Delays and tail-backs on the border between Kosovo and fYR Macedonia should soon become a thing of the past, thanks to major EU-funded works to improve the heavily-used Hani I Elezit/General Jankovic border crossing. On December 11th the European Agency for Reconstruction officially handed over the site both to the Kosovo Ministry of Transport and Communications within the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG), and to the Customs and Railways Department in the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
The Hani i Elezit / General Jankovic border crossing is on the main supply route to Kosovo, and the railway line between FYR Macedonia and Kosovo runs alongside the terminal. The upgrade of the crossing has been a priority since the earliest days of EU engagement in Kosovo. The works have, however, been delayed over unresolved issues on the expropriation of land. Once these had been resolved, the works started in May 2002. A new route that begins some 0.5 kilometres before the existing terminal has been built and laid in asphalt. This is large enough to allow snowploughs to operate when needed. The parking lot for the trucks (where the customs terminal is also located) has been significantly improved. New electrical connections, lighting and drainage systems have been installed. All the other components of a modern border crossing, such as proper fencing, barriers and bumpers, are included in the project. "After almost nine months of hard work, the Agency is proud to hand over the site," says Enrico Maglia, Transport Programme Manager in the Agency's Operational Centre in Pristina. "We attach a great deal of importance to the project: once the works are finished on the FYR Macedonia side, we will be able to witness all of its benefits. There will be no more long lines of trucks blocking one of the two available lanes, and there will be vastly improved conditions for customs. The successful completion of the works could not have been accomplished without the extremely good cooperation between the Agency, UNMIK and the PISG."
Contract awarded for major fire damage repairs at Kosovo B power plant
Continuing the major EU-funded efforts to improve the supply of electricity in Kosovo, the Agency - together with UNMIK - has awarded a €38.3 million contract to repair the extensive damage caused to Kosovo B power plant, when it was hit last year by a bolt of lightning. The work will be carried out by a consortium of the French/German company ALSTOM, and KOCH of Germany. The contract, which is financed jointly by the EU and UNMIK, was awarded following an open international tender.
The lightning strike of 19th July ignited a major fire within the power plant, which caused severe damage to the electrical and control systems, and burned down the common control room of units B1 and B2. This resulted in a total loss of power generation from Kosovo B of around 550MW, constituting a major blow to the power supply in Kosovo. UNMIK provided funds for an emergency repair of the least damaged unit B2, in order to enable the unit to become operational in December 2002 and to supply much needed power generation for this coming winter.
The work being carried out by ALSTOM and KOCH will include rebuilding the common control room, and installing new control and electrical systems, including fire protection. The completion date for both units is expected to be December 2003.
Plans for restructuring Kosovo's irrigation systems
The EU continues to fund major irrigation works in Kosovo, aiming to undo the effects of a decade of neglect and finally war which reduced the irrigated area by 3/4s to some 20,000 ha only. In the 1980s Kosovo exported high value agricultural products all over Yugoslavia, while at present some 50% of these products are being imported. Farming has become mostly 'subsistence farming' encouraging a drift of the rural population into towns, where there is also very little employment. The Agency has to date committed nearly €12 million towards funding much needed rehabilitation in Kosovo's six main irrigation schemes. A recent Agency-funded project carried out by DHV Consultants from Holland has investigated ways of strengthening the six Irrigation Providers (IPs), to make them financially self-sustainable. Plans propose that the Radoniqi and Dukagjini schemes be merged into one irrigation business unit under Hidrosistemi Radoniqi; while the schemes of Lumi I Bardhe, Drini I Bardhe and Istog become one unit; and Iber Lepenc becomes an independent business unit. The process of merging Radoniqi and Dukagjini is already under way. An action plan is being developed setting out the various actions to be taken. It is expected that the merger will be complete within two months. The other mergers will be completed before the end of 2003. The financial self-sufficiency of the schemes will, however, not be achieved by restructuring only. Organizational and staff strengthening activities will also be required, and a detailed institutional strengthening plan has been developed.