Bilateral Difficulties: What Is Going On at Ukraine’s Borders?

Artur Grottger: Crossing the Border // Public domain

Even before the war, crossing Ukraine’s border with the EU was not a pleasant experience for tourists and businesses. The war has intensified the problems, as the western land border has become a bottleneck for passengers and cargo. As a result, queues at the border and related infrastructure problems remain a challenge for Ukraine and its western neighbors. These are the main results of the research “Our Border”, conducted by the Institute for Economic Research and Policy Consulting.

From September 2022 to April 2023, there was a downward trend in waiting and crossing times. In September 2022, the average waiting time was 273 minutes, and in April 2023 it was 218 minutes. However, in June and August, waiting and border crossing times began to increase again. These fluctuations in border crossing times show that border management is a complex task and requires constant monitoring and adaptation to ensure efficient and convenient border crossing for citizens. In August 2023, the average time that passengers had to spend waiting and moving through the cordon on both sides was 450 minutes.

On the Ukrainian side, there is a problem with queues, which should be rectified to ensure faster border crossing. The average waiting time at foreign checkpoints has also increased in recent months, indicating possible problems in the organization of procedures on the part of foreign countries.

Fig.1. Total average time spent at the border, min

Most respondents (77%) consider queues to be a significant problem at the border. This issue has been a top priority throughout the entire period of the survey waves, starting in September 2022 and ending in August 2023. The second most critical issue, reported by 45% of respondents, is the slow work of staff at checkpoints. Difficulties in interacting with border staff are closely related to the problem of queues, which significantly affects the speed of border crossing. This trend has been observed during the period under review and indicates its continued relevance.

Fig.2. Problems when crossing the border, % of respondents.

Furthermore, other challenges related to the operation of the checkpoints included the lack of comfort facilities for passengers. For example, in August 2023. 27% of respondents reported a lack of toilets, and 35% noted the unavailability or poor quality of food at checkpoints. In addition, 16% of respondents reported problems related to the lack or low quality of Ukrainian mobile communications. These aspects are equally important as they affect the comfort and safety of passengers crossing the border.

Claims for illegal benefits (bribes) were reported by 9% of respondents in August 2023. The issue has become more urgent since September 2022 when it was reported only by 1% of passengers. This problem is indicative of the existing problem of corruption at the border and emphasizes the importance of addressing this phenomenon and improving the system of control and supervision at border crossing points. Nevertheless, corruption remain the least important challenge to passengers.

To summarise, the results of the final analysis highlight the need for joint efforts on the part of Ukrainian and foreign authorities to further improve border crossing procedures and meet the needs of citizens for comfortable and efficient border crossing. Passengers need improved infrastructure at border crossing points, including WC facilities, food and better mobile connection.

More about the survey: During September – September 2022-2023, 7 waves of citizen surveys were conducted with those who crossed the border to enter Ukraine. A total of 848 respondents from 6 regions of Ukraine were interviewed. The passengers who took part in the survey crossed various checkpoints, with the largest number of crossings at Krakivets-Korchova, Rava-Ruska-Krebenne, and Shehyni-Medyka.

The article was prepared as part of the project “For Fair and Transparent Customs” financed by the European Union and co-financed by the Renaissance Foundation and the ATLAS Network.

Written by Andriy Butin and Daryna Shapovalova.

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