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Lands of opportunity

EU accession, RedR reorganises - Romania and Bulgaria join the European Union on 1 January, setting a challenge for local and international engineers.

Last week the European Union (EU) confi med that Bulgaria and Romania will become full European Union members from 1 January 2007.

The announcement is expected to trigger a boom in infrastructure investment in both countries, on top of preaccession spending already allocated.

British companies are already well placed to benefit.

'In January the pre-accession funding will be mirrored by EU structural and cohesion funds.

There will be considerably increased spending on transport and water infrastructure, ' explains British Contractors & Consultants Bureau (BCCB) director for Europe and the Americas Nigel Peters.

'But it is not just building, there is a lot of work to be done on institutional development, communities and legislation, - the softer side of development, ' he says.

It is in both of these areas that British consultants are well placed to provide support and advice.

'We are working on transport and urban water projects and there is also lots of risk analysis to be carried out, such as flood risk and seismic risk, ' says Halcrow regional managing director Europe Roger Hoad.

'In Romania, a major challenge is investment in the railways, which hasn't really started. It is going to be expensive, ' he says. At the moment the railway rests in the hands of the government.

'It is nationally owned but a restructuring is a possibility, as the country becomes much more market driven. Generally there will be more PPP opportunities in the future, ' says Hoad.

Water infrastructure also needs a drastic upgrade.

'Most towns do have water and wastewater infrastructure but the standard is very variable, ' says Mott MacDonald water utilities director Richard Moult about Romania.

Until about three years ago the Water Service was run by the municipalities. But under the EU they have been setting up regional operating companies to form larger organisations better able to carry out infrastructure investment, ' he says.

Similar progress is also being made in Bulgaria.

'Bulgaria is more advanced, but the development is mired in politics, ' says CIWEM International director Paul Horton.

Sofi has a concession with United Utilities and other regions are looking to work like that. But each region needs the approval of a number of authorities within it to make progress.

So if one councillor says 'no' to something, , work is scuppered, ' he says.

So far, UK companies have had more success in Romania than Bulgaria.

'Both countries are challenging to work in, but people have found the Romanians have accepted need for international expertise in a better way, ' says the BCCB's Peters.

EU identified improvement areas Bulgaria

Fighting corruption

Judicial reform

Agricultural reform

Food safety standards

Tackling organised crime

Aviation safety Romania

Fighting corruption

Judicial reform

Agriculture

Food safety standards

Taxation reform

Human trafficking Concerns over human trafficking are so serious the UK's Serious Organised Crime Unit has visited major British contractors to warn them of the risks of organised crime gangs infiltrating the construction industry.

Particular fears surround the Olympics construction boom (NCE 24/31 August). According to the EU monitoring report on the state of readiness for accession, these fears are well founded, especially in Bulgaria.

'Bulgaria remains a country of transit and origin for the trafficking of human beings, ' says the report.

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