Publication date: 17 July 2009
Motorway to draw Albania and Kosovo closer
The finalisation of the Kosovo-Albania motorway is due to bring the two countries closer to European markets via ports in the Adriatic, Albanian diplomats and experts told EurActiv.
The Albanian government inaugurated the Durrës-Morinë road axis just before the recent national elections, won by Sali Berisha's Democratic Party (EurActiv 30/06/09).
The road is part of a highway connecting its port city of Durrës with the Kosovo border and is expected to become a busy link between Albanians and their numerous ethnic relatives in landlocked Kosovo.
Sali Berisha, Albania's prime minister, said the new road link was the most significant event since the independence of Kosovo (February 2008) and Albania's entry into NATO (April 2009).
Sonila Vathi, a diplomat from the Albanian Mission to the EU, said the new road link reflected efforts by the two countries to align their legislation with EU standards, lifting barriers and bringing Albania's Adriatic port of Shëngjin closer to Kosovo.
She insisted that this was taking place in the context of increased regional and EU integration, in which the two countries remained separate independent and sovereign states.
Relations between Albania and Kosovo are "more than relations between two neighbouring countries," Vathi said. She pointed out that citizens on both sides of the border shared a common language, history and tradition, but this had been broken by the world's great powers over the last century.
A leading expert on road infrastructure in the Western Balkans, who preferred not to be named due to the political sensitivity of the matter, told EurActiv that the EU was likely to keep its distance from the Albania-Kosovo project.
Although the EU would in principle support any attempt to improve the region's poor infrastructure, he said many in Europe are in fact reluctant to back a project that is seen by some as the backbone of a greater Albania.
Another expert said Albania will be able to receive more tourists from the region once the highway is completed. In 2008, the country welcomed one million foreign tourists, many of whom came from Serbia and Macedonia as the two countries are still subject to visa restrictions for the EU, he added. Others came from Kosovo, he said.
The highway, via Route 7, also connects to Corridor 10 from Salzburg to Thessaloniki in Greece, which is part of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T).
Polish highway budget increased
Poland plans to spend a colossal €4.57 billion on road projects in 2009. This represents a 35% increase over the previous year. The southern Silesia region will account for 20% of the total budget, doubling the investment made in the region in the previous year. However there is a political disagreement with regard to Poland’s A2 highway project. The Polish political party PiS said that the agreement to build the section of the A2 motorway linking Swiecko with Nowy Tomysl was signed too quickly and will provide to great a financial benefit to the winning consortium while negatively affecting the Polish budget.
Meanwhile Skanska is working on a €31.3 million contract to build a ring road in the Polish capital Warsaw. The project involves building a 7km highway and seven viaducts and is set to start shortly with completion due in 2011.
Poland's ambitious highway building programme did hit financial buffers earlier this year, due to the problems with the baniking industry. This resulted in work being stopped and plans being put on hold. However, new funding sources are being found and work on many stalled projects has resumed while new projects are once again in planning.
Source: World Highways