Croatia doesn’t respect international conventions or bilateral agreements which it signed itself regarding the Peljesac Bridge, according to Seval Kovacevic, an expert for maritime law.
“The maritime border between BiH and Croatia goes along the middle of the Malostone Gulf and the two republics even signed an agreement to that effect in 1980,” Kovacevic said for Faktor.
Besides that, according to the conclusions of the International Conference for the former Yugoslavia, that is Badinter’s Commission, the states that were created after the disintegration of Yugoslavia are to decide between themselves about their maritime borders. Croatia, according to Kovacevic, hasn’t reached an agreement regarding the maritime borders with any of the other three maritime countries – Slovenia, BiH and Montenegro. The question of the maritime border with Slovenia ended at an international arbitration, which accepted Slovenia’s arguments and which Croatia is disputing.
“Croatia doesn’t recognize BiH as a maritime country whatsoever. She simply adopted straight lines of the former Yugoslavia, which are now serving as the borders of its territorial waters, for example Proizd on Korcula and the island Vodnjak and everything in between those lines are considered by Croatia to be their territorial waters. For anything to happen in the acquatorium of Neum, there has to exist a legal basis. That legal basis must go through determining the maritime border, to see what the internal waters are, what’s the international waterway for BiH out of Neum is, that from the Maloostanki and Neum canals by way of the Korcula canal to the open sea. Croatia rejected that, reducing the question to the technical question of the height of the bridge,” added Kovacevic.
Even in communication with the European Commission, the Croatia government is leaving out a very important detail, which is that the Peljesac bridge isn’t being built over the territorial waters of Croatia, but rather over international waters.
“The European Commission approved funds for the construction of the bridge without a legal basis. First, Croatia isn’t building the bridge in its internal waters, but rather in its international waters, through which the international waterway of Neum towards the open sea. Every international waterway must be coded, since there’s no free sailing between its islands. There must be an established way to know how ships come in and come out. Croatia is rejecting all of that and is reducing the question to the dimensions of the bridge,” Kovacevic explained.
Even when the entire problem comes to the question of the dimensions of the bridge, which is a small part of the entire problem, Croatia doesn’t respect international maritime rights of BiH. According to the Convention of the Rights of the Sea, one country cannot limit the use of an international waterway to another country in any way, form, or shape.
“In terms of the dimensions and what Croatia is saying, that is a 200 meter width and 55 meter height, it’s little compared to international standards. Bridges across seas and sailable rivers, such as the ones on the Bosporus, the river Seine in Normandy, the bridge between Denmark and Sweden, as well as either. They’re at least 65 meters high and wide at least 500 meters. Croatia doesn’t have the right to limit BiH or decide which ships will sail under the bridge. Because of that, the width of 200 meters isn’t enough. It’s enough to lay down energy and optic cables, as well as for submarines, cruisers, tugs, and gas ships,” Kovacevic noted.
Despite the fact that Croatian authorities, led by Croatian prime minister Andrej Plenkovic, are waving around papers, saying that BiH gave consent for the construction of the Peljesac bridge, one can see firsthand what the opinion of BiH is regarding that question. On July 7th, a joint session of the Council of Ministers and the Government of Croatia was held in Sarajevo and one of the questions was the construction of the Peljesac bridge.
“We consider this problem dually, the one of unhindered travel as well as BiH’s access to the open sea, that is international waters. As such, we will insist on respecting international standards in this field, which demand that every maritime country has access to international waters. These standards are guaranteed by international maritime law. Everything else is Croatia’s internal affairs and we won’t be involved in that,” the presiding of the Council of Ministers of BiH Denis Zvizdic said then.