BRITISH CONSULTANTS were this week preparing for a £150bn bonanza of water, environmental, transport and power work in Eastern Europe following Ireland's vote in favour of further European Union expansion.
Last weekend Irish voters finally approved plans to allow 10 more countries to join the European Union (EU) in a referendum.
The vote was the last obstacle to EU expansion ratified by the other member states under the Treaty of Nice, in March 2001.
Ireland voted 'no' in an earlier referendum last year.
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia will join the EU in 2004 followed by Romania and Bulgaria in 2007.
Consultants hope to take advantage of up to £8bn of extra EU funding that is expected to be pumped into infrastructure and environmental improvements. The countries currently receive £1bn a year.
Halcrow Water chief executive John Lawson said these countries also needed to spend £94M on water and environmental work alone over the next 20 years. This will be funded by the EU, government and private finance. .
The work includes building new wastewater treatment works to ensure all countries meet the European Commission's Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive.
Mott MacDonald and Atkins said they were preparing for billions of pounds of new road and railway spending. The new EU members are expected to spend on improved transport links.
Consultants are also hoping to win work on power stations, buildings and telecommunications.
INFOPLUS For more on the Treaty of Nice go to www. europa. eu. int