In Brief

Sofia, Bucharest call for bridge funding extension SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria and Romania asked the European Union yesterday to prolong funding for a long-delayed second Danube bridge that has become a symbol of how slowly business is done in the Balkans. The 226-million-euro bridge, which could handle increased traffic between Berlin and Istanbul, is partly funded by an EU program which expires this year, Bulgaria’s Transport Ministry said. But after 15 years, Sofia and Bucharest have built only 40 percent of the planned new 2-kilometer span connecting the river port of Vidin in Bulgaria with Romania’s Calafat. «If they extend the deadline we will have a second bridge over the Danube,» Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said at a news conference with his Romanian counterpart Emil Boc. «Otherwise, we cannot provide money from the state budget because we do not have it and [in this case] there will be no second bridge.» Ryanair to fly to Greece from May Europe’s biggest low-cost airline, Ryanair, is starting six new services to three destinations in Greece this May. The Dublin-based company will link Kos, Rhodes and Volos with the Bergamo airport near Milan in Italy, Kos and Volos with the Hahn airport in Frankfurt, and Rhodes with Pisa. Ryanair said it expects a total of 200,000 passengers per year on these routes, while projecting the creation of 200 jobs in Greece. The airline has not specified whether these services will be operational in winter, too, i.e. after October 2010. Turk trade deficit Turkey’s January trade deficit widened by 161 percent on a 12-month comparison, official figures showed yesterday, in the third increase in a row, marking a domestic recovery in the recession-hit economy. The gap reached $3.6 billion (2.6 billion euros) from $1.3 billion a year earlier, the Turkish statistics institute said, but fell short of market expectations of $5.2 billion. Imports rose by 23.9 percent to $11.5 billion in January from the figure 12 months earlier while exports fell by 0.3 percent to $7.8 billion, the institute said in a statement. «We reckon that merchandise trade deficit will continue to widen due to domestic demand growth and higher commodity prices on average in 2010,» Inan Demir, chief economist at Finansbank, said in a note to investors. (AFP) Croatia recession Croatia’s economy shrank by 5.8 percent in 2009 relative to the previous year, the national statistics bureau said yesterday in a first estimate of annual economic growth. The figure is slightly lower then analysts’ predictions of a decline of 6 percent in 2009. In the last three months of the year, the country’s gross domestic product fell by 4.4 percent in annual terms, the statistics bureau said. Croatia’s economy was seriously affected by the global economic crisis. In the first three quarters of 2009, it contracted 6.7 percent, 6.3 percent and 5.7 percent respectively. «Economic activity will follow this slowdown in the first part of 2010… We foresee the start of recovery in the second half of the year,» the Raiffeisen Bank analysts estimated in their report. (AFP)

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