First Section of the EU-financed Peace Highway in Serbia Open
On 26 June 2023, the Ambassador of the European Union to Serbia, Emanuele Giaufret, and the President of the Republic of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, inaugurated the first part of the EU supported Niš-Merdare highway in Southern Serbia.
Also known as the “Peace Highway“, this road will better connect people, towns and businesses, leading to economic progress in Southern Serbia and more efficient trade connections of the region and the EU. The Niš-Merdare Highway E-80 is part of the road axis that links Bulgaria with the Adriatic Sea towards Albania and thus has also a wider regional dimension. When completed, the travel time between Niš and Merdare will be halved and road safety will increase significantly.
The Peace highway connects Serbia and Kosovo through three sections: Niš (Merošina) - Pločnik (Beloljin) and Pločnik (Beloljin) - Merdare in Serbia and Merdare - Pristina in Kosovo. The total length of the highway is 103.4 km, with 76.4 km in Serbia and 27 km in Kosovo. The estimated total investment for Serbia and Kosovo is €947m (€739m in Serbia and €208m in Kosovo), supported by €140.4m in EU grants through the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF).
Complementing the EU grants, over €180m are secured through favourable loans from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and the rest is financed by the Serbian government. The contract for this first part of the highway was signed in September 2021 during the visit of European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen.
“The road is primarily a transport route, but also a connection of people in the region. We want the roads to be a symbol of peace and stability in the region. This road will connect the South of Serbia with the Western Balkans network and enable the free flow of people, goods and capital, from Niš, via Pristina to Tirana and Durrës,” Ambassador Giaufret said.
As he pointed out, the road should be “a road of peace, stability and reconciliation, and that is why it got the name the Peace Highway. The 5.5-kilometer section that we opened today is the first segment of a much larger project that will connect Niš and other cities in this part of Serbia with the Adriatic Sea through Durrës.”
EIB Vice-President, Lilyana Pavlova, said: “Once completed, the new road will halve travel time between Niš and Merdare while increasing road capacity and safety. As a flagship project under the Economic and Investment Plan, it will provide a faster connection between countries in the region and the European Union, thus contributing to the economic cooperation and development of districts in Southern and Central Serbia.”
Peace Highway Serbia - Merosina section video (c) WBIF, May 2023
“I want to thank our partners from the European Union for their great support and help. They gave us 40 million euros as a gift for this road, it’s called a grant, that’s how much we got from the taxpayers of the European Union. Thank you for that, it’s a lot of money for our country,” Vučić pointed out and especially thanked the EIB and the EBRD, which were good financiers on very favourable terms. ”This will be one of the busiest highways in just 20, 30 years. When you look at things, when you evaluate them, don’t look at them today, but in 20, 25 years,” noted President Vučić.
The “Peace Highway” is one of the flagships projects within the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans. The plan sets out among other priorities the support for major road and railway projects in order to support the better connection between the economies within the region and with the EU. Other major transport projects under the plan are the new railway sections from Belgrade to Niš. The plan is expected to mobilise over €30bn until 2027.
Peace Highway Factsheet, July 2023
More about the event here