The conflict between the Russian Transport Ministry and the Finnish Transport and Communications Ministry is flaring up again. According to the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, Russia has already used up its quota of permits for transporting freight by road. Finland is refusing to issue any new permits until all disagreements between the two countries have been resolved.
Harri Caven, the head of transport policy at the Finnish Ministry, told Helsingin Sanomat that Finland was irritated by 'the imbalance in the division of freight between Finnish and Russian drivers and the ban on super-heavy 55-tonne Finnish timber lorries.' According to Caven, Finnish drivers convey only 15-16% of exports to Russia, and have only about a one-third share of the total volume of freight transported across the Finnish-Russian border.
'Many Finnish drivers were left without work when Russia stopped issuing permits for super-heavy 55-tonne lorries at the beginning of August,' said Caven, 'and with 44-tonne lorries Finland is not able to compete with Russia.' For this reason he sees the resolution of disputes over transporting timber from Russia to Finland as a priority.
The practice of issuing permits for freight transport is based on reciprocity. In 2002 quotas allowed 135 thousand permits to be issued. Russian drivers have already used 138 thousand, whereas Finnish drivers still have 40 thousand unused permits, which, as Caven admitted, have now become a means of exerting pressure on Russia. However, Caven believes that the transport conflict between Finland and Russia has gone 'so far that the situation has become intolerable.'