Top officials launch key investment
Kidričevo - Prime Minister Janez Janša, his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban and Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman addressed a ceremony in the north-east of the country on Wednesday launching construction of a power line that will link the three countries.
The 80-kilometre power line between Cirkovce near Ptuj and Pince on the border with Hungary will establish a link between the Hungarian and Slovenian national grids and consequently Croatia's.
The EUR 150 million project has been almost two decades in the making, mainly due to lengthy zoning procedures.
Janša noted that it took ten times as long to prepare the project as it would to build it; ELES, the national grid operator, expects for the 2x400 kV power line to be linked internationally by the end of 2021 with the project to be fully completed with final details by the end of 2022.
"Unfortunately, we have terrible difficulties in Slovenia when it comes to the speed of development projects and their siteing, not so much with construction as with red tape," Janša said, adding that the project should serve as a further encouragement that procedures should never again take that long.
He said the power line was of exceptional importance not only for Slovenia but for a broader region despite the fact that electricity was being taken for granted, just like health before one got sick.
He thanked those responsible in Hungarian and Croatian institutions for making the project possible, praising excellent cooperation between the three countries during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in spring.
Orban labelled today's event as historic, not only because of the energy link between the two countries, but also because of a vital moment between the nations.
He said Central Europe was gaining on significance as the centre of development was moving eastward. "The EU is not just a German-French matter, it's also links between the countries that are gaining on value, which is making them a site of geopolitical games and interests of the big ones," said Orban.
He underscored energy policy and cooperation in the field as an important aspect that boosts the region's position. He predicted a further step in that direction as Slovenia and Hungary agree enhancing their gas pipeline and rail links.
The Croatian foreign minister said the power line construction was in the interests of the whole EU as the bloc sought to strengthen infrastructure links in Central Europe.
He said additional steps would be needed in the future to make the energy system reliable in the long term because the role of the sector would be vital for the EU's economic recovery.
ELES boss Aleksander Mervar said the power line would create the first cross-border link with Hungary's grid, thus increasing the system's reliability.
The project is valued at about EUR 150 million, of which EUR 50 million will come in EU funds.
After the ceremony, Janša and Orban met over working lunch for discussion on bilateral matters, topical EU issues and the coronavirus pandemic.