The new highway is expected to become a major transit route to Eastern Europe and the Adriatic.
By Muhamet Brajshori and Ivana Jovanovic in Pristina and Belgrade -- 04/12/12
The Kosovo portion of the Pristina-Nis Highway is expected to be built in 2013. [Laura Hasani/SETimes]
Kosovo and Serbia have launched talks on building a highway linking the two countries, which would connect with the existing Pristina-Durres Highway. Experts said that the highway will benefit both economies and would enable better conditions for movement of people and goods between the two countries.
Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and Serbia Prime Minister Ivica Dacic discussed the project, which the EU is expected to financially support, in early November at a Brussels meeting with Catherine Ashton, Union chief of foreign and security policy.
"Both parties agreed to have a joint, technical working team to prepare a feasibility study for the Nis-Pristina Highway," Ashton said after the meeting.
The new highway would allow Kosovo to connect with Corridor 10, and further extend towards Romania and Bulgaria. For Serbia, it would open access to the ports of Albania.
Safet Gerxhaliu, executive director of Kosovo Chamber of Commerce, told SETimes that EU funds should finance such infrastructure projects, which offer possibilities for economic development.
He also suggested building two other motorways, one from Leposavic to Raska, and another from Pec to Montenegro, so as to improve regional transit interconnectivity.
"Building of the Nis motorway project needs to begin as soon as possible, and … should include a motorway that connects Kosovo with Serbia, through Raska, and other countries," Gerxhaliu said.
According to Milutin Mrkonjic, Serbian minister for transportation, the Nis-Pristina Highway route is an old idea from the Milosevic era.
"Even in 1995 we had drawn a map of this highway for him. It is, also, included in the plan for the Balkan transport development. It should connect Romania via Negotin, and Nis with the Albanian borders," Mrkonjic told SETimes.
Gerxhaliu added that political stability can be achieved through economic stability, he said. He said the Kosovo diaspora and the business community will also benefit from the new motorway.
"[The motorway would connect] Kosovo with other regional countries, because the Kosovo market of 1.7 million inhabitants is not large, but through the new transit route, in the likeness of a mini-Balkan Schengen zone could be promoted, and as such have a political impact," Gerxhaliu said.
Kaqusha Jashari, former director of the Kosovo road directorate, told SETimes that an interconnection of Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, and Bulgaria and beyond would be a major regional corridor network, and would have a major economic, political and cultural impact.
"Durres-Kukes-Pristina highway [Corridor 7], which is built and will continue to Merdare, has no meaning as a corridor if it doesn't connect to Corridor 10," Jashari said.
Goran Rodic, secretary of the Association for Construction and Housing of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, told SETimes that the highway will stretch some 80 kilometres into Serbia, with a multilevel potential, as a number of motels, fuel stations, restaurants, will be built along it. He also said that this highway would have a general interest and economic feasibility.
"It should be linked to Corridor 10, which means with the EU, since its new points should be Prizren, Pristina, Merdare -- Corridor 10 or Romania, Hungary and further. It should pass through Albania, over the Prokletije Mountain, to ports of Durres and Valona, which should become the main ports, significantly cheaper and suitable for harder transport [than the Bar and Thessaloniki ports]," Rodic told SETimes.
"The [Nis-Pristina] highway must be finished because it is realistic, absolutely realistic, and useful in a number of ways, with several benefits for the entire region," Mrkonjic told SETimes.