Makaza, Bulgaria-Greece Border Point, Open Again 68 Years Later
Sixty-eight years after traffic at Makaza pass on the Bulgarian-Greek border came to a halt, the new border check point was officially opened on Monday, September 9.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony started at 11 am and was attended by the district governors of Kardzhali and East Macedonia and Thrace.
However, the official inauguration ceremony will take place at a later stage and will be attended by the Prime Ministers of Bulgaria and Greece.
There will be joint control at the Makaza border crossing, with Bulgarian and Greek border police officers working shifts.
The crossing can be used by vehicles weighting less than 3.5 metric tons, which was Greece's request. Athens insisted that it is open only for cars and buses, while Sofia asked that heavy long vehicles, up to 5 tons, were also allowed to pass through.
It is expected that the crossing will boost tourist trips between Bulgaria and Greece, the development of border regions in both countries, and will significantly alleviate traffic at the other border crossing points on the Bulgarian-Greek 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, did not function until now because the Makaza Pass in the Rhodope Mountains on the Bulgarian-Greek border remained 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.
In 2011, 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.
Until now, Bulgaria and Greece shared four border crossing points: Kulata-Promachonas, Ilinden-Exochi, Svilengrad-Ormenion, and Zlatograd-Thermes (Xanti).
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