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The Struma highway must be completed now, the whole region is waiting for it

Participants from different countries in the forum “Eastern Mediterranean and South-Eastern Europe” are categorical: It is very important to develop a network of motorways that will connect Bulgaria, Greece and Romania

Struma Motorway is a very important project that must be completed now. Experts from the transport industry, who commented on the topic during the “Eastern Mediterranean and Southeastern Europe” forum, held in Brussels, were categorical about this.

The construction of the Struma highway as part of the unfinished transport corridor number 4 was one of the main topics in the panel dedicated to the territorial cohesion of the Member States through investment in infrastructure. This is key to improving the economic prospects and growth of entire countries.

Struma Motorway in Bulgaria is a very important Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) project that needs to be completed nowstressed George Kremlinis, current adviser to the Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, on issues related to the environment, climate and energy.

He recalled that only 15 km remain through the Kresna Gorge to complete this project, which is strongly supported by the Prime Minister of Greece and the Minister of Transport, Kostas Karamanlis. According to the Kremlin, Bulgaria’s proposal that one line of the highway passes through the gorge and the other outside it is very good. This decision will protect the area, which is a Natura 2000 site.

“We support the project because he will reduce the time for travel from Sofia to Thessaloniki up to 2 hours by car

It is very important to develop a network of motorways to connect Bulgaria, Greece and Romaniahe emphasized.

The Kremlin is referring to the so-called Eastern option for the construction of the highway, in which the current E79 road through the Kresnen gorge is preserved, but it will be used only for traffic in one direction. In the other direction, a new lane will be built outside the protected area.

For the performance of this option they are already conducted public orders

and there are selected artists so it can start easily. For about half of the new route, a consortium with the leading company “Groma Hold” EOOD was selected with an offer of BGN 500 million, and for the other half – an association around “GBS Infrastructure Construction”, selected with an offer of BGN 475 million.

The construction period is 4 years and should be completed shortly before the end of 2027.

Bulgaria also received funds for the construction of the highway from the new Operational Program “Transport Connectivity”, which has a total resource of 2 billion euros. 703 million euros of them are intended for the development of the TEN-T network, which includes, in addition to Struma, the highway from Ruse to Veliko Tarnovo and the tunnel under Shipka.

Only a few days ago, one of the main obstacles to the completion of the highway through the Kresna Gorge was removed – the National Council for Biological Diversity accepted the specific environmental protection goals of the “Kresna – Ilindenci” protected area, which was a requirement of the European Commission. These objectives describe in detail the current status of the protected area, the estimated number of rare species of flora and fauna and what measures are proposed to preserve this wealth. This means that the Ministry of Regional Development can now advance the procedures for the construction of the section, if the specific objectives coincide with the currently effective EIA for this section. An analysis of this is already being prepared by the Road Infrastructure Agency.

This good news was also highlighted by Dr. Ivan Katsarov, chairman of the Bulgarian Forum for Transport Infrastructure, during the conference in Brussels. He expressed regret that three European vertical transport corridors pass through the territory of Bulgaria, and only one of them is close to completion.

We need to work hard in this direction, especially along corridor number 4, part of which is the Struma highwayhe stated.

Another priority should be the construction of 3 more bridges over the Danube to connect us with Romania. This was also confirmed by the Kremlin, as these bridges will become an entry point not only to Europe, but also to Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine has temporarily changed the traffic situation in our part of Europe, and therefore we have to think about how to connect its southern and northern parts. Bulgaria and all countries in the region in the last 50 years have planned and built their highways and railways in the east-west direction. This is so because of political and economic reasons, but today’s times show us that we need to change our perceptions and make better connections in the North-South direction as well, confirmed Dr. Katsarov. According to him, China’s “Three Seas” initiative and “One Belt, One Road” program also reinforce this trend.

For Greece and Southeast Europe as a whole is very important let’s decide the transport ones your problems –

the connectivity between different modes of transport, Ioannis Xifara, Greece’s general secretary for transport, agreed. He admitted that Bulgaria and his country are lagging behind in the development of some types of infrastructure, such as railways, but we have made great progress in building a safer road network.

When we talk about connectivity, we need to look beyond EU member states, and more specifically strengthen ties with the countries of the Western Balkans, Eastern Europe, Moldova and Ukraine. In 2019, we started a partnership and invested 13 billion dollars to expand the TEN-T network in these countries, but because of the change in the situation, we need to review the priorities of these investments, we need to reconstruct the infrastructure in Ukraineemphasized Mark Sadler, Program Manager for Sustainable Development and Infrastructure at the World Bank Group.

He noted that transport is a cornerstone in the process of European integration and an essential driver of the economy.

We are talking about 3 billion tonne kilometers and 6 billion passenger kilometers of transport in the EU per year, but the member states still have a lot of work to do, as currently only 63% of the transport network in the union meets the required TEN-T standardsSadler added.

The development of maritime transport was emphasized by Kim Jorgensen, general director and permanent representative of the European Investment Bank, as this is one of the institution’s key missions. Another highlight is the development of greener and more sustainable transport, for which a new lending policy for the sector, oriented towards providing the necessary technologies, was adopted this year.

Christos Gofas, senior expert on socio-economic development at the European Commission, stressed that transport integration in South-Eastern Europe and the Balkans must be based on cooperation so that all countries benefit. And he emphasized that rail transport could be key to achieving smarter, sustainable and green transport in the EU.

This is exactly what the project of the company “Large infrastructure projects” ABC+De, presented by the general manager Eng. Rumen Markov, is based on. The plan envisages a new railway line between the Adriatic and Baltic seas with a length of 1,670 km, thus connecting all the countries of Eastern Europe.

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