On July 26, the 5.5 km long first section of the Nis-Merdare highway connecting south Serbia with Kosovo and Albania officially opened for traffic in the presence of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and the head of EU Delegation to Serbia, Emanuele Giaufret.
In his speech during the opening ceremony held in Merosina, a southeastern municipality of the country, President Vucic said that compared to its size, Serbia has the highest number of new roads under construction in Europe.
Serbia must be connected with Gracanica and Pristina, in Kosovo, and Durres, in Albania, Vucic told the gathered, because that is what attracts the investors and allows faster progress, making import and export of goods and services more accessible and quicker. “We have to promote collaboration, work harder, and live better. Economic growth will allow Serbia to bridge the gap with the developed countries,” Vucic said.
Giaufret called road-building a symbol of European integration. “A road is a transport route, but also a link connecting the people in the region. This road is a road of stability, peace, and reconciliation. It will connect Nis with the Adriatic Sea, via the Durres port, and it will be the backbone of the regional road map,” the head of the EU Delegation said.
He pointed out that financing the Nis-Merdare highway was a part of the EU plan for the Western Balkans, which predicts that by 2027, EUR30 billion will be provided for the utilization of the region’s various significant potentials. The construction of this road is part of an extensive economic investment plan, Giaufret recalled.
The Merosina-Merosina 1 section which has just opened, is one of the four sections of the 32.65 km long highway connecting Nis and Beloljin. The construction of the four sections, worth EUR225.6 million, is financed by grants from the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF) – EUR40.6 million, and loans from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) – amounting to EUR185 million.
The total length of the Nis-Merdare highway will be 77 km, and according to the plans, it should comprise 88 bridges, seven level crossings, and 35 tunnels. The construction of the thoroughfare, named the Peace Highway, will cost a total of EUR1.4 billion and will connect south Serbia with Pristina and the Albanian Adriatic coastline.