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IP/04/737

Brussels, 11 June 2004

Commission opens the door to Western Balkans transport network development

Today, at a special ceremony in Luxemburg, Loyola de Palacio, Vice President of the European Commission in charge of energy and transport, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the development of the South East Europe Core Regional Transport Network. This MoU opens the door to implementing a major infrastructure programme for a network of 4300 km of railways and 6000 km of roads across five Balkan countries. 17 priority projects have been identified covering railways, roads, airports and ports. Loyola de Palacio said she is “confident that we can now work together to develop the transport infrastructure of the region and contribute through this to the growth of mutual trust and understanding and the economic development of the region.”

Today Loyola de Palacio and several Ministers and representatives of the Western Balkan countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the development of the South East Europe Core Regional Transport Network. The countries concerned are Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro (including Kosovo).

The network includes 4300 km of railways, 6000 km of roads, the major airports and the ports of Rijeka, Split, Dubrovnik, Nis, Durres and Vlore. Inland waterways include the Danube and the Sava. Within the network there are 58 border crossings. The total cost of developing the network has been estimated at over €16 billion. 17 priority projects have been identified with an estimated cost of approximately €650 million. Examples are: the Zezlj rail bridge at Novi Sad, (Serbia and Montenegro), Skopje airport, (FYROM), the port of Durres, (Albania), the Banja Luka – Gradiska Road, (Bosnia Herzegovina), and the Moravice – Spajane rail link, (Croatia).

In December 2002 the Copenhagen European Council confirmed the European perspective of the countries of the Western Balkans as potential candidate countries and underlined its determination to support their efforts to move closer to the European Union. Efficient transport networks are a prerequisite for free movement of goods and people and a thriving economy. They are also an essential part of the process of bringing these countries together and reinforcing their ties. The European Union is ready to play its role in developing the network.

In the long-term the proposed South East Europe Core Regional Transport Network should be part of the extension of the major trans-European axes of the TENs to the neighbouring countries. At a high-level ministerial meeting, held on 8 June in Santiago de Compostela and co-hosted by Mrs de Palacio and Paolo Costa, Member of the European Parliament and Chairman of the Committee on Regional Policy, Transport, and Tourism, key figures of the transport sector in Europe and its new eastern and southern neighbours decided to set up a High Level Group with the task to agree on this extension of the major trans-European axes of the TENs to the neighbouring countries, including the new Motorways of the Sea, and on the identification of priority projects on these axes.


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