The bridge which will connect the Croatian coast with Pelješac peninsula, allowing travellers to avoid passing through the “BiH coast” – 24 kilometres of state territory around the city of Neum, has caused uproar since the first day its construction news became public, however, it started being built recently, and the “older” dispute uncovered a diversity of opinions over project.
Bosniak politicians are angry since the bridge, as they think, will prevent Bosnia and Herzegovina from ‘reaching’ the sea, which, under international laws, the country has the right to. In fact, the interstate borderline in this part of the Adriatic coast is not defined so, it is impossible to speak about it based on facts. However, it does not bother Bakir Izetbegović, the present Chairman of the BiH Presidency, to say that the “construction of the bridge will be a long chess party”.
In a recent statement, Izetbegović said that the Bosniak goal is not to stop the construction of the bridge but to solve the long lasting border dispute. In earlier statements, he and other Bosniak officials were firm that the bridge would not be high enough to provide free passage to high yachts and big ships. In fact, that reason is not realistic since the shallow waters in Neum do not allow the navigation of larger ships, thus such conversation is meaningless. Now, Bosniaks demand a free corridor to the open sea despite the fact that the small number of Neum fishermen never sail too far from home. Thus, nobody really gets the reason behind their (present) objection.
Izetbegović said that BiH will take some measures but did not say how he would undertake them without the consent of the other two BiH Presidency members, the Serb representative Mladen Ivanić and the Croat representative Dragan Čović.
“We need a document in which the border will be defined along with an international corridor that will lead us to the open sea. This can be done even when the construction of the bridge is over”, added Izetbegović.
Earlier, he had mentioned that BiH would sue Croatia at relevant international institutions, but the other two Presidency members rejected the idea. The Serb representative of the tripartite institution, Mladen Ivanić, said that he is against such lawsuit and the outvoting in the joint Presidency, as he would have to choose either one or the other side, that is either the Bosniak or the Croat one.
“If two of them (Izetbegović and Čović) find a solution, then ok, I would vote, but in another case my answer is no”, said Ivanić.
The Croatian representative, Dragan Čović, said that Croats in BiH support the construction of the bridge but also added that all BiH citizens will benefit from the many advantages this project comes with. Actually, he said that when the bridge will begin being used, border procedures for BiH citizens traveling to the Pelješac peninsula on holidays (and they are many) will become rather easy.
“The construction of the bridge is a good pre-election issue and Izetbegovićis is trying to exploit it as much as it is possible”, stated Čović.
Later, Čović said that he would suggest to the Croatian government to prevent the rich elite of the Party of the Democratic Action (SDA) headed by Izetbegović from using the bridge. He explained that many high SDA officials are rich enough to build holiday homes in Pelješac while, at the same time Bosniaks in BiH cannot afford more than five days of holidays in Neum.
Since the end of the war and the establishment of BiH and Croatia as independent states, the Croatian territory on the Adriatic coast, BiH shares 24 kilometers of the overall coastal territory. All vehicles from the north of the Croatian coast to Dubrovnik and other cities in the South cross Neum. It means that people and goods, that might need to cover the Split-Dubrovnik distance for example, must pass two state borders on a small part of the way. Moreover, Croatian citizens who drive this way, must have passports in order to reach a different part of their state, since Bosnia comes between.
Still, the positive aspect of the existing way is the financial benefit for Neum, as a great number of people use it as a stop for coffee, especially in the summer.
The new highway will deprive local business of the advantageous income.
As well, many Bosnians will probably choose to drive straight to Pelješac, since access will be easier than ever, instead of enjoying their vacation break in Neum.
Based on the existing timetable, Croatia will build the bridge very soon and the truth about Izetbegović’s motives will be uncovered – do they have to do with a sincere attempt to protect BiH’s interests or are they a pure pre-election “show”?…. / ΙΒΝΑ