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Romanian protest leader builds a one metre "motorway"

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Romanian protest leader builds a one metre "motorway"
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Romanians have long complained about the skeletal road network that holds back their economy - there are only around 800 kilometres of roads in a country which is only slightly smaller than the United Kingdom.

And according to the World Economic Forum, Romania still has the worst infrastructure of any EU state 12 years after joining the bloc. On a scale of one to seven its infrastucture only scores 2.96. France meanwhile stands at 5.96.

On Friday one businessman in the north-eastern city of Suceava in Moldavia staged his own symbolic protest aimed at shaming the central government into taking action.

The local mayor officially opened Stefan Mandachi's metre long "motorway" that he had built on his own land for just 4,500 Euros.

Mandachi, who owns the Spartan fast food chain, said he had got tired of all the promises the politicians have made in the last 30 years.

"I want highways here, in Moldova, in my region. Here, in Suceava, in my city," he told Euronews.

In the run up to Friday's protest he had called on other local businesses and people to support his “Romania wants motorways!” campaign.

It quickly struck a chord and went viral; tens of thousands of Romanians joined in. On Friday, as suggested by Mandachi, they stopped work at 1500 for 15 minutes around the country in protest.

Neculai Miron, the mayor of Bosanci, stated that local projects are often ignored by the government.

A new motorway to Bucharest would greatly boost economic development, he told Euronews.

"We've asked repeatedly for infrastructure projects financing, but we've got very little, so we've had to manage at a local level. For the communal infrastructure we got some European funding for a 5.2 km road and for the rest of our projects we will use the local budget," he said.

Romania’s motorway network is only 805 kilometres long and road building in the country is going at a very slow pace. Authorities have promised 118 kilometers will be ready by the end of 2019.

Before the protest the government said work would begin on Moldavia's first ever motorway and the transport minister visited the city of Bacau where it's scheduled to start.

But it's not just the quantity of roads in Romania that is the problem, it's their quality.

According to European Commission reports, Romania tops the list of road casualties in the European Union. In 2017 alone more than 1,900 people died on its roads and many say the poor state of the roads is a major factor.