Bulgaria approves opening of new border checkpoint on Danube Bridge 2

Bulgaria’s caretaker Cabinet approved on April 24 the draft intergovernmental agreement on opening a new checkpoint on the border with Romania at the site of the bridge over the Danube River, linking Vidin on the Bulgarian bank to Calafat in Romania.

The agreement will allow setting up the checkpoint before the bridge begins operations, the Government’s press service said.

In a separate decision, the Cabinet also approved and put forth for ratification the intergovernmental agreement to set up a joint venture that would operate the bridge.

This agreement would provide the necessary legal basis for the effective management of the bridge and shorten the period of recouping the funds invested in building the bridge, the Cabinet said.

The company’s headquarters will be in Vidin and will be registered under Bulgarian law, with an office to be opened in Calafat. The company’s equity will be 300 000 leva.

Although the statement did not specify the exact shareholder breakdown between the Bulgarian and Romanian governments, it did say that the larger part of the net profit will go to the Bulgarian state. This will enforce one of the provisions of an intergovernmental agreement signed in 2000, which stipulated that the profits will be split proportionally to the investment made by the two countries in building the bridge.

Danube Bridge 2 was completed last year, but required additional infrastructure work by Spanish contractor FCC. It was due to be opened on May 8, during a visit to Bulgaria by European Commissioner for regional development Johannes Hahn.

With the resignation of the Boiko Borissov cabinet earlier in February, Hahn’s visit has been postponed and it is unclear when the bridge would officially start operations.

The idea to build a second bridge over the Danube between Romania and Bulgaria has been proposed for years, but ran into funding difficulties as the two countries dealt with the economic ramifications of transition to a market economy in the 1990s.

Construction became feasible when the EU agreed to provide funding. In the end, the bloc financed a third of the construction costs through its pre-accession aid instrument Ispa, with the final costs at 300 million euro.

Although the bridge was initially to be completed by the end of 2011, the European Commission agreed to extend the deadline by one year, allowing the two countries to use Ispa funding instead of having to foot part of the rising costs themselves.

(The only bridge currently in operation between Romania and Bulgaria, pictured, is further downstream, linking Rousse on the Bulgarian bank to Giurgiu in Romania. Photo: garycycles7/flickr.com)



The Sofia Globe staff

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