Bulgaria, Romania agree to second Danube bridge

BRUSSELS, Feb 8, 2000 -- (Reuters) Romania and Bulgaria patched up a long-standing dispute on Monday, agreeing at talks sponsored by the European Union to build a second bridge over the Danube river which separates them.

"The technical design and the construction of a second combined bridge over the Danube River between Bulgaria and Romania will begin as soon as possible. The technical design will start not later than May 2000," according to a joint statement.

Romania and Bulgaria, which will join talks on EU membership next Tuesday, have long disagreed about the location of a second bridge, and Romania's Transport Minister Traian Basescu said recently a new bridge should be built only when economically profitable.

The joint statement said the bridge would be located along an EU-defined transport corridor. The pan-European corridor stretches from the German town of Dresden in the north, forking into two to end in the Greek town of Thessaloniki and Turkey's Istanbul.

The statement said agreement on the precise location should be reached by March 20. The bridge is expected to win financing under the western Stability Pact aimed at stabilizing southeastern Europe after the conflict in Kosovo.

Romania said in the statement it would not provide any money for the project.

The EU's Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen told reporters the agreement heralded better bilateral relations between the two countries and progress towards regional integration in southeastern Europe.

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