Bulgaria's Road Infrastructure Agency (RIA) will only be assisted in its work, and not superseded, by a future project management company for the Strouma, Hemus and Black Sea motorways, the Regional Development and Public Works Ministry said on Wednesday.
Reacting to Bulgarian media reports that Brussels proposes shutting down the RIA, the Ministry said that the RIA is a major beneficiary of the EU-backed operational programmes for transport and regional development, under which Bulgaria has made huge efforts over the last year and a half to implement infrastructure projects. Besides that, the RIA is in charge of building, repairing and maintaining 418 km of motorways, 2,975 km of first-grade roads, 4,027 km of second-grade roads, 11,748 km of third-grade roads and 268 km of link roads out of a total of 19,436 km of roads in Bulgaria.
"Allegations by unnamed sources circulated by some media about a forthcoming shutdown of the RIA are aimed solely at discrediting and downplaying the work and the efforts of the Agency's employees and the Government," the Ministry said.
The implementation of strategic projects is a responsibility not only of the RIA but also of six ministries, a number of government agencies, regional organizations, municipal governments and the European Commission, the press release said. "In order to coordinate the activities of these bodies and make up for the delay in absorbing EU funds for roads, which occurred between 2007 and 2009, the Regional Development and Public Works Ministry set up a Unit for Control, Coordination and Communication in Managing Road Projects under Operational Programme Transport. The Unit, built in August of this year, has not taken over any functions, esponsibilities or duties from the RIA," the Ministry said.
The above-mentioned project management company for the three motorways will serve as a mechanism supplementing the work of the Government, the Regional Development and Public Works Ministry and the RIA only for these three infrastructure projects. The company will go into operation next year, the Ministry said.