Sofia’s work on the road to EU

SOFIA – Bulgaria will soon begin improving its crumbling transport infrastructure to attract investment and boost competitiveness before planned European Union membership next year, the country’s Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev said yesterday. He said Bulgaria, which lies on the main land route between Europe and the Middle East, could lose a crucial geostrategic advantage if it does not mend its potholed roads and modernize its outdated railways. The new Socialist-led government will define Bulgaria’s infrastructure priorities for the next seven years by June and outline projects to be carried out using EU development funds starting next year, Stanishev told a business forum. «There are very serious risks Bulgaria could be pushed out from its traditional position… Bad infrastructure pushes up prices and is a serious problem for the competitiveness of the country,» he said. «As of 2007 Bulgaria will be able to carry out its transport priorities using EU funds. It is important to decide swiftly which projects are priority.» Standstill The Black Sea country of 8 million people has only 328 kilometers of highway, and new road projects have been at a virtual standstill since the fall of communism 16 years ago. Its dilapidated railways are considered well below EU standards. Business leaders have long accused governments of incompetence for failing to set clear transport priorities and promote competitive projects. Many projects meant to link Bulgaria with pan-European rail and road corridors, including a 720-million-euro cross-country highway and a 236-million-euro Danube river bridge, have been delayed by badly prepared documents and persistent red tape. Bulgarian Industrial Association head Bozhidar Danev outlined a series of projects needed in the next decade if Bulgaria was to avoid becoming «an isolated and distant province on the fringes of Europe.» The outline calls for Bulgaria to overhaul its railways and build highways to Romania in the north, Serbia to the west and Greece and Turkey in the south. Bulgaria expects to get a major boost in the form of billions of euros in EU development funds for new infrastructure and other projects, like those that transformed Ireland from economic laggard to star performer after it joined the EU.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.