By Clive Leviev – Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
An action plan envisages three further bridges over the Danube River between Bulgaria and Romania, Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev said during a visit to Silistra.
The bridges are planned to be at Silistra – Călăraşi, Oriahovo – Bechet, Nikopol – Turnu Măgurele and expansion of the existing bridge at Ruse – Giurgiu.
This is set out in an action plan by a Bulgarian-Romanian committee on the development of inland waterway transport and connectivity in the region.
Plevneliev was speaking at a discussion on the overall priorities of Bulgaria and Romania for the period 2014-2020.
The discussion was attended by the mayors of 14 Bulgarian and Romanian Danube municipalities, representatives of the European Commission, business, NGOs and ambassadors.
At the most recent meeting of the Heads of State of Central and Eastern Europe in Bratislava, Plevneliev and his Romanian counterpart Traian Basescu agreed to continue working on the preparation and construction of the third bridge over the Danube River at Silistra and Călăraşi.
Plevneliev said that one of the ways for the project to be funded after 2014, along with other joint regional projects, is the new tool “Connected Europe”, which has a total budget of about 30 billion euro, of which more than 23 billion euro is for transportation .
It is expected that the same mechanism could be used to fund a project to improve navigation in the common Bulgarian-Romanian section of the Danube, which is on the route of Transport Corridor 7 .
“The Danube is an opportunity – it is part of the longest European Transport Corridor, which connects 10 European countries and creates a huge potential for development of inland waterways, ports, trade and tourism,” Plevneliev said .
He gave the example of the construction of the Marmaray tunnel under the Bosphorus, which completely changed the picture of transport in the region.
It is expected that by 2016, the railway track on the Turkish side to the Bulgarian border will be completed, he said.
Plevneliev said that Bulgaria should take advantage of this opportunity and prepare railway and travel sections of the Trans-European Transport Corridors 9 and 10, respectively, Bucharest and Belgrade to Istanbul as well as Corridor 4 in Sofia to Athens.
Bulgaria and Romania are one of the main doors of Europe to Asia markets, to new trade routes and new investments, Plevneliev said.
This potential could be realised only with a focus on the common goal, which is the strategic development of the Danube region.
“Now is the time to identify common priorities , but it is essential to be focused and learn from the mistakes of the past, so we need more transparency, responsibility and accountability of institutions. We are seeking common priorities, but they must be legitimate and cannot be prepared by the ministry, and a few bureaucrats,” Plevneliev said.
He called for a common energy strategy for the Danube countries, which would improve energy security by linking the transmission systems of energy resources. Diversification of energy sources is a European priority, said Plevneliev, who expressed concern at the risks of a new gas crisis in Bulgaria with regard to trade relations between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
Plevneliev said that there could be only one option – energy networks, energy efficiency and energy diversification. This also affected investor confidence, he said.
“We have a joint project with Romania’s gas inter-connection that is already built. Gas connections with Greece will provide access to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP ) and the Bulgarian gas network through Romania can access the Azeri gas,” Plevneliev said .