Peljesac Bridge connecting Croatia finally opened

The spectacular bridge that finally unites the territory of Croatia.

In Croatia it has been celebrated as one of the most important milestones in the country’s history.

After a long wait, the bridge linking the southern coastal areas with the rest of the country on the Adriatic Sea has finally opened to traffic.

Until now Croats had to pass through the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina to make that journey.

The Peljesac Bridge, 2.4 km long, was built by a Chinese company although financed for the most part by the European Union.

The celebrations continued throughout Tuesday. Before allowing traffic over the radiant white structure, 250 runners trotted across the bridge.

Many neighbors also took the opportunity to walk along the initial section, while small boats with Croatian flags sailed under the six pylons that support the structure.

A millionaire project

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang sent a video message to the ceremony.

His Croatian counterpart, Andrej Plenkovic, declared: “Tonight we are uniting Croatia!” and described the bridge as a necessity, not a luxury.

Following the glittering ceremony filled with fireworks and ship horns, the first vehicle to cross the bridge was scheduled to be the Rimac Nevera, a Croatian-made high-end electric sports car.

The EU agreed to finance 85% of the bridge to the tune of 357 million euros ($361 million) using cohesion funds that would serve to significantly improve the daily lives of Croats.

It also financed access roads, tunnels and other infrastructure.

A country split in two

When the former Yugoslavia was partitioned and Croatia became independent in 1991, the new borders meant that the two parts of the Croatian coastline were divided by a 9km-long section of Bosnian coastline known as the Neum Corridor.

The right of access to the Bosnian coast dates back to 1699, when Dubrovnik ceded Neum, in present-day Croatia, to what was then the Ottoman Empire.

As Bosnia is not in the EU and Croatia is, anyone who wanted to travel north from the medieval city of Dubrovnik on the southern Adriatic coast, or cross from the Peljesac peninsula to the mainland, had to go through two border checkpoints.

Now you can drive directly along the Croatian Adriatic coast over the new bridge.

The mayor of Neum, Dragan Jurkovic, told the local Bosnian TV channel that the new bridge will reduce traffic on the coast during the summer months and assured that he only sees benefits in this infrastructure.

The controversy

However, some businessmen and merchants are concerned about a possible negative effect on the economy of the area.

Many tourists, especially Czechs, Poles and Germans, are regular visitors to Neum, where prices are cheaper than in Dubrovnik, but maybe now that will change.

The bridge has not been without controversy either.

Bosnia initially complained that it would affect its access to the sea, so Croatia agreed to increase the height of the viaduct to 55 meters.

The Chinese state-owned company that won the contract to build it, China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), bid much less than its European rivals in the tender.

This prompted an Austrian company to file a complaint, alleging that CRBC was dumping and receiving Chinese state aid.

The Chinese state news agency Xinhua noted that the opening of the bridge is expected to further deepen mutual trust and expand cooperation between Croatia and Beijing.

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