EBRD set to lend Bosnia 180 mln euros for highway

SARAJEVO – The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will lend a Bosnian region 180 million euros to build two sections of a countrywide highway, a local daily reported yesterday. A minister in the Muslim Croat federation government said the EBRD has approved the loan for the construction of stretches of the future north-to-south highway, a part of the pan-European corridor linking Budapest with the Croatian port of Ploce. «This is very good news and the result that we hoped for,» Transportation Minister Nail Seckanovic told the Sarajevo-based Dnevni Avaz daily. Seckanovic said that -120 million will go for the construction of a 15.2-kilometer-long section linking the capital of Sarajevo with the central town of Zenica and the rest for a section between Mostar in the south and the Croatian border. Seckanovic said that he expected the European Investment Bank (EIB) in January to approve the equivalent loan for two more sections of the highway passing through the Muslim Croat federation, which makes up Bosnia along with the Serb Republic. Bosnia’s road and rail network was devastated during and after the 1992-95 war among the Balkan country’s Serbs, Muslims and Croats. Bosnia has only some 30 kilometers of highways. Seckanovic said the only condition made by the lenders is that the region should strengthen its directorate for roads and introduce a tax on purchase of oil derivatives that would be used for the construction of highways. The loan should be signed in August so construction of the Sarajevo-Zenica section can start early in 2009. Projects for the southern Mostar section are still being negotiated, Seckanovic added. The Serb Republic has been in negotiations for over a year with Austrian builder Strabag to construct, under concession terms, the highway network worth some -3 billion, including parts belonging to the countrywide highway.