PRISTINA, Feb 15 (Reuters) - The European Union has donated 38.5 million euros ($48 mln) to help Kosovo upgrade a railway line that will enable the Balkan country to link to western Europe.
Kosovo aims to join the European Union, which provides financing for membership candidates to improve their infrastructure ahead of entry to the bloc.
The 148 kilometre (92-mile) railway line, which Pristina aims to finish by 2021, will cost around 200 million euros in total and will link Kosovo with Macedonia to the south and Serbia to the north. It will also link to a major European rail route that runs from Austria to Greece and another that runs from Albania to the Black Sea coast.
Donors’ money and loans from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank will cover the rest of the financing.
Kosovo’s railway system is in poor condition following decades of neglect.
“This is not only important financially but also a signal of the trust, commitment and confidence the EU, the EBRD and our international partners are putting in us,” Kosovo’s Finance Minister Bedri Hamza said in a statement announcing the EU grant.
While Kosovo aims to join the European Union, it must first agree to normalise relations with Serbia.
Kosovo, which on Saturday will celebrate its 10th year of independence from Serbia, has built a motorway to link with Albania and Serbia and will soon finish another highway link with Macedonia. ($1 = 0.8009 euros) (Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Susan Fenton)