The Western Balkans region commits to rehabilitating and building smarter, safer and more sustainable roads
Development of the indicative extension of the TEN-T Road Network to the Western Balkans will bring our region closer together and integrate it with the European Union. This was recognised as a key priority of the pledge “Dedication to Roads of the Future”, signed today by all transport ministers at the Western Balkans Road Summit held in Tirana. The summit, which was organised by the Transport Community Permanent Secretariat, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and under the auspices of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy of Albania, gathered ministers from the Western Balkans, representatives of the European Commission and road sector practitioners for discussions on how to create a climate resilient, intelligent, and resource-efficient road network in the Western Balkans.
The authorities committed to a number of priorities, including to put in place road maintenance systems, rehabilitate the existing infrastructure, work together on e-tolling interoperability, increase safety and build e-charging stations across the region. Exploiting the opportunities offered by digitalisation and innovation to attract young people and women to the sector and to improve services for businesses and people is also one of the priorities.
“I am pleased that governments in the region are dedicated to developing a sustainable road transport network, while at the same time promoting green mobility, climate proofing of road networks and the deployment of zero emission fuels. Greening of road transport must go hand in hand with improved road safety. The construction of safe infrastructure and protection of road users remain our priority as we all take concrete actions in our respective areas by adopting the “Vision Zero” perspective and the “Safe System” approach. This means acknowledging that when road crashes occur, a safe system will be in place to prevent serious injuries or deaths,” said Matej Zakonjsek, Director of the Transport Community Permanent Secretariat.
“Development of the indicative extension of the TEN-T Road Network to the Western Balkans will bring our region closer together and integrate it with the European Union”
In practice, this means identifying the most dangerous sections of the road network and increasing the safety of level crossings where 59% of fatal and serious accidents happen in the region. To tackle this issue, Transport Community developed a public awareness campaign to improve the safety of rail/road intersections that targets a wider audience via dedicated events, social media campaigns and printed materials. All the measures are aiming to reduce the number of accidents at rail level crossings towards “Vision Zero” deaths by 2050. The EIB also adopted the necessary strategies to integrate road safety into its compliance framework, create targeted investment programmes and increase advisory support in this area. The Bank is also targeting the rehabilitation and climate adaptation of existing road infrastructure and the development of a safer, green, smart and efficient road network in the region.
“Through new partnerships and financial platforms, the EIB has expanded its financing and advisory for investments contributing to safer transport as part of the global drive to halve the 1.35 million annual global road deaths by 2030. In the Western Balkans region, the EIB has financed the rehabilitation of and safety improvements to hundreds of kilometres of roads and is developing a region-wide programme for sustainable rehabilitation on the existing road network alongside the European Commission and other financing partners. Our aim is to adopt a holistic approach that ensures the economic viability of our road projects, including their adaptation to climate change, while respecting the environment, improving safety and promoting social well-being. With our new branch — EIB Global — we are ready to accelerate implementation of flagship projects under the Economic and Investment Plan,” said EIB Vice-President Lilyana Pavlova, responsible for the Western Balkans region.
Jürgen Rigterink, EBRD First Vice President, said: “Anyone who has travelled in the Western Balkans by road understands how important it is to have an integrated, functioning and resilient road network: for local communities, for trade and tourism, and for European integration. To date, the EBRD has provided financing of over €2.5 billion to build or upgrade approximately 40 roads in the Western Balkans. On 20 of these roads, works are either ongoing or about to start. For the next stage, we currently have nine projects in the pipeline. The planned extension of the European TEN-T transport networks, including roads, will connect more exporters with trade ports in the Adriatic and Black Seas, including two ports in the Western Balkans. Together with the European Union and other partners, we focus on building safe and well-maintained roads, making sure the financing is sustainable for the countries involved, and on decarbonising the sector.”
Road Summit participants expressed their dedication to making the road sector socially fair, by focusing on workers’ fundamental rights and healthy and safe working environment. Promoting a more inclusive, diverse and gender-balanced road sector will attract young people and offer better services for businesses and the general public.