ECONOMY

Bosnian Serbs agree to highway network deal with Austrian firm

SARAJEVO (Reuters) – The Bosnian-Serb Republic has agreed to form a joint venture with Austrian builder Strabag to build a highway network in Bosnia, a government spokeswoman said. Prime Minister Milorad Dodik and Strabag signed a memorandum of understanding in Vienna last week to form a joint venture for the 2-billion-euro highway network, Bosnian daily Nezavisne Novine reported earlier. A government spokeswoman, commenting on the newspaper report, confirmed a deal had been signed. The deal will be based on a concession of at least 30 years granted to Strabag, Dodik told the newspaper. The building of three main highways through the Serb Republic should begin next year and is to be completed by 2012. «This will be the biggest postwar investment in Republika Srpska, attracting 2 billion euros in foreign direct investment,» Dodik told Nezavisne. Serb Republic Traffic and Communications Minister Nedeljko Cubrilovic said the agreement was reached after months of negotiations and that the government should confirm it in the next two weeks, Nezavisne reported. The highways defined in the agreement will be built in western parts of the Serb Republic. The 1995 Dayton Accord, which ended the 1992-95 Bosnian war, created a single state made up of two entities, the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation. The planned network of roads will also include sections passing through the Serb Republic of a future north-to-south highway, the part of a pan-European transport corridor connecting Budapest with the Croatian port of Ploce.