Over the last 12 years, I’ve had the immense privilege of working with our customers across Southeastern Europe – including in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Kosovo— to support the modernization of their roads and economic corridor infrastructure. The region is on a path to closer integration with its European neighbors, and its leaders are opening up to international contractors and expertise to create greater trade opportunities for their people.
It is that leadership that sees the opportunity today to move towards a greener future. Serbian energy and mining minister Zorana Mihajlovic recently said to me: ‘For us, green energy, as the basis for the development of the green economy, and renewable energy sources, are extremely important.’ I applaud that. Many of her country’s citizens rely on coal for heat and power. Moving to clean, reliable energy will have a positive impact on the health of those people, as well enhancing the long-term economic prosperity – making it attractive to foreign investment.
Long-term investments needed for hydro power, solar, biogas, and wind are estimated at €20 billion or more. The challenge is considerable, and we are proud to support the region on its path to a cleaner, more prosperous region. The Energy Community Initiative is creating an integrated effort with the EU market to commit to more sustainable alternatives to coal. Practical and effective infrastructure solutions should include smart motorways, as we’re building in Serbia; electrified rail, to complement the strategic roads network; and cleaner power – including the hydro-electric dam in Albania that would make the country energy self-reliant. With increasing pressures on budgets, particularly from the Covid pandemic, we stand ready to facilitate financing solutions that work in the best interests of our customers to make these projects of national significance happen.
Bechtel have been a trusted partner to the region’s governments, businesses, and communities for more than 30 years. In addition to building motorways connecting to parts of Europe, we have assisted in disaster relief efforts, provided training to the region’s companies and employees, and recently sponsored a summer camp to encourage girls in STEAM education. We are committed to building the next generation of engineers, project managers and construction workers in the region, for the region. On our projects, more than 80% of the workforce were local hires, and more than 60% of the project value remained in the country.
At peak construction, the Route 6 roadway project – which was completed last year – was the largest employer in Kosovo. During the construction of this motorway, The Bechtel-ENKA team also partnered with Kosovo’s Ministry of Environment to restore 6 miles (10 kilometers) of the Lepence river, which had been used as a trash dump. The water quality improvement processes used have since inspired new environmental standards for the country. With this and other activities Route 6, which was completed in 2019, received the International Road Federation Global Road Achievement Awards for Environmental Mitigation with its “Building the Green Corridor” initiative.
These are the results that we will strive for as we support the governments of Serbia and her neighbors to accelerate the transition to green energy and deliver some of the best and most innovative solutions that will build on solid foundations for the region’s development and prosperity.