Enlargement, 3 years after
European Commission - Enlargement, 3 years after - Safer for all Europeans on the move
Safer for all Europeans on the move: improving road safety in Lithuania.
Lithuania is the largest of the three Baltic countries, both in terms of its population (almost 3,5 million) and of its territory (65,300 square kilometres). In 2004 and 2005, its economy registered important rates of annual growth, of around 7% and 5,5%, respectively.
Lithuania's strong economic performance benefits not only Lithuanians, but also people in other countries of the European Union. As its economy has modernized and grown, and especially after accession to the EU on 1 May 2004, Lithuania has become an important market for exports coming from other EU Member States: according to figures of the German Chamber of Trade and Industry (DIHK), in 2005 exports to Lithuania were estimated at almost 2 billion Euro.
As has been the case in other new Member States in the past, assistance from the European Union (EU) Structural Funds has given a strong impulse to the economy in Lithuania. The funds are being used for the development of key sectors like industry, enterprise, transport and energy. Large amounts have also been allocated to reducing unemployment, the modernisation of the countryside and the further development of the education and health sectors.
The effect that these funds have is quite tangible and benefits the lives of people in Lithuania, as well as those of people doing business with or visiting the country.
Because of Lithuania's geographic location -- it is the southernmost of the three Baltic States, bordering with Latvia to the North, Belorussia to the East, Poland to the South and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad to the West – it is an important crossroads for all land transport in the region.
After Latvia, Lithuania ranks second in the EU in terms of the number of road-traffic accidents per person. Traffic accidents are one of the major causes of death across the EU. In 2002, for example, 1,7 million people were injured and 50,000 died in road-traffic accidents EU-wide. Road-traffic accidents are the main cause of death for young people between 15 and 24 years of age.
Structural Funds are being used to improve road safety in Lithuania. Thanks to this support, European road-safety standards are now being implemented in the country. In 2004, a project to implement these measures received an EU grant of about 9,5 million Euro.
“To reduce the rate of accidents, we are trying to improve communications in the road sections that are particularly problematic, the so-called 'black spots'," says Kastytis Grigas, Chief Expert in the Lithuanian Road Authority under the Ministry of Communications. “With EU assistance, we are able to carry out works all over Lithuania”, he explains.
The works cover many different aspects of road safety. Intersections are being reconstructed and crash barriers are being built. To protect pedestrians and cyclists, special paths are being laid parallel to roads. Following EU regulations, roadside drains are being reconstructed and windows in the houses near roads are being replaced.
But road safety is not just concrete and tar. In woodlands, approximately 12 kilometres of wire fencing are being installed in order to prevent forest animals from moving across roads. The project also provides for the installation of special barriers and culverts for amphibians on some roads.
With the support of the EU, Lithuania is upgrading its network of roads in order to ensure better chances of a safe return to all Europeans on the move.