rail transport law


21/22 October 2003



The Ministry of Transport of the Ukraine and the Central Office for International Carriage by Rail, as the Secretariat of OTIF, work closely together with the European Commission/Directorate General Energy and Transport to hold a conference on international rail transport law in the area where the two legal systems overlap: COTIF on the one hand and the SMPS/SMGS Agreements on the other, which are applied within the area covered by OSZhD (Organization for Railways Cooperation).


The major revision of COTIF (Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail) agreed in Vilnius in 1999 also creates the basis for the accession of Regional Organisations for Economic Integration, though Article 38 of COTIF 1999 is clearly tailored to the EC. The EC has already foreseen making use of this; the necessary preparatory work has been started so that accession can be formally completed immediately after the entry into force of COTIF 1999 (provisionally in 2004). Clearly, the EC's interest in striving to take this step is so that the 1999 Vilnius Protocol version of COTIF can be used as an instrument for harmonizing the requisite Uniform Rules governing international carriage by rail within as wide a geographical area as possible.


Behind this are the EC's, or rather the European Commission's objectives for a very focussed promotion of the railways reform process, which is intended fundamentally to help give the railways new opportunities, particularly with regard to the Eurasian axes, which, not least, requires a through-going uniform system of transport law to be in place. Experience has shown that there are also legal and institutional obstacles to border crossing that damage the railways' competitiveness and prevent them from using the opportunities which are undoubtedly open to them in the carriage of freight over long distances. Of course, the lack of investment resources represents a greater obstacle still.


The reality in Eurasia at the moment though is that there are two different systems of transport law, one of which is maintained by OTIF, the other by OSZhD. The two organisations only bear limited comparison OSZhD is active in many ways in all areas of international co-operation to the benefit of the railways. For its part, OTIF concentrates solely on Uniform Rules, though as an Organisation with specific responsibilities, it was founded on the basis of a treaty under international law which was ratified by its Member States, so that as a Governmental Organisation, it is vested with legal personality under international law and hence with the ability to act.


These facts suggest that the consequences should be investigated in order that no disadvantages for the railways are allowed to arise and to point up possibilities for dealing with the two systems of law, particularly in the area where they overlap. The following questions are foremost:


-       In the international rail transport sector, what is the best way of including a State, such as the Ukraine (which is strongly oriented towards Europe, but which will not become a member of the EU in the near future) in developments arising from European transport policy and railways reform, and particularly in the European and international system of transport law, so as to promote keen involvement on the part of its railways?


-    In States such as the Ukraine, which, from the point of view of transport and geography, are in a transit position between Europe and Central Asia, and which, as the situation exists at present, have to deal both with (West) European influenced international rail transport law (COTIF) and with the law predominating in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (SMGS/SMPS), how can the application of COTIF (COTIF 1999) be made easier/ensured, if such is dictated by the needs of the market?


In order to find answers and in order that a broad group of people can benefit from them, it was decided to look at these questions in a high-level conference organized first and foremost by the Ukraine, together with OTIF and with support from the European Commission.


Aim of the conference:


The conference should provide highly competent expert information on the following subjects, with the emphasis on freight transport:


-       special features, regulatory scope of COTIF 1999; differences between CIM (1999)/SMGS


-       legal and practical obstacles to the application of COTIF 1999 in the Ukraine and the OSZhD area,


-       opportunities for the effective application of COTIF in States with double OTIF/OSZhD membership on the basis of an "either/or, freely interchangeable coexistence" of CIM and SMGS,


-       overall problem of setting up corridors, where measures promoting the railways and developing attractive, competitive offers, with the railways playing a leading role, should be concentrated,


-       market requirements and quality benchmarks: what is realistic, feasible; if applicable, how far should the books be checked elsewhere?


-       future of the relationship between OTIF and OSZhD.


The conference should provide advice on follow-up measures in the sense of the questions formulated, on the basis of which a programme of action could be established.



Target group/participants


In accordance with the objective of the conference, it is aimed at the relevant people in


-       the competent authorities and railways of those States that are members of both OTIF and OSZhD (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Baltic States and Iran),


-       West European States with a particular interest in connection with corridors that concern the Ukraine (France, Germany, Italy, Austria),

-    all States that are part of the TRANSSIB and TRACECA corridors, particularly the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan, who are the main States in Eurasia in charge of promoting the important corridors that connect up with the pan-European corridors,


-       all other States in the OSZhD area, especially those that share the Ukraine's interest with regard to accession to COTIF,


-       international organisations with a particular interest in this subject, primarily OSZhD and UIC, in addition to the European Commission and OTIF, who are the co-organizers,


-       Regional Organisations for Economic Cooperation such as BSEC.



Programme, Organisation


The programme is attached at annex.


The planned working languages of the conference, with simultaneous interpretation: English, Russian, Ukrainian.


At the beginning of the conference, documentation containing all the presentations will be made available to participants in English and Russian.



80 90 participants are expected.