For thousands of years the Danube River has been used by nations as a key route of transport. Researchers
have found that a river crossing point had been developed in the region of today’s Esztergom and Štúrovo
(Párkány) already in the Bronze Age and roads crossing the river have been leading through this area ever since then. The construction of the first permanent iron bridge was started towards the end of the 19th century and the bridge named on Grand Duchess Mária Valéria was officially inaugurated on 25 September 1895. The bridge was blown up in 1919 and restored in 1927. During the Second World War the retreating German army once again blew up the three middle sections of the Bridge.
The desire for the reconstruction of the Bridge emerged during the second half of the 20th century time
and time again, primarily based on the requests of local residents. However, several decades had to pass before the decision was made at the highest decision-making level and the commencement of any substantive negotiations concerning the restoration of the cross-border connection. The development of events accelerated in the second half of the eighties, and in the first half of the nineties the preparation for the reconstruction of the Bridge was launched. The ‘Bridge reconstruction committees’ established by the two countries and the senior officials of the ministries concerned agreed on the initiation of submitting a request for the PHARE support offered by the European Union for this purpose. The Slovak and the Hungarian minister submitted their joint request to the European Commission on 25 September 1995, the 100th year anniversary of the inauguration of the Mária Valéria Bridge, and received a positive answer
already in December of the same year.
The joint preparations were launched on the basis of the prospective support of the European Union. In 1999
the Agreement between the governments of the Republic of Hungary and the Slovak Republic was signed concerning the reconstruction of the Danube Bridge across the border between the two cities – Esztergom and Štúrovo – along with the construction of the related facilities. The financial support for the Slovak Republic for the reconstruction of the Bridge was approved in the Financing Memorandum signed between the European Commission and the Slovak Republic on 2 November 1999. The Financing Memorandum on the PHARE subsidy to be provided for the reconstruction of the Bridge was signed by the representatives of the European Union and the Republic of Hungary on 22 December 1999.
Construction was launched on 18 October 2000 and on 11 October 2001 the Bridge was officially opened amid much ceremony and festivity. It would not have been possible to reconstruct the Bridge within a foreseeable period of time without EU assistance.
By strengthening the good neighbourly relations and friendly co-operation between the two countries the reconstruction of the Bridge over the Danube also contributes to the strengthening of the stability of Europe. The joint investment project has contributed to the process of the integration of both countries into the European Union and has opened new possibilities in cross-border co-operation and in the economic and social relationships between the two countries.
In addition to the agreement on co-operation in construction, agreement was also made on the parallel
audit of the work as well. In the territory of the Republic of Hungary the audit was performed by the State Audit Office of the Republic of Hungary, in the territory of the Slovak Republic it was carried out by the
Supreme Audit Office of the Slovak Republic, based on a mutually co-ordinated and agreed audit plan. The auditor groups of the parties held regular meetings during the audit period and shared their experiences. The audit covered the state and local level legal entities, which were involved in the reconstruction of the Bridge. The objective of the audit was to assess whether the entities concerned had completed the tasks and met the requirements laid out in the inter-governmental Agreement in the course of the reconstruction of the Mária Valéria Bridge and construction of the related facilities.
Furthermore, the audit was aimed to assess compliance in the course of the utilisation of PHARE support with the rules prescribed by the EU concerning the implementation of PHARE programmes. The Report will
be forwarded to the European Court of Auditors, other competent bodies of the European Union, the National
Council of the Slovak Republic and the Parliament of the Republic of Hungary, along with a joint cover letter
signed by the presidents of the state audit institutions of the two countries.