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PM Marković, Commissioner Hahn: EU assistance significantly contributes to improving connectivity infrastructure in WB, its integration into EU

PM Marković, Commissioner Hahn: EU assistance significantly contributes to improving connectivity infrastructure in WB, its integration into EU
Published date: 09.02.2018 17:06 | Author: PR Service

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Podgorica, Montenegro (9 February 2018) -- While visiting the railway infrastructure in Podgorica, which is being reconstructed from EU investments grants and credit-based European funds, Prime Minister of Montenegro Duško Marković and Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn agreed that the European Union's assistance significantly contributes to improving connectivity infrastructure in the Western Balkans, its faster development and integration into the EU.

“I am pleased that the Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn is in Podgorica today, and that we have the opportunity to exchange views on the Strategy for the Western Balkans and the support provided by the European Union and its member states to Montenegro and other countries of the region on their European path. I also welcome the presence of Head of European Investment Bank Regional Representation to Serbia and for the Western Balkans Dubravka Negre. This is an excellent example of cooperation between the Government of Montenegro, the EIB and the European Commission, which resulted in such successful projects. In addition to political, expert and technical support, the European Union also provides us with substantial financial support, and the largest part of these funds comes from the Western Balkan Investment Framework, through which the Union helps transport and energy connectivity in the region. Apart from the huge importance on economic and overall development of the Montenegrin society, the advancement of the transport infrastructure plays an important role in improving infrastructure links across the Western Balkans and between the region and the EU. Through this kind of support, especially through initiatives such as the Berlin Process, the EU contributes to the faster development of the region, more efficient and more quality fulfilment of obligations from the accession process and our stronger integration into the European Union,“ Prime Minister Marković said.

Montenegro is highest recipient of EU investment grants

Both Prime Minister Marković and Commissioner Hahn emphasised that Montenegro is the highest per capita recipient of EU investment grants under the Connectivity Agenda so far.

In addition to the project we have visited today, the EU has provided additional EUR 10 million for preparatory studies within the Western Balkans Investment Framework, and EUR 20 million for improving regional energy and transport links, he explained.

The "20 + 20" project includes five components: replacing the signalling systems, renovation of priority slopes, priority bridges, priority tunnels, and supervision over works on each component of the Bar - Vrbnica railway.

On 20 March 2017, the Railway Infrastructure of Montenegro (ZICG) signed a contract on financing the project using the new methodological framework of the Western European Investment Framework, approved and endorsed by the European Commission, financed through a EUR 20 million grant and a loan from the European Investment Bank.

EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn welcomed all the participants and stated that the Strategy for the Western Balkans, adopted 3 days ago, is aimed at supporting all the Western Balkan countries' EU bids.

“What we are doing in the European Commission is to invest in the development of our future member states. Citizens of Montenegro should see what are the positive impact and the added value of all these efforts,” Commissioner Hahn said.

He noted that at least 3 of the 6 priority areas from the Western Balkan Strategy are related to this specific project, namely connectivity, boosting economic development and further enhancing reconciliation and good neighbourly relations in the region.

"Modernisation of the railway is a strong contribution to these European goals. I am more than happy to participate today in this launch event," the EU Commissioner underscored.

He stressed that the EU remains committed to achieving Montenegro's full membership in the EU.

"The European Commission is committed to supporting the necessary modernisation of the Trans-European network in terms of highways connecting the Western Balkan region to the European Union, but also many other activities and initiatives which improve the living standards in the region and in Montenegro. In order to finance additional activities related to the Western Balkan Strategy, we have identified and gathered another EUR 500 million for the next three years. I am deeply convinced that Montenegro can achieve all the goals they have set themselves. European perspective is now clear and we should concentrate and do what is necessary in order to achieve the final goal – the accession of Montenegro to the European Union," the EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations underlined.

Head of the European Investment Bank for the Western Balkans Dubravka Negre pointed out that after successfully completed works less than a year ago, she is pleased with today's start of implementation of this important part of the project.

"Following the adoption of the Strategy for the Western Balkans, we look forward to further contributing to the process of integration, by combining our financial instruments with the EU budget, in order to prvide lasting and sustainable development, thus encouraging the necessary investments of the private sector ... By investing in the improvement of railway infrastructure with our partners from Montenegro, as well as the EU, we contribute to safer, cleaner, closer transport links that will connect the inhabitants of this country with their neighbours, but also with the EU," Ms Negre concluded.