By Georgi Mitev Shantek
The pan-European highway, Corridor 10, first envisioned to be the main transit route for the 2004 Athens Olympics, is now falling further off pace and will likely not be completed until 2016.
The portion in Serbia was initially promoted as a unique foreign investment opportunity, but it has faced obstacles every step of the way.
“If motorway on the ‘meadow’ deadlines cannot be respected … how will the whole Serbian part of Corridor 10 be completed by 2015? The south leg drilling through the mountain, 12km long, hasn’t even begun,” Mahmud Busatlija, adviser for development and investment says.
“For that particular drilling in Sicevacka Canyon, technically, at least five years is required, no matter what mega-machines are in use,” he warns.
Two state-run companies, Putevi Srbije [Roads of Serbia] and Koridori Srbije [Corridors of Serbia], are responsible for the construction and are partially funding the project, with international banks financing the remainder. Roads of Serbia, responsible for the older but uncompleted sections of the highway, is financing the project from the state budget — an arrangement that presents a distinct problem for completing construction.
“In the last month, three public tenders were carried out to open 70km of new roads. But new tenders remain to be carried out in the next period,” Sanja Stavrić, Corridors of Serbia PR manager told SETimes.
Funds are always a huge problem, mostly because compensation to land owners comes from the state budget, not the World Bank, the European Bank for the Reconstruction and Development or European Investment Bank.
Even if funds were not an issue, the land registers and small business capacity of local administrations are added obstacles for a quick resolution to slow highway construction.
Stavric stresses that in more than two decades, virtually nothing was done in terms of plans and projects, nor did Serbia have the manpower to build.
“If two years are needed for the construction of a motorway, double that time for the preparation of a project and [land] expropriation [for a project like Corridor 10]. The visible part of the work — when the machines come out to the field — is the easiest part. Finding financial means, project planning and technical control, resolving property rights regarding the land is serious and complicated work,” Stavric says.
Out of 800km of the EU Corridor 10 through Serbia — from the Hungarian border at Subotica to Dimitrovgrad and Presevo near the border with Bulgaria and Macedonia — 330km of highway remains unfinished. Since 2004, an average of 30km has been built annually, with only 7.7km built in 2008.