Bulgarian MP: Greece Delays Makaza Border Pass Launch
The launch of the Makaza border pass has been once again delayed for the unforeseen future, according to the Bulgarian Member of the Parliament, Dimcho Mihalevski.
Speaking Sunday for journalists in the southern Bulgarian city of Kardzhali, Mihalevski, MP from the opposition Coalition for Bulgaria, led by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, gave several reasons for the delay, despite Greece needing only 10 days of work to open the pass.
Among them, according to the MP, is the 3-week strike of Greek workers, protesting the fact they have not received salaries since 2011. The other reason stated was a tragic construction incident, resulting in the deaths of two workers.
Mihalevski further said Greece was expecting the next tranche of EUR 30 B from the bailout package, which, if and when materializing, will allow the payment of the overdue wages and the completion of the road.
He, however, voiced strong doubt this will happen before Christmas.
The Bulgarian government, too, stated on several occasions already that the vastly delayed opening of the crossing point at the Makaza mountain pass on the Bulgarian-Greek border was the fault of Greece.
In September, Bulgarian Regional Development Minister Lilyana Pavlova said:
"Bulgaria has fulfilled its commitment in time, while Greece is delaying the launching of the Makaza Pass border crossing. Bulgaria has been ready to launch the Makaza crossing since November 2011. The only obstacle to the opening of the Makaza border crossing is the lack of a 1.5-km-long road on the Greek side of the border, which needs to be completed. Unfortunately, that isn't happening yet."
Also in September, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov even offered Greece to fund the 1.5 km road section with Bulgarian state budget money – a statement that was regarded as insulting by Greek officials, according to the Greek media.
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. If 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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