Greek funds for Balkan projects

Diplomatic representatives of Balkan nations and the other 24 members of the enlarged European Union will attend a speech by Prime Minister Costas Simitis in Thessaloniki on November 24 on the progress of the Greek Plan for Balkan Economic Reconstruction (ESOEAB) – a 550-million-euro investment subsidy program which has made little headway to date. Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos told a press briefing in the city yesterday that the tender for the hiring of a technical consultant for ESOEAB had been annulled as the three bids submitted were considered too financially demanding and technically deficient. He ruled out a new tender and said the job will be assigned by ESOEAB to the three universities of Ioannina, Thessaloniki and Thrace. He announced that 13 new large projects (six in Bulgaria, five in Serbia-Montenegro and one each in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Bosnia-Herzegovina) have come under the plan – in addition to five already approved – with subsidy rates of above 75 percent. These include reconstruction of the Skopje-Nis section of Highway 10, which connects Thessaloniki with central Europe and is budgeted to absorb subsidies totaling 107 million euros. «If the Serbs hand us, as promised, a feasibility study for the project by January, the Greek side is ready to disburse 20 percent of the subsidy,» Loverdos said. The total cost of the reconstruction of Highway 10 is estimated at 4 billion euros. A joint Greek-Hungarian committee in Thessaloniki today is scheduled to discuss the project with particular reference to its Serbian section. Serbia has been planned to absorb the lion’s share of ESOEAB subsidies. These include 8 million euros for an emergency aid station on Highway 10 and 3.2 million euros for a power substation in Vranje. A 7-million-euro subsidy has been earmarked for a Skopje-Nis power line. Greece has proposed a donors conference in Belgrade, with the participation of companies and international organizations, such as the World Bank, which may be also interested in participating in private financing concession schemes. Loverdos has previously suggested that the allocation of funds may be restructured in favor of private investment schemes in future, as called for by the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV).