A spectacular 61km section of highway through mountainous northern Albania opened for traffic last week, creating a strategic link to Kosovo.
For Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia last year, the modern four-lane route is a vital commercial link through a friendly country.
It was the toughest construction challenge on a corridor linking Albania’s Adriatic port of Durres with the Balkan interior and pan-European motor routes. The €600m worth section of the highway is part of a 171 km motorway between Durres and the border point Morine in Kosovo. The construction cost of the complete highway has so far reached to 1,1 billion EuR. The highway will shorten the travel time from Kosovo to the port of Durres from 6 hours to 2 hours.
Shpend Ahmeti, director of the Institute of Advanced Studies, an economic think-tank in Pristina, said Durres could become a serious rival to Greece’s Thessaloniki, bringing down shipping costs for all the Balkans once other road sections had been upgraded.
“This is the highway of hope, of trust, of work and development for Albanians,” said Hashim Thaci, Kosovo prime minister.
Albania hopes the road will also bring tourists to its Adriatic coastline. Albania attracted about 1m tourists last year, mostly from its landlocked neighbours Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia.
Financial Times / ECIKS