Bosnia’s three Presidency members often disagree on vital state issues but the most prominent one currently is their quarrel over the construction of a bridge neighbouring Croatia is building across Bosnia’s waters. The Bosniak member is accusing his Croat colleague in the Presidency of protecting the interests of the neighboring country.
The Peljesac Bridge is intended to link the Croatian mainland and the Peljesac Peninsula, bypassing a 15 kilometre-long strip around the city of Neum that represents Bosnia and Herzegovina’s only coast on the Adriatic Sea. The bridge would cut travel time between the Dubrovnik area and the rest of the country by circumventing customs and border controls around Neum.
Predominantly Bosniak political parties are against the construction because they believe it might prevent large vessels from entering Bosnia's Bay of Neum, threatening Bosnia and Herzegovina's access to open sea.
They also claim that the border between the two countries in the bay remains undefined and that Croatia has ignored all pleas coming from Bosnia requesting the construction be halted before the border issue is resolved.
Bosnian media said that the current Chairman of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Bosniak member Bakir Izetbegovic, might resort to filing a lawsuit against Croatia with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg.
A decision to sue another country is one that the three members of Bosnia’s Presidency, the Bosniak, the Serb and the Croat, need to agree on. Should there be no consensus, there is no possibility for a lawsuit.
On Wednesday, all three expressed different stances on the issue.
Izetbegovic and Croat Presidency member, Dragan Covic, completely disagree. The Serb member, Mladen Ivanic, said he does not want to be the one to decide in the end, but announced that a lawsuit will not be filed.
“It cannot happen, I am not someone who will go for ‘outvoting’ somebody, I stick to principles and I think that we can act according to them. If there would be an agreement between the two of them (Covic and Izetbegovic), then yes, but for me to be the one who decides, surely not,” he told N1 on Wednesday.
Covic said at a Wednesday press conference that the Peljesac Bridge only became an issue now because the candidates ran out of “pre-election topics” they can push to gain support at the upcoming October 7 general election.
“I don’t see any possibility for someone to submit a lawsuit in the name of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Covic said, adding that this could have been done before if someone really wanted to do so.
He said he hoped Croatia will start the construction soon “and that this will not be an interesting topic anymore.”
He said that there is a pre-election competition among Bosniak parties in “who will talk about the Peljesac Bridge more.”
“I think that it is good that we are building this project, it is in the interest of the entire Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said.
According to Izetbegovic, however, Covic is putting the interests of Croatia ahead of those of Bosnia.
When Bosnia’s Prime Minister, who is from Izetbegovic's party, wrote a letter to Croatia’s PM protesting the construction of the bridge on Monday, the Finance Minister, who is from Covic’s party, sent another one to the same address which said that the statements made in the first letter represent only the position of Izetbegovic’s party and not those of Bosnia.
“They keep answering to every letter with another letter, for our every attempt, there are always those who will try to block it,” Izetbegovic told N1 on Wednesday.
“There is an obstruction,” Izetbegovic said. “We have players within Bosnia’s system who are blocking our attempts. He is directly siding with Croatia.”