NATO investing in Balkan countries

08/04/2014

The Alliance is restoring bridges and improving the infrastructure to assist regional countries.

By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 08/04/14

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EUFOR troops in Bosnia and Herzegovina demine a strip of land to enable infrastructure development. [Bedrana Kaletovic/SETimes]

NATO is beginning co-operation with regional governments on projects to restore and reinforce the transportation infrastructure in the Balkans, officials said.

In Macedonia, NATO is funding a project to reconstruct bridges based on a memorandum of understanding the Alliance signed with the Macedonian transport and communications ministry.

Officials said NATO reconstructed 51 bridges in the first two of the project's three phases. The beginning of the third phase was set for last November on the Veles-Katlanovo route of the European Transportation Corridor 10.

This year, NATO will finish reconstructing 13 bridges in projects that cost about 9 million euros, said Mile Janakieski, Macedonia transport and communications minister.

"The entire reconstruction of the bridges should be finished by September 2015," Janakieski said.

NATO reached an agreement with Macedonia in 2005 to reconstruct all bridges it has used on the road from the Macedonian-Greek border to Kosovo during and after the 1999 Kosovo conflict.

"The bridges were damaged due to the frequency of the NATO vehicles. Their repair is an act of goodwill toward a country that should have become a part of NATO even in 2008," Vlado Buckovski, former prime minister of Macedonia who signed the agreement with NATO, told SETimes.

In Kosovo, NATO's KFOR troops are building bridges, paving roads and making tunnels.

KFOR built a new temporary military bridge in Rakovina last July that connected Gjakovica and Klina with Pristina, and a permanent bridge in Decani last September.

This year, KFOR will build a new bridge on the Zvecan-Leposavic road in addition to conducting emergency roads repairs, said Massimiliano Rizzo, KFOR public affairs officer.

"The existing one is not appropriate for civilian traffic, which is why KFOR built a temporary bridge called 'Jordy.' The project for a new permanent bridge will be implemented in co-operation with the infrastructure ministry this summer," Rizzo told SETimes.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the Alliance's EUFOR contingent created a group of Romanian, Polish and Portuguese engineers to better assist the renewal of transportation infrastructure.

But transportation and other infrastructure renewal in BiH includes the additional task of clearing the hundreds of thousands of landmines left after the 1992-95 conflict.

"More than 200,000 square metres have been cleared in the inner city area that enabled land use for commercial purposes to provide for better living conditions and improve people movement," Amra Babic, head of Visoko municipality, told SETimes.

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EUFOR officials said transportation infrastructure often goes hand-in-hand with improving running water, plumbing and electrical energy infrastructure.

"I am convinced that with the will of the people of BiH and the political readiness for joint leadership and for compromise, BiH can advance toward the EU, and offer its citizens greater opportunities and better life together," said Dieter Heidecker, EUFOR commander.

Correspondents Bedrana Kaletovic in Sarajevo and Linda Karadaku in Pristina contributed to this article.

What can NATO do to further improve transportation infrastructure in the Balkans? Share your opinion in the comments space.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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