Croatia: Bridge over troubled water

Peljesac Bridge Photo:BBC.co.uk

Connecting Croatian territory into a continuous body of land has become addled by political rumdumm from all sides (Croatian and Bosnian and Herzegovinian). The issue of Peljesac Bridge that would provide for the uninterrupted access to all Croatian districts and land, border issue, hots up as Croatia’s imminent entry into the European Union draws nearer to July 1, 2013.

As things stand now, persons wanting to travel by car from northern part of Croatia into Dubrovnik, Peljesac Peninsula, the islands of Mljet, Vis, Lastovo, Korcula etc must enter Bosnia and Herzegovina and 5 kilometers later re-enter Croatia. And vice versa!

Membership of the EU, which is supposed to lead to membership of the EU’s Schengen area of borderless travel, requires stricter checks at the border and having Croatia broken into two as is now will mean greater disruption of trade and tourism. Bosnia’s problems with organised crime and people-smuggling mean that those tougher checks cannot be relaxed or overlooked.

The idea to build Peljesac Bridge arose among Croatians in 1997 and rejected in the same year. In 1998 the idea for the bridge gained support. In 2000 the bridge was added to the spatial plan for the Dubrovnik-Neretva County of Croatia. The building works on the bridge commenced in November 2005, under Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ government. Then came concerns by eco-activists that building the bridge may cause damage to sea life in the Bay of Mali Ston (which flourishes with Oyster & Mussels farming). These concerns proved unfounded, and then came new opposition to building the bridge on economic grounds. I.e., that the bridge would cost too much money; that an undersea tunnel would cost less; that some new deal could perhaps be made with Bosnia and Herzegovina…that if the bridge was going to be built it would need to be at least 55 meters high to allow for biggest ships – as nearby seaside Bosnia & Herzegovina town of Neum might want to build an industrial port one day!

Between 2007 and 2008 tenders were called by Croatian government for the building of the bridge. Works on access terrain to future bridge started from both sides in Autumn 2008 under the Croatian Democratic Union government, with 2015 nominated as the year of completion.

In late 2011 when Social Democrat/SDP led government took over in Croatia they terminated the building contract already in progress worth about 259 Million EURO. Early 2012 Zoran Milanovic led government said that ferrying people across the Bay would be less expensive. That fell into the wastebasket as a terrible idea and one that still does not join all Croatian territory. Then the SDP led government came up with the idea that a road corridor through Bosnia and Herzegovina would perhaps be better. In the meantime Tomislav Karamarko, leader of HDZ opposition, insisted that Peljesac Bridge must be build. That coincided with EU coming into the party – suggesting EU funds could perhaps be used to build the bridge, and certainly 200,000 EURO have been put aside last month for a feasibility study (even though a feasibility study exists from before) for the bridge.

But this rumdumm ain’t over yet, and one cannot avoid the impression that someone out there doesn’t want to see the Croatian territory uninterrupted.

Along come new complications in the past few weeks. Bosnia and Herzegovina are disputing the border around the area where the bridge is to be built. I.e., a document purporting to represent an agreement between dr Franjo Tudjman (President of Croatia) and Alija Izetbegovic (Bosniak member of Bosnian-Herzegovinian Presidency) in 1999.  This is a border agreement with which Croatia reportedly transfers to Bosnia and Herzegovina the tip of the Klek peninsula and two tiny islets Mali and Veliki Skoj near the proposed Peljesac bridge site. The Milanovic government decided recently to pass the agreement for ratification in Parliament, thus causing fiery disputes in Croatia’s public domain, which grew into delicate attacks between President Ivo Josipovic and the government, stirring the spirits among experts too. The document is reportedly ratified by the lower chamber of Bosnia’s parliament and whether it will be ratified in the Croatian parliament is yet to be seen. There are new calls against possible swift ratification, including comments by Tomislav Karamarko, leader of HDZ opposition, that late President Tudjman was very ill at the time in 1999 and may not have been fully informed or aware of implications of the so-called agreement.

The political plot thickens around Peljesac Bridge and southern Croatian beauties such as Dubrovnik and Korcula, with significant population and tourism industry remain cut off from the bulk of their homeland.

While according to international law Croatia has the right to connect its territory by building a bridge, Bosnia and Herzegovina also has a right to a free access to the sea, but the madness in this is that some think that if Peljesac bridge were to be built it might need to be over 75 meters high in order to cater for the possibility (wishful thinking) that one day the largest of passenger cruisers might just pay a visit to Neum; others say that Bosnia and Herzegovina might want to build a commercial harbour in Neum which means one needs to provide for tall industrial cranes, up to 75 meters or so!

Bosnia, headed by foreign minister Zlatko Lagumdzija, says the bridge threatens its access to open seas and would prefer a closed road corridor in the hinterland above Neum.

Well, there seems to be at least one sober person in this madness: klix.ba portal reports that Neum’s mayor Zivko Matusko welcomes Peljesac bridge and does not want his municipality split in two by the corridor Croatia’s SDP led government still hasn’t put to rest. Matusko urges the parties to sit down, reach an agreement and stop trading with territory. He rejected a possibility of building a cargo port in Neum, saying that the town’s strategy was to develop tourism and the terrain and sea depth around Neum are simply not suited for large commercial port. He said that a maritime port could only be in the nearby Croatian town of Ploce.

