• Concerns over new member states’ road schemes

    Environmental NGOs from central and eastern Europe are asking the Commission to keep a closer watch on major road schemes that involve private funding.

    They fear that several road schemes being pushed through as part of EU trans-European transport networks priority projects, are continuing to have inadequate financial and environmental assessments.

    Friends of the Earth’s Czech office is alarmed at
    suggestions from the Czech government that it hopes to placate land speculation lobbies over the Brno to Vienna stretch of the Katowice-Vienna TEN-T priority project. Land in two alternative areas that the road might pass through has been bought up; the Czech government is currently backing roads to be built through both areas.
    Another eastern European major road project, the Western High Speed Diameter highway in St Petersburg, has been postponed until 2011 because of budgetary and environmental concerns.

    The proposed road would bisect Russia’s second city, impact on residential areas, and damage a significant nature reserve. Campaigners have called on the government to use the two-year postponement to develop more sustainable alternatives to the project.

    Both the Brno and St Petersburg schemes involve private money, and NGOs led by CEE Bankwatch Network are growing increasingly concerned about corners being cut as the EC seeks to use public-private partnerships more in realising TEN-T projects (see www.bankwatch.org/documents/never_mind_the_balance_sheet.pdf).

    The Commission is expected to publish its latest TEN-T review later this month.