The Orient/East-Med Corridor in Serbia includes the Niš – Merdare E80/R7 road section, which continues into Kosovo* and then on to Albania up to Durres Port, on the Adriatic Sea. Also known as the ‘Peace Highway’, this road interconnection is of great importance for freight and passenger transportation in the Western Balkans. It is the region’s shortest route from the Durres Port in the west, to South-Eastern and Central Europe as well as to the Black Seain the east, via the Niš – Dimitrovgrad highway which is currently under construction and the Bulgarian highway network.
Through the Western Balkans Investment Framework, the European Union has been instrumental in identifying the investment needs as well as in financing the preparation of the technical documentation required for undertaking the actual construction work for the new Niš – Merdare and Merdare – Pristina highway.
With an approximate length of 70km, the Niš – Merdare road consists of two main sections: Niš – Pločnik (33 km) and Pločnik – Merdare (37 km). CONNECTA carried out the Road Safety Audit (RSA) for the Niš-Pločnik section as a pilot and in the context of a regional road safety assignment in the spring of 2018. With the recent completion of the RSA for the Pločnik – Merdare section which was a separate and more complete assignment, the CONNECTA team secured increased safety design conditions for the whole route.
For the construction of the first section (Niš – Pločnik), the EU pledged over €40 million under the 2018 Connectivity Agenda package in the form of a grant. The Investment Grant Agreement, which was recently signed in Belgrade, is complemented by a loan worth €100 million from the EIB, another loan of over €80 million from EBRD together with €27 million contributed by the Serbian government.
The successfully completed RSA assignments for the Niš – Pločnik and Pločnik – Merdare sections are expected to raise awareness of the need for RSA for all road infrastructure projects under preparation and provide support for the International Financial Institutions’ decision to finance their construction, thus securing better and safer connectivity in the Western Balkans region.
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.
Additional information on the assignment can be obtained by contacting Chris Germanacos, CONNECTA Team Leader, at firstname.lastname@example.org .