Kosovo approves €700 million highway deal

The Kosovo Ministry of Transport has approved a €700 million deal with Bechtel-Enka, a US and Turkish consortium, to construct Kosovo’s first highway. Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said that the highway would help create jobs and give Kosovo access to the sea. “This project will cost around €700 million, guaranteed by Kosovo’s budget from potential donors, and, in case it is needed, it will build with favorable soft loans,” Thaci told journalists.

According to Transport Minister Fatmir Limaj, the width of the highway will be 28 metres, with two lanes on each side. The highway will have protective barriers and walls to mitigate noise pollution. The government’s contract with Bechtel-Enka will mean the highway is built in phases, starting with the section that runs from Vermice, on the border with Albania, to Qafa e Duhles, Suhareka municipality, in southwest Kosovo. “When it comes to [the section after] Duhel [Qafa e Duhles], the company will offer the Kosovo government three project studies, after which the government will decide on the direction of the highway depending on the country’s interests,” Limaj said. The transport minister was referring to the most costly and mountainous section of the highway. Bechtel-Enka has suggested an alternative to this troublesome route via Malisheve/Malishevo. The Ministry of Transport has given its initial support to the company’s proposal to divert the highway away from a tricky 22-kilometre section around Suhareke, avoiding tunnels in the mountainous terrain.

Opposition parties claim that the process for approving the highway deal has been carried out in a non-transparent way. “Nowhere in the world do major projects start without knowing how they will be realized,” Haki Shatri, former minister of economy, is quoted by the Pristina daily Express as saying. Myzejene Selmani, the chairperson of the transport committee in Kosovo’s parliament, said that the project costs may double, as they did with Bechtel-Enka in Albania. “Bechtel started the highway in Albania for €600 million, but in the end the cost went to €1.2 billion.” She said that the cost of construction may rise due to possible diversions and additional work that has not been included in the initial proposal.

Balkan Insight