Does Durres-Belgrade highway benefit Serbia more?

Does Durres-Belgrade highway benefit Serbia more?

The Albanian and Serb governments have decided to build the highway that links Belgrade to Durres, with funds that will be demanded from the EU. The Serb government says that this will offer Serbs access to the sea, while Tirana says that Albania’s economy will be developed. The opposition sees this with skepticism and says that this serves “exclusively to Belgrade”

Tirana, 1 June 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Edison Kurani

Serbia and Albania have decided to agree on building a highway costing 1 billion Euros which will link Nis to the Adriatic port of Durres. The agreement has been reached and in a few days, the sides will sign a protocol for the delivery of this infrastructural project.

The Serb Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Zorana Mihajlovic, is quoted to have said that the document will be signed within 15 days by the Serb PM Aleksandar Vucic and his Albanian counterpart, Edi Rama.

Rama and Vucic discussed about the construction of the highway during the two day visit that the Serb PM held last week in Albania. The highway will start in Belgrade, to continue in Nis and Merdare in Serbia, it will then pass to Pristina in Kosovo, before reaching Tirana and Durres in the Albanian side.

The two countries have worked on this project for a while now. “It’s been six months that Serbia and Albania have been working on this project and we are preparing the projects, which both prime ministers will present in Vienna during the month of August”, said Mihajlovic.

Minister Mihajlovic says that the project is very important, because it is expected to strengthen political integrity and stability of the entire region, which are prerequisites for economic stability.

For Serbia, which is surrounded by land, the highway will guarantee access on the Adriatic ports of Albania, such as the one of Durres and the one in Shengjin, but also in other coastal cities such as Vlora and Velipoja.

Who is the real beneficiary?

The project for the construction of the highway has already started. It will be presented in Vienna in August of this year. The total length is 385 km and the estimated value of investment is one billion Euros.

Fatmir Mediu, former minister of Defence and current MP, is not only skeptic about this agreement, but he says that it will exclusively serve to Serbia.

“The project for the highway Belgrade-Nis-Pristina-Merdare-Durres, doesn’t benefit Albania, at least for the time being”, Mediu says. He points out the fact that the highway Pristina-Merdare-Durres is already completed.

Based on this, Mediu says that the Albanian government is serving to the Serb side, in the case of the construction of this highway, because according to him, the EU funds will be allocated for the highway that passes in the Serb and Kosovo territories.

“With this project, Mr. Rama is supporting the interests of the Serb side to build its infrastructure with EU funds”.

Without any doubt, this highway benefits Kosovo, which is currently linked to Albania through the highway Pristina-Kukes.

For Mr. Mediu, the construction of this highway would boost economic relations between Kosovo and Serbia, weakening relations between Kosovo and Albania.

“In circumstances of an entirely discriminating policy of Albania for Kosovo in terms of commercial exchanges, today, Kosovo has a larger trade volume with Serbia than with Albania. This road would boost economic relations between Kosovo and Serbia more than relations between Albanians”, Mr. Mediu suggests.

Another fact that Mr. Mediu points out is the access of Serbia to the sea, something which is being seen as a precious opportunity for Serbs to visit Albanian beaches.

Mediu says that the Albanian government is wrong to think this. “It’s absurd to think that the number of Serb tourists visiting Albania will increase, by offering them a new access to sea. They have access to sea from Montenegro, which has a much organized and quality service than Albania, they have the same language and customs as Serbs and what’s more, half of the population of Montenegro is Serb”, Mediu says.

On the other hand, publicist Rexhep Shahu raises several other questions in relation to the project Rama-Vucic.

Shahu says that given that from the Kosovo border to Tirana, the highway has been almost completed, this agreement serves more to Serbia and Kosovo. “Why must this project be signed between Vucic and Rama and not between the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Isa Mustafa and Vucic?”

Shahu goes even further with his criticism: “If this project, which is implemented in Kosovo, is signed by Rama, then the latter signs in front of the Serb PM the fact that Kosovo is not recognized and that Kosovo leaders are ignored”.

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The Albanian government has not issued any comments in relation to this highway, which is becoming provoking debates in Tirana.

When PM Vucic visited Tirana, he stressed the importance of this highway.

The Albanian counterpart, Rama supports this highway. According to him, this will increase the number of tourists. “We want more visitors, tourists and friends from Serbia visiting the Albanian coast and these infrastructural links will bring us closer and we’re determined to back them together”.

The projects that will be sent to the EU

There are 11 projects on the list of proposals for which the countries of the region have agreed on demanding funding to the European Union. These projects serve to link the Balkan countries and they also serve as extensions of EU corridors.

In the 27 August conference which will be held in Vienna, the countries will submit their joint proposals which they must deliver within 2030. Besides these 11 projects, it has also been agreed to reconstruct the Albanian railway as part of the 8th corridor with the condition that Albania conducts a feasibility study and a credible funding project.

Six out of the 10 of Pan European transport corridors are expected to pass in the Balkan countries, thus creating a new domain of competition.

The concrete projects which have been agreed by the two PMs, Edi Rama and Aleksandar Vucic and been backed by Brussels were highways Nis-Pristina-Durres, the highway that will link Belgrade to Budapest and the Adriatic-Ionian highway that links Albania to Montenegro and Croatia in the north and Greece in the south of Albania.

 

Another railway which will benefit Albania is the one linking Tirana to Durres and Podgorica.

The table of projects. The road network which will be proposed to the EU for funding

Corridor 5C
Bosanski Samac ( Bosnia )- Doboj –Sarajevo –Mostar-Bijaca (Croatia)
Corridor 8
Tirana/ Durrës –Elbasan-Struga –Tetovo –Shkup –Deve Bair(Bulgaria)
Corridor 10
Batrovci (Croatia)- Belgrade (Serbia)- Nis (Serbi)-Skopje (FYROM)-Bogorodica(Greece)
Corridor 10B
Subotica (Hungarian border)-Novi Sad (Serbia ) – Belgrade
Corridor 10C
Nis (Serbia )- Gradibna (Bulgaria)
Segment 1
Debeli Brijeg (Border Crossing)-Bar(Montenegro )
Segment 2
Podgorica (Mal i Zi ) –Durres –Fier –Tepelena-Qaf Botë
Segment 2 a
Gradiska (Croatia)-Banja Luka (Bosnia) –Lasva-Travnik
Segment 4
Vrsac (Romania)- Belgrade (Serbia)- Podgorica (Montenegro ) –Bar (Montenegro )
Segment 6
Pristina –Skopje
Segment 7
Lezha-Pristina-Dojlevac/Nis (Serbia)