EU Prize Highlights Cross-Border Collaboration

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An award-winning investigation into a $75m road-building contract underscores the importance of cross-border collaboration.

An investigation into how a multi-million-dollar road construction contract was quietly handed to a consortium with little highway-building experience was made possible thanks to close collaboration between journalists in Kosovo and Serbia.

The story, which secured third prize last week in the European Union’s investigative journalism awards for Serbia [], was produced as part of the Austrian-Development-Cooperation funded “A Paper Trail to Better Governance”  project.

BIRN assembled a team of five investigative journalists in Albania, Austria, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia to carry out a series of pioneering, year-long, cross-border investigations into the biggest players in this road building industry, their links to power and how they have spent – and sometimes squandered – massive public budgets.

Investigations, including the award-winning story – Veselinovic-linked Consortium Bags 75m Dollar Contract in Secret Deal,  were published on a bespoke webpage – Road to Ruin []. It features an interactive map of highway projects as well as background material on how corruption affects the construction industry.

The prize-winning story was compiled by Petrit Colaku and Kreshnik Gashi in Pristina and Ivan Angelovski, and Jelena Cosic in Belgrade.

Project editor Lawrence Marzouk said: “Working across borders was absolutely critical for this story as it required official documents from institutions in both Serbia and Kosovo, as well as on the ground contacts.

“With the team’s close collaboration, we were able to build the full picture of Zvonko Veselinovic’s shady business deals.

“This investigation is just one excellent example of the many stories published as part of the project which would not have been possible without strong teams, working together across the region”.

“A Paper Trail to Better Governance” project started in October 2013 and has honed the skills of dozens of investigative journalists in the Balkans and Moldova, helping reporters to hold officials to account and improving the implementation and use of freedom of information laws.

BIRN Serbia journalist Aleksandar Djordjevic won first prize in the EU for his report entitled “Pumping Out the Pit and the Budget”.