Bulgaria, Greece to Launch Key Border Pass Crossing in March 2013
The long-anticipated opening of the Makaza Pass border crossing point between Bulgaria and Greece will take place in March 2013, it emerged after the second ever joint sitting of the two nations' Cabinets of Monday.
According to Greek PM Antonis Samaras, the Makaza Pass border crossing point will boost trade and tourism between Bulgaria and Greece.
Bulgaria's authorities have recently complained that the Makaza Pass should have become operational already but there were delays in the construction of the road on the Greek side of the border. Officials stated on several occasions recently that the vastly delayed opening of the crossing point at the Makaza mountain pass on the Bulgarian-Greek border was the fault of Greece.
Bulgaria has been ready to launch the Makaza crossing since November 2011. According to Bulgaria's Borisov Cabinet, the only obstacle to the opening of the Makaza border crossing was the lack of a 1.5-km-long road on the Greek side of the border.
The Ruse-Makaza road linking Romania and Greece through Central Bulgaria is supposed to be part of the Pan-European Transport Corridor No. 9 leading from Helsinki, the Baltic States, Moscow, Kiev, and Bucharest to the Greek port of Alexandroupolis on the Aegean.
However, the international transport corridor, which harbors the potential to stimulate the development of much of Bulgaria's central regions, does not function at present because the Makaza Pass in the Rhodope Mountains on the Bulgarian-Greek border remains closed.
This is in spite of numerous promises in the past five years by senior Bulgarian and Greek politicians that a border crossing point there will be opened "next year."
The delay in the opening of the Makaza Pass, which is some 20 km north of Greece's Aegean coastline, has been consistently attributed to the slow construction of the road on the Greek side of the border. When it becomes fully operational, the Ruse-Makaza Pass road will provide the shortest route from Romania's capital Bucharest (and much of Central and Eastern Europe, for that matter) to the Aegean / Mediterranean.
On Bulgaria's territory the Ruse-Makaza Pass road (section of Pan-European Transport Corridor No. 9) goes through Ruse, Byala, Veliko Tarnovo, Dryanovo, Gabrovo, the Shipka Pass (Balkan Mountain), Kazanlak, Stara Zagora, Dimitrovgrad, Haskovo, Kardzhali, and Momchilgrad to reach Makaza. It is dubbed Road I-5 (E-85) for Bulgarian government purposes.
Last year a long-anticipated decision of the Bulgarian government to make the Ruse-Makaza road a "priority project" was justified with the need to absorb EU funds under Operational Program "Transport", which would allow faster administrative procedures for investments, land expropriation, and construction. The Bulgarian government plans to turn the road in question into a "high-speed way" (with four lanes).
The actual realization on European Transport Corridor No. 9, however, also depends on the realization of one of the most-talked about infrastructure projects in Bulgaria in the past 20 years – the construction of a tunnel under the Shipka Pass in the Stara Planina Mountain (Balkan Mountain), which is supposed to improve greatly the transport links between Northern and Southern Bulgaria along the Ruse-Makaza route.
At present, Bulgaria and Greece share four border crossing points: Kulata-Promachonas, Ilinden-Exochi, Svilengrad-Ormenion, and Zlatograd-Thermes (Xanti).
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