Hungary and Slovakia signed a letter of intent Tuesday to build two new bridges along a river separating the two countries. The bridges across the Ipoly River are planned to be completed in late 2007. By then, both countries are expected to be part of the European Union's Schengen zone, where travelers can move across borders without mandatory passport controls. The two countries joined the EU last year.
"These bridges will be able to increase the region's competitiveness, attract new investments and bring new jobs," Hungarian Economics Minister Janos Koka said after signing the letter of intent with Slovak Transport Minister Pavol Prokopovic, the AP informs.
Each bridge will cost US$2.4-$3.3 million and up to 85 percent of their cost could be financed by EU funds for infrastructure development, Koka added.
Currently there are only four bridges across on the 120-kilometer (75 mile) stretch of the Ipoly, called Ipel in Slovakia, which runs along the border between Hungary and Slovakia. Several bridges in the area were destroyed during World War II.
One bridge will be built between the towns of Postenypuszta in Hungary and Slovakia's Petov, while the other will link Nogradszakal and Mula. Each bridge will be around 150 meters (yards) long and wide enough to accommodate trucks.
If the initial projects are successful, there are plans to build six more bridges across the Ipoly. Some 520,000 ethnic Hungarians live in Slovakia, most in the southern parts bordering Hungary.