The European Commission told N1 that Bosnia and Croatia need to continue the dialogue with Zagreb over the construction the Peljesac Bridge, which Croatia is building across Bosnian waters.
The dispute over the construction of the Peljesac Bridge has drawn numerous reactions from both Bosnia and Croatia.
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 of the bridge because they believe it might prevent large vessels from entering Bosnia's Bay of Neum, threatening the country's access to open sea. They also claim that the border between the two countries in the bay remains undefined.
The current Chairman of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Bosniak member Bakir Izetbegovic, said he might resort to filing a lawsuit against Croatia with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg.
Izetbegovic said that Croatia has ignored all pleas coming from Bosnia requesting the construction be halted.
N1 asked the European Commission what their stance is regarding the issue.
“This case is a matter for Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to discuss between themselves. It is important that Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina keep channels of communication open and continue the dialogue on this issue,” the Commission replied.
Croatia’s Prime Minister, Andrej Plankovic, told reporters at a press conference on Thursday that everything regarding the project is in order, and that Croatia is a close ally of Bosnia.
“I will repeat what I have been saying continuously, which is that Croatia is a friend and an ally to Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said, adding that Croatia helped Bosnia liberate its territory during the war and helped in creating the Dayton Peace Agreement which ended the 1992-1995 war.
He also said that Croatia supported Bosnia’s request for EU membership.
“The Peljesac Bridge is being built on Croatian territory,” he said, claiming that Croatia has answered to all letters coming from Bosnia’s Prime Minister and his Deputy in detail, and that they will do so with the newest letters as well.
“After the European Commission studied all of this, it decided to co-finance the Peljesac Bridge. That is a project of strategic importance for Croatia,” he said.
He also rejected the claim that large vessels will be prevented from entering Bosnia's Bay of Neum, threatening the country’s access to the open sea.
“If you have a bridge near Neum which is 55 metres high and has gaps between its supporting pillars that are more than 200 metres long, I do not understand which kind of vessel could not pass underneath that bridge,” he said.
“Bosnia has its institutions, it has its way of making decisions, and we are ready to present our arguments,” he said.
Plenkovic also commented on a statement Izetbegovic made in an interview with N1 a day earlier.
Izetbegovic said that he suspects Croatia lobbied with a certain individual within the EU, whom he would not name, for the European Commission to decide to co-finance the project. He said it was up to Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, the EU Special Representative in Bosnia, to reveal the name of that individual.
“Who lobbied? I can only say that I am doing what I should be doing with all my knowledge and experience, which is representing Croatian national interests. And this in a way in which we can realise strategic projects for Croatia,” he said.
In the Wednesday interview, Izetbegovic said it was up to Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, the EU Special Representative in Bosnia, to reveal the name of that individual.
“What Wigemark will say, I don’t know,” Plenkovic said, adding that he is continuously maintaining contacts with key EU officials.
“We know each other well, we trust each other. When you have a good product, it is not difficult to sell it,” he said.