Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Greece’s Highways Are Smoother Than Its Finances

by Marc Champion


July 18, 2012

Driving across Europe, the roads tell you a lot about the continent and its crisis.

Cross the border to Greece from Bulgaria or Turkey -- as I recently did on a 2,800 mile road-trip from Istanbul to London -- and you move from narrow, potholed, lethal truck runs onto the wide and empty magic carpets of Greece's freeways. The financial crisis is global, but it's Greece that's a mess, despite (or maybe because of) its wealth of infrastructure.

Having highways is good. They support commerce and reduce road fatalities. They connect Europeans again, like Roman roads did when Thessaloniki in northern Greece was an important center for the empire. If you need to get your car across the continent, as I did, they're a godsend.

Highway networks are also part of the trappings and signals of having made it in Europe. Greece, which joined the European Union in 1981, now has plenty of motorways. Its neighbors still aspire.

The Greek highways were rolled out thanks in large part to EU development funds. In the 2000-2006 budget period, Greece spent 5.3 billion euros of its 11.6 billion euros of EU development aid on transport. That accounted for 19 percent of the total EU funds spent on the sector, second only to Spain, at 35 percent.


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