European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who is visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina, attended today’s grand opening of the Svilaj Bridge, which will connect the motorway on Corridor Vc over the Sava River between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.
She mentioned that bridges are the ones that connect people, but she pointed out that it is now important to build the most important bridges, which she called bridges of reconciliation, which is a debt to the victims of wars from the past, as well to the future generations.
The bridge connects the Western Balkans and the European Union, Von der Leyen said, noting that the European Union has invested 25m euros in building the bridge, but more importantly, the symbolism the bridge represents.
“The essence of this project is the connection between countries, peoples and cultures, which is very important for our common future. BiH and the entire Western Balkans belong to the European Union and it is in the common interest and I believe that this is our destiny,” she pointed out.
She referred to the upcoming summit of the Western Balkans and the European Union in Slovenia, where the future vision of the EU will be discussed, and she wants to hear BiH be engaged in a conference on the future of this region and to hear the voice of young people in formulating the future of the EU.
“The leaders of the region must have the interest of the citizens in the first place and work on reforms that will bring candidate status for BiH, and electoral and constitutional reforms are necessary. We will work together on this as your friends and partners. This can be achieved through ensuring equality for all and respecting what has been agreed,” added Von der Leyen.
She noted that the European Union has invested a lot of money in the economic recovery, 3.3 billion euros to support partners in the Western Balkans, while 380 million euros have been provided for BiH.
She said the economic investment plan would bring new jobs and integration within the Balkans, and called on all countries to work to establish a common market because it is important that there are no obstacles and difficulties to the free movement of people and goods.
As she said, it is now important to work on building a common future and long-term recovery because she believes that all citizens in BiH deserve a greener and more prosperous future.
Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina Zoran Tegeltija expressed satisfaction with witnessing the completion of a major investment project – the opening of the Svilaj Bridge.
He said that today everyone witnessed the success of BiH and the Republic of Croatia with the support of the European Union, adding that there are a small number of such large projects that have been realized without the support of friends from the European Union.
“We have shown that we have enough knowledge, skills and courage to jointly implement projects, build and finance them. The construction of even the smallest bridge anywhere in the world proves the ability of people to build, but at the same time symbolizes the connection of people, trade, economies and cultures,” he added.
The construction of this 660-meter-long bridge, which cost more than 23m euros, shows the country’s ability to build major infrastructure projects and connect citizens and the economy.
The Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia, Andrej Plenković, said that he wanted to strengthen relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina and that Croatia “will not raise the wire towards BiH”.
Plenković said that today they are located on the Sava River, which is the longest natural border between BiH and Croatia.
“We are opening another bridge that connects us and the arrival of the President of the European Commission emphasizes the symbolism of the connection. It also symbolizes the values that connect us, and that is togetherness, responsibility, trust, appreciation, respect and the desire to communicate without interfering with people, goods and services moving without restrictions, which are also European values,” he said.
Later in the day, von der Leyen will have several meetings with the highest BiH officials in Sarajevo.