Ukrainian Italians, and there are 250 thousand of them, are the biggest European diaspora and one of the biggest, permanent and stable currency donors for the Ukrainian economy.
Within the last 20 years, a separate category of self-employed people has been formed, which is being serviced by our working migrants in Italy. These are the bus drivers.
They take passengers and cargo to compatriots on the Apennines for affordable rates.
This type of business was consciously made “shady.” That was beneficial to those who “covered” customs back in the day, by telling the drivers that they are “illegals and contrabandists.” The customs workers extorted bribes from the drivers, part of which were sent to the top.
In Yanukovych’s “later years,” one border crossing could cost a bus driver 800-1000 Euros. Such “taxes” made this type of business unsustainable, and only to retain the client network the bus drivers were forced to group in twos and threes and sometimes to carry overt contraband. The customs workers said it themselves: “Carry whatever you want but give us our part.”
After Maidan’s victory the customs disorder was stopped in an original manner by the representatives of the “Right Sector.” On February 22nd the fighters of the organisation arrested the head of the Chop customs Sergiy Kharchenko and tied him to a symbolic “pole of shame” near the Zakarpattya Regional Administration.
During a “casual conversation” with “Right Sector,” the head customs officer of the Chop customs told them about the “legalisation” of buses from Italy. He somewhat underestimated the prices, however he confirmed the instances of such lawlessness.
After this, self-government at the customs stopped for a while, however, starting Easter, the customs workers are trying to renew their old “schemes.” The drivers tell us that the customs workers are citing some sort of order from Kyiv and demanding 300-350 Euros per car to pass.
Don’t they understand that this cannot go on in post-Maidan Ukraine? Is there a possibility to transfer this issue into the legal plane for the benefit of the people and state? There is such a possibility. It only necessitates the political will of the Ukrainian people.
These workplaces have to be legalised. This way we will have about a thousand new private business owners, which will pay a universal tax and payments to the Pension Fund. The transporter will have legal status and an official job.
The second step would be legalising the crossing of the border. Italian buses transport packages from migrants to the members of their families – typical post mail. It is good, clothing, personal items, not intended for sale.
Such cargo can be seen as humanitarian aid and be classified accordingly. When moving across the border, the transporter could tick the according box in the declaration and pay a certain fixed tax to the national treasury. It could constitute 200 USD.
Taking into account that there are about 1 thousand transporters from Italy and they travel every week, the payment of this tax would add about 10 million USD annually to the state budget.
Of course, just like in any industry, drives who will try to violate the rules will emerge, but this is what customs control is for.
What would the implementation of this mechanism give?
- The provision of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians in Italy with a necessary service – the buses are the only connection most of them have with their families in Ukraine.
- Legalisation of 1 thousand jobs with automatic removal of fictitious unemployed persons from the registries.
- The receipt of over 10 million USD by the state budget through the payment of the customs tax, universal tax and payments to the Pension Fund.
- The liquidation of a corruption scheme that has been feeding the political “tops” for decades.
The government’s excuses, such as “we can’t because we can’t” will testify to the government’s unwillingness to lose one of their “feeders.”
These is a new industry which reflect reality, and legislation has to account for it. The comparisons with Germany or France, saying that there is no such thing there, are not valid. None of the European countries has kicked out millions of its own citizens to look for greener pastures.
Maidan fought for a New Ukraine. Let us start building it.
This article exclusively reflect the opinion of the author. It does not claim to be objective and multifaceted in reporting on the topic.
Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina