Bosnian Officials at Odds over Croatia Bridge

Bosnian Croat and Bosniak politicians escalated their differences over Croatia’s plan to build a bridge spanning the stretch of Adriatic sea leading to Bosnian coastal town of Neum. Following statements of Croatian politicians that the Pelješac bridge construction will definitely start, one Bosniak and one Bosnian Croat minister in the Bosnian Council of Ministers sent letters to the Croatian government and the European Union officials, voicing their opposition and support, respectively, to Croatian bridge plans.

Bosnian justice minister Josip Grubeša, a Croat, wrote to the Croatian government and the European Commission, saying that there are no legal obstacles to build the Pelješac bridge. Grubeša’s letter came just a day after the civil affairs minister Adil Osmanović, a Bosniak, threatened in his letter that Bosnia will pull out from the 1999 border agreement with Croatia if the Pelješac bridge construction went as planned.

Such public communication with neighbors needs to stop

Bosnian tripartite presidency had a meeting with the chairman of the Council of Ministers, Denis Zvizdić, and his deputies to discuss the recent developments regarding the Pelješac bridge.

“We are trying to find solutions and avoid such problems. One of the issues (discussed) was the letter of  minister Osmanović,” said the Croat member of the Bosnian presidency, Dragan Čović.

“I said that if he doesn’t retract the letter, another letter will come. Since Osmanović didn’t retract the letter, minister Grubeša sent his.”

Čović, also the leader of main Bosnian Croat party, the HDZ BiH, said that minister Osmanović’s letter did not reflect the official position of the Bosnian government.

“Such public communication (between parties) in Bosnia and with the immediate neighbors, especially friends like Croatia, harms everybody in Bosnia and it needs to stop. We must protect (Bosnian) interests by defining common interests first, and then communicating that to the neighbors and international institutions,” said Čović.

The Council of Ministers chairman Zvizdić said that the dialogue with Croatia will continue, but added that it has to be based on mutual understanding and international law.

“In addition to the Pelješac bridge issue, we need to finalize the process of border demarcation between Bosnia and Croatia without further ado, especially the demarcation at sea, which includes the definition of Bosnia’s access to international waters,” said Zvizdić.

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