The European Union and United Nations Economic and Social Commission have rolled out a new proposal to construct a network of major roads and railways throughout Afghanistan in order to enable greater commercial transit between Asia and Europe.
The project, called Euro-Asian Transport Links (EATL), has been welcomed by Afghan officials who hope the increased transit trade through Afghanistan will benefit the national economy.
Officials from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport said Afghanistan was chosen for the project in part because of its geographic location as a connector between East Asia and Eastern Europe.
Officials said plans for up to nine railroads and nine highways have already been finalized and will be constructed with the help of the UN and EU. They added that further projects are likely to come down the line.
"We have our projects that need to be funded in this sector and Afghanistan, due to its geographical location, plays an important role in international transit and we know that the world needs to have commercial transaction through Afghansitan," said Sohail Kakar, a spokesman for the Public Works Ministry.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has also expressed optimism about the project. "The government should try to use this opportunity because it is very important, and we should not miss it because connecting Afghanistan with the world by land is good for the economy," ACCI Finance and Administrative Assistant Tawfiq Daware told TOLOnews.
Meanwhile, officials at the Ministry of Commerce and Industries say that they expect to finalize talks with six countries regarding the Lajward (Lapis) project within a couple months. The project would connect Afghanistan to Europe through the Caspian Sea. "If we start this project, we are sure that we will be connected with Europe at a very low cost and safely," Deputy Minister Muzamil Shinwari said.
Afghanistan has been invited to meet with EU and UN officials at the ninth EATL conference to discuss the upcoming project.
Previously, the EU signed a pact with the Afghan government waiving customs fees for all commercial goods exported from Afghanistan to Europe.