Doubts over costly bridge to link Germany to Denmark

15th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

15 June 2007, Berlin (dpa) - After 15 years of planning, hopes are dwindling that a prestigious 20-kilometre-long bridge linking Germany with Denmark will be built. Denmark until recently hoped that the European Union would provide a grant covering up to a third of the 5.5 billion euros (7.2 billion dollars) the project would cost, but that hope is now being dismissed by the EU as "unrealistic." In another blow for the bridge promoters, German Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee, has made clear that the

15 June 2007

Berlin (dpa) - After 15 years of planning, hopes are dwindling that a prestigious 20-kilometre-long bridge linking Germany with Denmark will be built.

Denmark until recently hoped that the European Union would provide a grant covering up to a third of the 5.5 billion euros (7.2 billion dollars) the project would cost, but that hope is now being dismissed by the EU as "unrealistic."

In another blow for the bridge promoters, German Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee, has made clear that the Baltic Sea project linking Puttgarden in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein to Roedby in Denmark, is not on his ministry's list of investment priorities.

Barely three weeks remain before an approval deadline set by the Berlin and Copenhagen governments expires.

For decades Danish and German engineers have dreamed of building the "Fehmarn Bridge" which planners said would be secured by four giant pylons soaring 280 metres skywards.

Danish politicians were excited by the project, convinced it would boost trade between the two countries. Germany is Denmark's biggest foreign trading partner, and central Europe its main sales outlet.

A number of German politicians also backed the project. But in recent years they have grown increasingly wary, noting that alternative means of travel and communication between the two countries have been greatly developed in the past decade.

Under EU rules, Germany and Denmark must formally lodge the bridge project with the EU Commission by July, if they are to stand a chance of getting funding assistance.

"The 5.5 billion euros is a lot of money to spend on a bridge when you consider there have long been alternative transport routes to and from Scandinavia," says Michael Cramer, a Greens deputy in the European parliament.

In his view, the Fehmarn Bridge idea dates back to the Cold War era. Since 1989 transport developments within Europe have changed tremendously, he says.

Ferries ply between the German port of Rostock and Gedser in Denmark on a daily basis. Other shipping links between Trelleborg in Sweden and German ports have also multiplied.

Transport links between Germany, Denmark and Sweden were given an additional boost in the year 2000 when the Oersund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark - regarded as a model for the Fehmarn bridge - was inaugurated.

If the Fehmarn Bridge is built, it could have a negative impact on ports in the northern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and in Sweden, which have all spent considerable sums of money on harbour modernization schemes in recent years, Cramer says.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Transport Minister Otto Ebnet is adamantly opposed.

"The Fehmarn Bridge is superfluous. We don't need it," he says, arguing that Baltic Sea ferry transports to Scandinavia have boomed in the past decade. And they do not need subsidy.

Denmark's biggest daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten wrote recently that the government acknowledged the bridge was a lost cause - "so long as Germany shows no genuine interest in the project."

Until a few months ago Jyllands-Posten, along with large sections of the nation's political spectrum, had feverishly supported building the bridge.

The opposition Social Democrats, whose backing would be needed by premier Anders Fogh Rasmussen's minority government if it came to a parliamentary vote, take a similar view.

The talk was of the EU possibly contributing 1.5 billion euros in grants if the project was given the nod.

But, as Jyllands-Posten points out, the envisaged Fehmarn bridge is now up against 29 other major pan-European infrastructure projects aimed at improving communications.

This comes at a time when EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot's budget has been cut. "There will be a fight for the money," says Anne E Jensen, a member of the European parliament and a defiant backer of the project.

DPA

Subject: German news

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