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Albania’s government has announced the introduction of tolls on the country's highways, including the recently completed road to Kosovo, in order to cope with maintenance costs.
|Albania-Kosovo Highway during construction in 2009 | Photo by : Besar Likmeta|
“This country does not have the public capacities for its maintenance,” said Prime Minister Sali Berisha in a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, while explaining that the supervision of the highway will move into private hands and will be financed by tolls.
Berisha also announced that concessions for road management and tolls might be introduced in other sections of the country’s highway network.
“The general road directorate does not have the capacities to manage them,” Berisha explained.
The Albania-Kosovo highway, which links the port of Durres on Albania’s Adriatic coast with Kosovo, is the country largest public works project in decades.
Built by the American-Turkish consortium Bechtel-Enka, the four-lane highway is expected to strengthen the already deep ties between Albania and Kosovo, where more than 90 per cent of the population of 2 million is of Albanian descent.
The one billon euro plus road project, which include a six kilometer long tunnel, has made travel much easier for the hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians who cross the border to take their summer holidays in Albania each year.
The road has been dubbed the “patriotic highway,” reflecting the widely perceived geopolitical motives behind the project – and the fact that no feasibility study was ever undertaken into the possible return on investment for the massive undertaking.
Corruption allegations and cost overruns have led many to question the ultimate value of the highway's construction.
In two high-profile war crimes trials currently ongoing in Pristina, a series of witnesses have retracted previous statements alleging abuse at Kosovo Liberation Army detention centres.