Romania faulted for delays in opening of Danube bridge
A bridge linking Bulgaria and Romania that was financed in part with EU cohesion funds is due to open within a month, although a deal on joint management of the River Danube span has not yet been set up.
Bulgaria complained that “political problems” in Romania are delaying the management structure to run the Vidin-Calafat bridge.
“We attempted to meet several times, we wrote letters, but for the time being the answer of the Romanian side is that they don’t have a mandate to conduct such negotiations,” Bulgarian Transport Minister Ivaylo Moskovski said.
Dnevnik, the EurActiv partner in Bulgaria, quoted Moskovski as saying that he would regret a situation where the bridge is ready but cannot be opened because of the lack of a management agreement.
A spokesperson for Johannes Hahn, the regional policy commissioner, told EurActiv that the EU executive has asked both countries to reach a management deal as soon as possible.
Only one bridge for 300 kilometres
The road/rail bridge linking the Bulgarian city of Vidin to Calafat in Romania (see background) will be the second bridge along more than 300 km of the Danube. The only existing bridge, built in 1954 at Ruse-Giurgiu, suffers major bottlenecks.
The idea to build the Vidin-Calafat bridge was born during the EU sanctions against former the Yugoslavia, imposed in 1992 and which lasted until January 2001. The plan was to provide an alternative route for shipping goods from Bulgaria to Western Europe.
But the project was delayed for years and Traian Băsescu, current president of Romania, opposed the link when he was transport minister in the 1990s.
The EU provided €106 million for building the Vidin-Calaft bridge and adjoining infrastructure in the 2000-2006 period.
The bridge will eliminate a major bottleneck for road and rail transport on the trans-European Transport Corridor IV, which is part of the transport infrastructure linking Southeastern Europe and Turkey with Central Europe and beyond.
Construction is nearly finished and Bulgarian authorities said the opening ceremony could take place by the end of October or the beginning of November.
Romanian officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Vidin-Calafat bridge, 1.8 kilomtres in length, has four road lanes, a single railway track and pedestrian and cycle tracks. The adjoining infrastructure include a road and railway track, rehabilitation of the existing railway track around the town of Vidin, the construction of four junctions and two pedestrian footbridges.
The construction of the bridge started in 2007. The construction of adjoining infrastructure started in the summer of 2009. The EU Cohesion Fund provided a combined €106 million for the project.
The Romanian Permanent Representation sent to EurActiv a statement of the Romanian Ministry of Transport, according to which it appears that the two sides cannot agree in which of the countries the society managing the bridge should be based.
Romania has fulfilled all its obligations, while Bulgaria is inflexible, says the statement, received in Romania.
“The problem is that the two sides have not yet decided where will be the headquarters of the society, on the territory of Romania or Bulgaria, and have not decided on the distribution of income,” the statement reads, probably referring to the toll tax for crossing the bridge.
The Romanian ministry adds further that Bulgaria insisted on hosting the headquarters and that the system of distribution of income it advocated was not the one Romania wanted.
Finally, the Romanian ministry slams Bulgaria for delays in construction works, saying that because of Bulgarian delays, the bridge could not be finalised before January 2013.