With all the idiocy Lagumdzija swivels around about big ships and cranes filling little Neum’s foreshores in some distant future the Croatian government seems to have forgotten that a great proportion of its population lives in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County and deserve, have a right to, uninterrupted access to the rest of Croatia, and vice versa – as soon as possible. It’s not just entering EU that’s important in this matter, it’s the right of Croatia to connect its territory into a united whole and a bridge is the best solution. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Comments

  1. What would British do with Gibraltar or Suez, Americans with Panama, and those are not splitting apart their native lands. What would Israel do?

    Croats live in Neum. Same people who are behind aggression on Croatia in 1990s created BH during WWII and took Neum as well away from Croatia.

    But, Croats are not seasoned politicians to prepare the world for what world would do if their own territory, in the hands of ‘others’, is splitting their country in two, leaving Dubrovnik in the same situation it was in during the 1991 aggression on Croatia.

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  2. What would British do with Gibraltar or Suez, Americans with Panama, and those are not splitting apart their native lands. What would Israel do?

    Croats live in Neum. Same people who are behind aggression on Croatia in 1990s created BH during WWII and took Neum as well away from Croatia.

    But, Croats are not seasoned politicians to prepare the world for what world would do if their own territory, in the hands of others, is splitting their country in two, leaving Dubrovnik in the same situation it was in during the 1991 aggression on Croatia.

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  3. The dept of European development, as part of it’s “United States of Europe” agenda does not recognise state boundaries and prefers to identify “regions” which it sees as the future component parts of the US of E. One example is that Varazdin and Medimurje counties are part of the same region as parts of Southern Hungary and eastern Slovenia. All development projects are organised on the basis of regions which, in their words, promotes inter-state cooperation in that the former neighbours must work together to realise their various joint projects and obtain the significant EU funding made available to them.
    The southern tip of Croatia is part of a “south Adria” region which includes much of Hercegovina and most of Crna Gora. For this reason of vision, the EU will never support a bridge, tunnel or anything else it sees as reinforcing “old” state boundaries. Without EU funding and in the teeth of EU opposition, it is unlikely to happen.

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    • It seems so, as I said: someone doesn’t want a united Croatia, but let’s hope that Croatian people will win in the end. People always have and EU won’t stop that just like Yugoslavia didn’t. It’s just a shame many years must be wasted on political curtains.

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  4. Michael Silovic says:

    The real issue here is not the bridge because we need to have it and it is the will of the Croatian people. The issue here again is one of government not having a spine by standing tall and not allowing itself to be manipulated by the EU or others. We need to stop being puppets. We did not seek independence to be controlled by anyone. Our infrastructure needs to be built. Not only bridges but roads and sea ports where needed. This is needed for economic reasons as well as continuous access to all of Croatia. Our people need to work.For anyone to say that Croatia does not have the money to build this bridge on it’s own is not true. We are Croats and if we want something we will work to get it just as we did for our freedom. The Croatia government is under attack on many fronts. We are being manipulated by the EU and others, Slovenia has its banking issue with us that they are trying to resolve, we have the issue of the bridge and Bosnia, we have issue with the Serbs denying our true history and compensation still remaining and the Russian gas pipeline. All of these problems surround money and very large amounts of it. There is only one solution and answer to all of this and it is always the same. Croatia First! Need I say more.

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  5. Oh my god, how is that for taking symbolism too far. I don’t see how a dedicated road, like the one that connects Budjak with the rest of Ukraine through the Moldovan town of Palanca, wouldn’t suffice just as well.

    http://martinned.blogspot.it/2011/12/palanca.html

    Clearly no one has learned anything from the horrors of war. It is ridiculousness like this that makes people in Western Europe wonder whether Croatia (or Hungary, for example) is ready to join the EU.

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  6. Dalibor Zovko says:

    Prije svega odličan naslov. “Johny Cash” naslov:-). Potom odlično opisana glupa prepucavanja naših stranaka koje bi trebale imat jednak stav oko temeljnih pitanja. Onda odlično izrečeni pravi motivi koje mora podsvijestit svaki građanin RH (nedovoljna napučenost Pelješca i Korčule i mogućnost da se ljudi počnu tamo nastanjivati). I potom jasno i nedvojbeno rečeno da EU ne uvjetuje Hrvatskoj nikakvim dokumentom, politikom ili bilo čim negradnju mosta, što u konačnici znači da samo hrvati sami mogu sami sebi uskočiti u usta s popuštanjem.

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    • Translation of Dalibor Zovko comment: Above all an excellent title. “Johnny Cash title” :-). Then idiotic arguments between our political parties who should hold equal opinions on fundamental questions are excellently described. Then the real motives that need to enter into the sub-conscience of each citizen (not enough population on Peljesac and Korcula and the possibility that people start coming there to live) well said. And then it’s clear but not stated that EU doesn’t condition with any documents, politics or with anything the building of the bridge, which effectively means that Croatians can jump into their own mouth with appease.

