A long-awaited bridge connecting the southern coastal regions to the rest of the country has finally opened, being hailed as one of the most significant events in Croatian history.
Croatians formerly had to cross Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territory.
China constructed the 2.4 km (1.5 km) long Peljesac bridge, although the European Union provided the majority of the funding.
250 runners crossed the bridge during celebrations that lasted all day, and there were also tiny boats cruising beneath the six pylons with Croatian flags.
Before the day came to an end with a magnificent firework display, locals also took the chance to stroll along the first section of the bridge.
At the ceremony, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made a video speech. Andrej Plenkovic, his Croatian equivalent, proclaimed, “Tonight, we are unifying Croatia!” and said that the bridge was not a luxury but a requirement.
The first official crossing was accomplished by the Rimac Nevera, an electric hypercar developed in Croatia, at the opening ceremony.
With cohesion funding, the EU agreed to pay for 85% of the bridge, or €357 million (£300 million), saying that this would greatly enhance Croatians’ quality of life. Access roads, tunnels, and other infrastructure were also funded.
The Neum corridor, a 9 km-long strip of Bosnian shoreline, divided two portions of Croatia’s coastline after the former Yugoslavia disintegrated and Croatia declared independence in 1991.
Bosnia’s ability to access the coast dates back to 1699, when Neum was given over by Dubrovnik, which is now in modern-day Croatia, to the Ottoman Empire. Neum is now a part of Croatia.
Anybody attempting to cross from the Peljesac peninsula to the mainland or travel north from the historic city of Dubrovnik on the southernmost Adriatic coast must go through two border checks because Bosnia is not a member of the EU but Croatia is. Anyone can now use the new bridge to go directly across Croatia’s Adriatic coast.
Dragan Jurkovic, the mayor of Neum, told Bosnian TV that the new bridge will lessen summertime traffic along the coast and that he only saw advantages for it.
However, some business owners and traders were worried about how the reduction might affect the local economy.
Neum has seen a steady influx of tourists, many of whom are Czechs, Poles, and Germans; nevertheless, the area’s reputation for having far lower pricing than Dubrovnik is now expected to change.
There have been issues with the bridge.
When Croatia agreed to raise the bridge’s height to 55 metres, Bosnia stopped complaining about how it would impede its ability to access the sea (181ft).
The China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), a state-owned Chinese business that was awarded the bridge contract for Croatia, submitted a bid that was significantly lower than that of its European rivals. Due to this, an Austrian company complained, claiming that CRBC was “price-dumping” and obtaining state aid from China.
According to the official news agency of China, Xinhua, the bridge opening was anticipated to increase mutual confidence and cooperation between Beijing and Zagreb.