NEUM, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP)- Construction has begun on Croatia’s longest bridge, which the government hopes will provide a lifeline to the southern part of the country.
But Bosnians fear the bridge will seal-off access to their only port to the Adriatic, and have warned the project could endanger bilateral relations between the two former foes.
Bosnian Transport and Communications Minister Branko Dokic said in Sarajevo Monday that Bosnia had sent a letter of complaint to the Croatian government.
“I don’t think that Croatia will jeopardize bilateral relations with Bosnia over this,” Dokic said.
The picturesque southern town of Neum is Bosnia’s only outlet to the Adriatic. But it cuts off Croatia’s southern peninsula from the mainland, forcing Croatians to cross into Bosnia in order to travel from one part of their country to the other.
Croatia’s 2,374 meter-long Komarna-Peljesac bridge is designed to overcome that problem, bypassing Neum and providing direct access from the Croatian mainland to the Peljasac peninsula and further south to the city of Dubrovnik, one of Croatia’s most popular tourist destinations.
Once the bridge is completed, “Croatia will finally be physically connected,” Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said last week during a ceremony to mark the start of construction.
The Komarna-Peljesac bridge is one of the Croatian government’s most important infrastructure projects, with an estimated cost of between EUR250 million and EUR300 million.
But Haris Basic, Bosnia’s former deputy transport and communications minister, who was involved in talks with Croatia about building the bridge, told The Associated Press the bridge would prevent large ships from docking in Neum and force them to anchor outside Bosnian territorial waters instead.
“We never agreed to the proposed Croatian solution because it does not preserve Bosnia’s free passage to international waters,” Basic said.
Neum, the only town on Bosnia’s 25-kilometer (15.5 mile) Adriatic coast, is a popular tourist resort. Its port is not large enough to be used for commercial traffic, and the only larger vessels that enter Bosnian territorial waters around there are ships of NATO member states.
Bosnians argue that although the port is too small for large ships at the moment, a new port could be built in the future – but only if the bridge isn’t constructed.
It is not the best news, but let’s hope things will be resolved pretty soon and this project is going to go ahead… Fingers crossed