Croatia wants to link a peninsula to the mainland, while BiH worries the project will block maritime traffic and inflict economic damage on its port of Neum.
By Natasa Radic for Southeast European Times in Zagreb -- 11/04/07
Two coastal areas of Croatia are separated by Bosnian territory. [Getty Images]
The Croatian government has confirmed plans to build a bridge linking the peninsula of Peljesac to the mainland. The two areas, both part of Croatia, are separated by a small coastal strip that belongs to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).
Although the plan initially was opposed by Sarajevo, an agreement has now been reached on a key point of contention, defusing a potentially serious dispute between the former Yugoslav republics.
"The government of Croatia has forwarded to the BiH authorities an acceptable proposal for the construction of the Peljesac-mainland bridge," BiH Transport and Communications Minister Bozo Ljubicic said.
Officials in BiH had worried that the bridge -- originally planned to be only 35 metres high -- would block their country's exit to the Adriatic, impeding access to the port of Neum and making maritime traffic impossible. Since then, the bridge dimensions have been changed.
Furthermore, Croatia says it will offer BiH "most privileged state" status at the port of Ploce, located further north on the Adriatic coast.
"BiH companies are the best clients of that Croatian port," Prime Minister Ivo Sanader noted.
He said the Croatian side understood BiH's concerns and was doing its best to accommodate them.
"We do respect our friend and neighbour Bosnia and Herzegovina, but we also have to respect the right of Croatia to connect our two territories with a bridge," the prime minister said.
Even if maritime traffic is protected, however, the bridge will have other economic implications for Neum. Coastal road traffic currently passes through the 35km-long strip of Bosnian territory, and many tourists stop there for food and shopping. This will change once the project is complete.
On the other hand, the current road is frequently jammed during summer months, and the border crossing is an annoyance to many travellers.
The Peljesac bridge will be the largest in the Western Balkans. Under the current plans, it will be 2,300m long, 150m wide and 55m high. It will cost more than 220m euros to build, and construction is expected to last four years.
It is not yet known whether the bridge will form part of the extension of the A1 highway, currently connecting Zagreb with Split.