Bulgarian Minister to Revive Forsaken Highway with ERDF Money

Politics » BULGARIA IN EU | August 2, 2010, Monday // 16:43
Bulgaria: Bulgarian Minister to Revive Forsaken Highway with ERDF Money Pictured: Bulgarian Regional Devt Minister Plevneliev (back) together with PM Borisov are being sprinkled with holy water by a priest during the start of the construction of Lot 3 of the Trakiya Highway. Photo by BGNES

There are indications that the Northern Bulgarian highway Hemus could be funded with money from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) after 2014.

The talks for this funding between the Bulgarian government and the EU institutions are in a very early phase, announced the Bulgarian Regional Development Minister Rosen Plevneliev as quoted by the 24 Chasa Daily.

“It is going to be very hard to justify this funding but no one has snubbed our demands. We currently have EUR 250 M for 36 sections of second- and third-class roads from the Regional Development Operational Program. What would be the problem to have fewer second- and third-class road sections for the next period 2014-2020 and to built the Hemus Highway with this money instead? What is more, why would be the problem to expand the program for Bulgaria, to make it BGN 1 B or EUR 1 B for the next period? Brussels told us that we are defining our priorities but that we also have to justify them, and to make them sustainable,” Plevneliev reasoned.

In his words, this idea would be problematic only if Bulgaria gets a total of BGN 1.6 B under the Regional Development Program for 2014-2020, and the construction of the Hemus Highway costs BGN 1.2 B. Pouring almost all of the money into the highway would cause violent protests on part of the Bulgarian municipalities, Plevneliev predicts, which is why his idea is to use only some of the future EU Regional Development money for funding Hemus.

In his words, the best option would be to build the section from Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo in Central Northern Bulgaria with ERDF money, and to complete the rest with other mechanisms – such as a state-guaranteed investment loan.

Plevneliev has also pointed out that Bulgaria must score perfectly on absorbing the currently allocated to it EU money for regional development in order to be able to demand a greater sum for the next financial framework 2014-2020.

He said he has warned the Brussels institutions that Bulgaria will be demanding four times money under the operational programs – about EUR 4 B under the Transport Operational Program, and EUR 1 B under the Regional Development Program.

“It will be a great gesture on part of the European Union to provide us with money for highways and roads for the next financial period 2014-2020 because the EU is envisaging money for innovation and energy efficiency. Otherwise there would be no way that I could justify our demands for money for highways. What would I say? That the Hemus Highway is energy efficient? And yet, Brussels is ready to provide us with funding for it,” explained Bulgaria’s Regional Development Minister.

Of the several major highway projects in Bulgaria, the Hemus Highway is the only one that is located entirely in Northern Bulgaria. Only 151 km of the 433 km of the highway that is supposed to connect Sofia with Varna on the Black Sea coast have been completed. The completed sections are from Sofia to Yablanitsa and from Shumen to Varna.

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Tags: Hemus Highway, Rosen Plevneliev, Regional Development Minister, highways, ERDF, EU operational programs, regional development program, Veliko Tarnovo, Shumen, Yablanitsa

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