Thursday

17th Jan 2019

Croatia's troubled bridge project

  • Neum - Bosnia's only coastal town (Photo: Zlatko Unger)

An over-sea bridge linking southern Croatia to its northern tip across the Adriatic Sea could start being built by the end of the year, in a move that has powerful historical and political resonance for the region.

At the moment, driving by car from Dubrovnik up along the coast to the Croatian capital of Zagreb sees you forced to exit Croatia and enter Bosnia and Herzgovina (BiH).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Just 20 kilometres later, after passing by Neum, BiH’s only coastal town, you are back in Croatia again. After having queued to get through two border checks.

This BiH corridor means that Croatia is split into two non-contiguous parts.

This split was a long time in the making.

Croatia itself has had a long and turbulent history and for much of it was divided into several parts, one of which was the Republic of Dubrovnik.

This was an independent country with its headquarters in Dubrovnik itself, a medieval city famous for its beauty (and now even more famous for having parts of TV series Game of Thrones filmed there).

It was a small republic, but with an exceptional naval force in the Mediterranean from 1358 to 1808 and the arrival of Napoleon’s troops.

However the bigger problem for the Republic was a powerful neighbour to the east, behind the hills. The Ottoman Empire was keen to get its hands on Dubrovnik.

Deft diplomacy as well as an annual payment of gold coins brought Dubrovnik its freedom.

Eventually however, the Ottoman Empire managed to outplay Dubrovnik and obtain access to the Adriatic Sea.

Neum corridor

It was and is a narrow corridor which during the formation of Yugoslavia became a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and so divided Croatia’s mainland.

After the breakup of the former Yugoslavia "Neum corridor" was not a big problem partly because that part of the BiH is inhabited by Croats.

Nevertheless the grandiose idea of a bridge that would avoid this corridor was mooted in 1997 – and with it the political bickering about whether it would be either feasible or affordable (costs are estimated at around €260 million).

The other problem was the BiH government which said the bridge would be an obstacle should it ever decide to build a port in the city of Neum.

In 2005 things started to move. BiH dropped it opposition and the then Croatian PM Ivo Sanader announced the start of construction (all seemed possible in the economic boom of the time).

But work stopped almost immediately. During the financial crisis there was suddenly not enough money for a bridge that is planned to be 2,400m long, 21m wide and 55m high above the sea.

By 2012, the centre-left government cancelled the project and started listing alternatives such as ferries or an underground tunnel. As idea after idea fell by the wayside, the government changed its mind back to the Peljesac bridge – named after the country’s southern peninsular.

Schengen area

The government has also found a new way of framing the issue. It wants to the EU to finance the projects arguing that the bridge would be the solution for when Croatia joins the borderless Schengen area.

Transport minister Sinisa Hajdas Doncic recently said he hopes at least 50 pecent, if not 75 percent, of the money comes from EU coffers.

But, wish-list aside, Zagreb has not yet started negotations with the European Commission on financing models.

EU transport commission Violeta Bulc on a visit to the country last month, indicated that it is up to the Croatian authorities to first decide what kind of financing model they want.

It could tap into three sources of funding – including the EU’s new €315bn growth fund – but each one comes with a different set of stings.

“Each of these mechanisms has its own rules and the Croatian government has to study them very carefully before it decides which of them is most appropriate,” said Bulc.

For his part, Doncic has already said that construction could start late this year or early next year.”

Now Croatians are wondering whether 2015 will really be the year that the bridge will start being built – some 20 years after the idea was first mentioned.

Chemnitz neo-Nazis pose questions for Germany

UN human rights commissioner urged EU leaders to condemn violence that recalled the 1930s, but the local situation in former East Germany does not apply to the whole country.

Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life

Simon Busuttil spent 10 years as an MEP before returning to Malta to lead the opposition. He now fears for his life amid probes into high-level corruption in Malta's government.

Puigdemont reclaims Catalonia's leadership

Back in Belgium after Spain lifted a European Arrest Warrant against him, the separatist former leader wants to be the real power behind the region's government and a new push for independence.

News in Brief

  1. Another referendum 'would take a year', Downing St says
  2. 82-year old Berlusconi to run in EU elections
  3. EU parliament votes to triple funds for democracy promotion
  4. EU parliament backs linking budget payments to rule of law
  5. Verhofstadt voted for Draghi amendment 'by mistake'
  6. 'Plan B' Brexit vote in UK parliament set for 29 January
  7. Verhofstadt wanted Draghi out of G30 group
  8. Putin heads to Serbia amid warnings against West

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  2. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  3. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  4. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  5. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  6. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  7. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  8. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us