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New Bridge Opens Between Bulgaria And Romania

Vidin mayor Gergo Gergov hopes that the new bridge and other infrastructure projects in the region will help to break the isolation.

"So far businesses hesitated to use the river to develop relations with Europe, as ferryboat transportation was costly, and they looked mostly for local markets. Now this will change," he said.

The project was started in the late 1990s, when local and European Union officials became convinced of the bridge's necessity during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s, when highways and bridges were destroyed by bombs, cutting off routes from the Balkans to western Europe.

While foreign engineers and construction workers have pumped money into the local economy, the locals don't expect a windfall.

Borislav Markov, 57, moved four years ago to Spain with his family after he had lost his job as a construction worker. He returned briefly to his home town to see his sick mother.

"I have no big expectations for the future of the region. I don't believe that this bridge will bring any dramatic change. The only thing is that people can now walk on the bridge to Calafat to look for some cheaper goods," he said.

Vasil Iliev, who runs a small cafe in the city, says the result will be just more traffic.

"Few shops next to the bridge could profit from it, and most likely it would bring new clients for prostitutes and drug dealers," he complained.

Civil groups in Vidin have appealed to the authorities to improve the roads that lead to the bridge, or else risk leaving it as a beautiful monument.

"If there is no appropriate infrastructure," said Irena Alexandrova of the group I Love Vidin, "this will be a bridge to nowhere."

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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