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  7. It seems to me that Croatia has had the same problems for hundreds of years. But what is that problem? What is it in our political leadership, our vision, or lack of vision that puts in such peril? We as a small nation seem overly dependent on the approval and acceptance of others; we seem to need validation. I know that other nations and political system have issues with disunity, corruption and other nasty things of life, but why is it so pronounced in Croatia? We have everything a people could desire – beautiful country, natural resources, resourceful and talented people. What is it that messes us up so much?? Looking from the outside in, it always seems easier and less complicated than it actually is, but somehow the answers in Croatia seem simple. Are they?

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  8. Which communists?
    Bosnian kingdom… Bosnian king, gives part of the territory to Dubrovnik Republic.. evidence that this part of the coast was always part of the Bosnia.. This region of the kingdom, is called Coast, and it had its own coat of arms.. Stretching north and south of Dubrovnik Republic.. in Bosnia was once the Croatian kingdom, also Serbian, and Hungarian.. Then Bosnia has mastered the entire Dalmatia, half of the Croatia, and the entire Serbia.. After the fall of the Bosnian kingdom under the wild islamist Turks, we become more connected with Dalmatians, and Croatians because they are the Roman Catholics, and Serbs are Orthodox, over time muslims were named us Croats, today muslims trying to steal our culture and identity, by pushing us deeper into the idea Croatianism.. They do not respect our history, they do not respect our identity, but at least you Croatians who are in our eyes Brothers, could..
    Long Live + Herzeg Bosnia +

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  9. Which communists?
    Bosnian kingdom… Bosnian king, gives part of the territory to Dubrovnik Republic.. evidence that this part of the coast was always part of the Bosnia.. This region of the kingdom, is called Coast, and it had its own coat of arms.. Stretching north and south of Dubrovnik Republic.. in Bosnia was once the Croatian kingdom, also Serbian, and Hungarian.. Then Bosnia has mastered the entire Dalmatia, half of the Croatia, and the entire Serbia.. After the fall of the Bosnian kingdom under the wild islamist Turks, we become more connected with Dalmatians, and Croatians because they are the Roman Catholics, and Serbs are Orthodox, over time muslims were named us Croats, today muslims trying to steal our culture and identity, by pushing us deeper into the idea Croatianism.. They do not respect our history, they do not respect our identity, but at least you Croatians who are in our eyes Brothers, could..
    Long Live + Herzeg Bosnia +

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  10. Michael Silovic says:

    (quote) What is it in our political leadership, our vision, or lack of vision that puts in such peril?

    The answer sunman is multiple so I will keep it short. One of the biggest problem has to do with leadership. Everyone is trying to be the President Tudjman of Croatia and they can not be and never will no matter how hard they try. We see this on many fronts for many reasons but mainly in the beginning it was to claim their history of being the first and most important leader of our time. Then when that failed they went into corruption mode and then betrayed our generals as a way to cover their own failings when faced with the charges. When all of this came out it was time to turn on the Croatian people and deny our history as some have done and blame Croatians for all of its ill’s and wounds. We have a government in place that is one of favoritism that wants to instill friendships in certain parts of our government. This is done mainly to control certain aspects of government income such as contracts by which politicians and their friends receive special funds or royalty. When this occurs you have many people in government pulling in all directions to get a fair share for themselves and the general populous is the one that suffers.You have many in government who overall do not care for Croatia as a whole but rather parts of Croatia where they come from that get more of monies then other parts.This is what creates the peril we now see. You have a government that is bending on one knee to appease those outside of Croatia for political gain and monies. You can liken this to lobbying such as is done within the United States. This is all done for one reason and that is to enrich one selves. The answer is somewhat simple as it seems and that is to instill a government that will put Croatia First and treat all regions equally in funding of projects so all of Croatia can work together to build its country. We need to add a section to our constitution that has corruption and thievery charges as treason. Politicians should make public every year all of their income and assets. I can go on with this but I think you get my drift. Croatia is a great country and can be better with the right people.

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  11. Michael Dugandzic says:

    The reality of the Neum Bridge is uninterrupted European Union-Schengen borderless travel. Croatian citizens pass border checks within seconds or minutes after entering customs and less often they pass unchecked. European Union funding for the bridge speaks magnitudes for who really seeks the bridge being built… Croatia should remain Croatian… Say no to the Socialist European Union!

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  12. Bože dragi ispravite ovu grešku!!!

    Na priloženoj mapi su otok Klještac i hrid Lopata označeni kao Veliki i Mali školj !?!

    Veliki i Mali školj su jugo istočnije pored poluotoka Klek!!!!

    (Translation of comment: Dear God please correct this mistake!!! The attached map has island Kljestac and Lopata reef as Veliki and Mali skolj !?! Veliki and Mali skolj are south east near peninsula Klek!!!!)

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    • Hvala Tino, ja sam tu mapu preuzela sa weba korculainfo, ok izmijenit cu mapu. Srdacno
      Thank you Tino, I took the map from korculainfo website, OK I will change it. Best regards

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