The accession of both Poland and Slovakia to the European Union (EU) in May 2004 and the admission of both countries into the Schengen area in December 2007 has had repercussions on communications between the two countries (and between them and their eastern neighbour, Ukraine). We take a look at what it has meant in just one area, namely the Carpathian region explored in the opening feature of this issue of hidden europe. The tale we tell here has echoes of developments elsewhere in the countries that joined the EU ten years ago. It is a story that surely raises salutary lessons for crossborder transport policy.
On the face of it, the opening up of the Polish-Slovak border should have greatly facilitated contact between communities on either side of the main Carpathian mountain chain which divides the two countries east of the Tatras. But how has this panned out in practice?
Prior to Slovakia and Poland entering into negotiations to join the EU, the only all-weather road capable of carrying heavy trucks through the hills was Dukla Pass, which crosses the Carpathian ridge north-east of the Slovakian town of Svidník. It is a gently graded modern highway, so it is no surprise that it has featured centrally in bitter conflicts as opposing armies clashed in efforts to secure control of the Carpathian region. Indeed, the southern approaches to Dukla Pass are ‘decorated’ with some striking debris from the 1944 Battle of Dukla Pass, when the Red Army pushed south from Poland over the Carpathians in a bid to support the insurrection by Slovaks against the Nazi forces of occupation in their country.
Dukla Pass remains today by far the most important north-south road link over the hills, but new roads have been built to enhance cross-border connectivity.