Bulgaria, Romania want EU, Nato to clear Danube

SOFIA, Apr 5, 2000 -- (Reuters) Bulgaria and Romania urged the EU and NATO on Tuesday to help clear the Danube of wreckage caused by member states' 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia, saying only Belgrade gained by existing disruption to river traffic.

A joint appeal by the prime ministers of the two neighboring countries was handed over to ambassadors and representatives of the European Union and NATO states in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

"There is growing concern that the clogged Danube waterway hits the countries located downstream but not the regime in Belgrade," said Bulgaria's Transport and Communications Minister Antoni Slavinski.

"Reopening the waterway would put an end to the privileged position of the Yugoslav administration," he added.

The two countries have reported combined losses worth hundreds of millions of dollars because the river, among Europe's major transport arteries, had been closed at Novi Sad in Serbia by the wreckage of three bridges destroyed by NATO during last year's war over Kosovo.

The European Commission, following a meeting of international donors in Brussels last month, said it would help pay to clear the Danube before the summer to help restart the region's economy and the Bulgarian-Romanian appeal aimed at accelerating the works.

Bulgarian officials say Yugoslav shipowners have gained a monopoly of shipments between the divided parts of the Danube.

Yugoslav ships now transport upstream Bulgarian commercial goods, including traditional cargoes of sunflower, fertilizers and metals to Austria and Germany, they say.

Clearing of the Danube is estimated to cost some 22 million euro (dollars). Additional funding will be needed for building a new bridge at Novi Sad.

Original article