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On 9 February the European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, and Montenegrin PM Dusko Markovic visited a railway reconstruction project in Podgorica. Hahn and Markovic agreed that this project, funded through the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF), is a good example of the help that the EU provides to Montenegro on its integration path.
Commissioner Hahn said that the EU is continuing to invest in its future member states and that the citizens of Montenegro can see the positive effect of those efforts. He stressed the importance of the newly adopted Western Balkans Strategy.
“The concrete project here covers three of the six areas from the Western Balkans Strategy. It is about connectivity, it’s about boosting economic development and further enhancing reconciliation and good neighbourly relations. In order to finance additional activities related to the Western Balkans Strategy we have identified and gathered an additional €500 million for the next three years, in order to stimulate all those activities and initiatives,” said Hahn.
PM Markovic said that improving the transport infrastructure is very important for the connectivity of the region and the EU.
“In addition to its political, professional and technical support, the European Union is also providing significant financial support, and most of these funds come from the Western Balkans Investment Framework, through which the EU is aiding transport and energy connectivity in the region as important links in economic development and social progress,” said Markovic.
The Head of the Western Balkan Regional Office of the European Investment Bank (EIB), Dubravka Nègre, said that the main works on this complex project will start soon.
“Since the construction of this railway, 40 years ago, there haven’t been any major reconstruction works done on it. This is also one of the most complex railway routes in Europe in terms of maintenance. So the work ahead of us is hard and demanding but in cooperation with our partners we will finish it successfully,” said Nègre.
The “Reliability and Safety Improvement of the Bar–Vrbnica Railway Line” project is worth €40 million. Half is provided from an EU grant through the Western Balkans Investment Framework and the other half is from an EIB loan. After finalisation of the project, the approximately 750,000 passengers that use this railway route every year will travel safer and faster.
Video about the visit can be found here.