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The New Silk Road?

PD Dr. Lutz Mez from the Berlin Centre for Caspian Region Studies at Freie Universität: "Route between Europe and Asia Has Enormous Economic Potential"

№ 412/2014 from Nov 26, 2014

According to PD Dr. Lutz Mez from the Berlin Centre for Caspian Region Studies, Freie Universität, transportation by rail between Europe and Asia holds enormous economic potential for the future, in particular for Central Asia itself. Mez stressed that since the summer of 2014, containers are being transported by freight train in both directions between Germany and China within 15 days, twice as fast as by ship. The rail link is part of a more than 10,000-kilometer so-called New Silk Road, and it plays a major role in Germany. The first international conference, Eurasian Transport Integration (ETI), held recently in Kazakhstan's capital Astana dealt with the geopolitical challenges, economic opportunities, and prospects of the Eurasian transportation market.

“In recent years, the Eurasian continent has rapidly evolved as a geopolitical and geo-economic unit,” said Lutz Mez. Today it extends from Southeast Asia, Central and West Asia, Turkey, Iran, and Russia to southeastern and western Europe, and also includes some countries of eastern Africa. The ancient Silk Road was a network of caravan routes that for over a thousand years joined the Far East and Europe. Goods were traded along the route, and cultural and technology transfer also took place.

The conference in Astana was attended by more than 230 participants from government, business, and academia. They discussed the future of continental trade and transportation integration. The conference was organized by the Berlin Centre for Caspian Region Studies at Freie Universität Berlin and the Institute of World Economy and Politics (IWEP). The main topics of discussion were the transnational integration of national transportation infrastructure systems and unresolved logistics issues. The Central Asian landlocked countries that had a negligent role in freight transportation after the collapse of the Soviet Union are currently becoming a central component of the new transportation system.

The president of the German-Kazakh University in Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, and former president of Freie Universität, Prof. Dr. Johann W. Gerlach said, "The development of logistics in Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries is one of the most important prerequisites for the development of these countries and their economic future in the course of transportation integration in Eurasia."

Prof. Dr. Frederick S. Starr, chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University, stressed that the rediscovery of the large number of old trade routes between Europe and Asia is a major step toward closer cooperation among the five Central Asian countries. According to him, one concrete measure of the success of the conference was the establishment of a Central Asian Chamber of Commerce, including Afghanistan.

Further Information

PD Dr. Lutz Mez, Berlin Centre for Caspian Region Studies, Tel.: +49 30 838-55585, Email: