The Peljesac Bridge had been designed based on consultations with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and construction work on it would continue, Croatia's Transport Minister Oleg Butkovic told state radio on Wednesday.
He added that recent statements by the newly elected Croat member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency Zeljko Komsic that Bosnia and Herzegovina would sue Croatia over the project at the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea were "absolutely not good" and are not in the spirit of "conciliatory and good neighbourly relations".
"It is well known that Croatia discussed and agreed the bridge dimensions with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The initial proposal was to make it 150 metres tall, with a more narrow navigation corridor," Butkovic said, adding that Croatia then accepted Bosnia and Herzegovina's proposal that the bridge should be made 200 metres tall, with a wider corridor.
The bridge intends to connect Croatia's mainland with the Peljesac peninsula in southern Croatia, in order to bypass the 15-kilometre coastal strip around the Bosnian town of Neum which is Bosnia's only access to the Adriatic Sea. The project is worth €420 million excluding VAT, with EU funding securing 85 percent of the total cost, or €357 million.
"That was noted, and it formed the basis on which the Peljesac Bridge was designed, so it can't be said that we were not in touch, or that we had not discussed the matter. The claim (by Komsic) that the 1999 Tudjman-Izetbegovic agreement or the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina is not being honoured is incorrect. The agreement is being honoured, even though it was never ratified by the Croatian parliament. According to that agreement, the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia is located 500 metres away from the location where the Peljesac Bridge is being built," said Butkovic.
Butkovic went on to say that Komsic's statement that had the agreement been honoured, the location of the Peljesac Bridge would now be on Bosnia and Herzegovina's territory only proved that Komsic was not familiar with the matter.
"Maybe he was carried away by the election euphoria. We'll see when happens when passions cool down. I don't know what Bosnia and Herzegovina will do, it may or may not sue us, we'll see. We are open to talks, and are willing to show them the relevant documents," said Butkovic, adding that he had shown the paperwork on the projects to Bosnia's Transport Minister, Ismir Jusko, on several occasions.
He noted that the construction work on the bridge, which formally started in July this year, when the Chinese CRBC consortium took over the project blueprints, will continue, that funds for it had been secured, and that test works had been completed.
Butkovic said that more intensive work on drilling a pilot hole would start in mid-December, and that the state-owned Hrvatske Ceste road management company would "very soon" select the construction company for the second stage of the project, i.e. the building of access roads.
"We are carrying on with the project. We are not denying Bosnia and Herzegovina the right of passage for all vessels sailing from the port of Neum to Croatia's high seas. Bosnia and Herzegovina has that right, the bridge's properties allow for the passage of all vessels to and from the port of Neum, and I don't see any problem in that regard," said Butkovic.