Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Neighbourhood highways

Dessislava Dimitrova, April 21, 2010

No holes, no mad drivers, no jumping in the car for hours. Until you fasten your seatbelt and you already are on the other end of Bulgaria. This happened on Friday morning when still there was no volcanic ash over Bulgaria and all air companies flied over the country, and I flew from Sofia to Varna for 45 minutes. Beauty! On Monday morning however, everyone knows what the picture was. This is why, we decided to be cautious and on Sunday we came back to Sofia ... by car ... for about 5 hours ... via the "highway" ...

Already in Sofia, searching for something in my "archive" I found a quote from an interview I made long ago: "Croatia has almost achieved its goal to build 1,500 km of highways and plans serious investments in railway infrastructure. Besides it is trying to attract more passengers to use the airports and more cargo to pass through our ports". The year is ... 2007.

A year earlier, I personally had the opportunity to test a part of these roads, traveling via their largest highway to the seaside, connecting the capital Zagreb with the biggest Croatian city on the Adriatic sea - Split. Depending on the category of the car, the toll tax for this distance varies between 112 kunas (around 15 euro) and 644 kunas (around 80 euro). An expensive pleasure even for some people in Zagreb. But for the sum they get 380 km of a real highway, part of which passes through a very hard mountainous terrain. The investment only in this highway is around $3 bn (no VAT included), and the construction is still going on - currently the segment to the largest cargo port in the country Ploce is being constructed and the plans are this highway to reach Dubrovnik. The the total length of the highway would be 475 km.

It is expected by 2012 another 5 bn kunas (800 mn euro) to be invested in new roads without the country being a member of the EU and without explaining every day how much it is going to build and not to build even a single kilometer.

Those are the facts. If this picture seems to you quite idyllic and far from our reality - you are wrong. In this country with 4.4 mn people population there is also corruption, there too people are not happy with the government, there too are police operations and there are former policemen in prison. Again in the "archive" I keep the following quote: "I have to admit that the worse is yet to come". These are the words of the former Croatian deputy prime minister and minister of the economy Damyr Polanchets, uttered almost a year after a session of the Buro of the ENP-ED group in Sofia. And the bad expectations were related to unemployment in Croatia. But .... no one is a prophet in his own country and a year later the bad news proved true for Polanchets himself, who is now in custody, accused of an official position abuse.

In their conversation the prime ministers of Bulgaria and Croatia last week might have mentioned this case. But they also might have not. Nonetheless, people there can go to the seaside normally and last year 11 mn tourists visited the country, of which 9 mn foreigners. This year in order to attract more guests, the Croats have decided to advertise their seaside in Bulgaria - it won't be a surprise if someone searched and searched for the highway to the seaside and .... arrived in Croatia.

*The pictures are a courtesy of the company, managing the Croatian highways Hrvatske Autoceste. euinside is grateful for their assistance.