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Anasayfa SEÇİLMİŞ YAZILAR - New Kosovo highway exits to world markets

- New Kosovo highway exits to world markets

E-posta Yazdır

New Kosovo highway exits to world markets

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has great plans for a transportation project he says will change his nation’s daily life for the better.

By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 01/02/10

The Kosovo government has announced plans for a major highway to run to the Albanian border at Prizren. Negotiations are set to begin with the American-Turkish Company, Bechtel-Enka Joint Venture. The company has already built a 65km roadway in northern Albania.

"Kosovo will have easier access to the world markets; the movement of people will be easier … as well as the access to the harbours," said Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. "Kosovo will have access to the sea [via Durres, Albania] through this highway."

Specifics about the highway -- cost, length and exact route – will not be known until negotiations with Bechtel-Enka are complete, though it is estimated to run some 118km and include exits at Pristina International Airport. It will also give Kosovo access to the Adriatic Sea. osovo RTV21 quoted the transportation spokesman Xhevdet Pozhari confirming that negotiations with Bechtel-Enka began last week. Pozhari said many technical issues will be discussed, including the method of construction and its impact on the Kosovo economy. The road is expected to roll through eight municipalities and cover 1,062 hectares of land, according to the Kosovo news agency Ekonomia.

To reduce costs and avoid unnecessary problems, the highway route has been changed to avoid heavily mountainous areas. It will run from Pristina to Vermica, at the border with Albania, and from Pristina to Merdare, a crossing point on the border with Serbia.

Thaci told local media that Kosovo would greatly benefit from the project because the connection will open a variety of European corridors, while creating construction jobs. The biggest public project in the county's history, the highway is expected to take about three years to build.

On January 19th, Reuters reported that the Turkish builder and power company Enka Insaat and the American engineering firm Bechtel "had been named preferred bidders by Kosovo for a 103km highway project".

The report quoted Kosovo officials as estimating that the highway could cost 800m euros. The news that Enka Insaat had won the contract prompted the company's stock to jump 2.1% to 3.5 euros.

Kosovo Minister of Transportation Fatmir Limaj said that officials "are still negotiating details before signing a final agreement", the AP reported. Last May, the Kosovo parliament passed a law on taking private property -- expropriation -- for public use. A recently opened highway with a tunnel blasted through the mountains of northern Albania has been troubled almost from the start, a headache that Kosovo hopes to avoid with the new project. The four-lane, 170km highway opened in the summer of 2009, but part of the tunnel collapsed about four months later. The Albanian side of the tunnel is expected to reopen in March.

Pristina wants to avoid a repeat of that problem by going around the mountains in the Qafa e Duhles area, Limaj said last month.

However, all has not been without potholes. Opposition parties have accused the government of rerouting the highway for a variety of reasons, including charges that they want it to pass through Limaj's hometown. In defense of the route, Limaj said the highway will allow "Kosovo and its economy [to] no longer be a victim of various limitations."

The government has also been criticized for delaying the start of work on the highway. Thaci said in an interview with the Kosovo financial daily Eko Biznesi that groundbreaking had been prolonged. He added that the government has continued to survey more than a dozen zones along the highway route for property boundaries, ownership and title.

Who will pay for the highway remains unanswered. The daily paper Kosova Sot reported on January 20th that banks in America and Germany along with Overseas Private Investment Corporation Bank have been mentioned as possible lenders.

Andrew Symms is a partner with the international law firm Eversheds, which was appointed by Kosovo last October to advise the government on a variety of infrastructure projects totaling 1 billion euros. Symms said that his company is advising the government on various financial aspects of the project in addition to helping negotiate and draft contracts.

"We are now in the phase of announcing the preliminary decisions for the expropriations in the first segment of the highway [from Vermice to Prizren] … in the first three months of 2010 we will start announcing the preliminary decisions for all properties that will be expropriated" along with announcing the amount of compensation, Thaci said.

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