One of the opened issues between BiH and Croatia is the announced construction of the Peljesac Bridge, to which the institutions of BiH, i.e. the Presidency of our country, strongly opposed more than ten years ago through a Conclusion in which was stated that BiH is against bridge construction until open issues related to the identification of the maritime border between the two states are realized.
Despite all of that, the authorities of Croatia continued to work on the realization of this project, which culminated in applying and obtaining funds from the European Commission. The construction of the Peljesac Bridge would breach the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which guarantees BiH the right of access to the open sea.
“We are not disputing the right of Croatia to connect its territory, but BiH should not be denied the right to have access to the open sea. It is necessary to return to the first step, to determine where the exact border at sea between BiH and Croatia really is, and to determine the route and the width of the water corridor to international waters. Later on, we need to determine all the technical features of the bridge and where that bridge would be actually located. This attitude of BiH has been established back in 2007, and it has not changed since then,” said the member of the Presidency of BiH, Bakir Izetbegovic, in August this year.
On the other hand, officials of the Republic of Croatia denied the justification of the opposition of BiH, they neglected the UN Convention and referred only to the conclusions of the working groups that considered the technical characteristics of the bridge, which they treated as the “green light” from BiH. The construction of the Peljesac Bridge, until the recent meeting of Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Izetbegovic, judging by public appearances of Croatian officials, was a “done deal”.
However, a joint statement after the meeting, although subtle, suggests a slight change in the approach of Croatian officials to this controversial issue.
“The willingness to resolve the outstanding issues between the two countries in the spirit of good neighborly relations and on the basis of respect for mutual equality, sovereignty, and international law was confirmed,” as said in the statement, which is also the first mention of “respect of the international law”, in this case the UN Convention, which came from Croatian officials.
An expert on the international law Enis Omerovic said that this statement is contrary to the statements of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic in the past few months, in which he expressed rigid attitudes that they will uncompromisingly continue with the construction of the Peljesac Bridge, that they are constructing bridge in their national territory and there is nothing controversial in that.
“It is true that the funds have already been allocated and that Croatia can now ignore the warnings of the European Commission. We know that the European Commission already warned Prime Minister Plenkovic that the process is irregular, but since the funds are already allocated, they can ignore it and start with the construction. Now, everything is on BH diplomacy, said Nesad Alikadic, an expert in maritime traffic.
“BH side needs to talk more specifically with the European Commission in order to stop it, to freeze the funds and only then to solve the issue of the corridor to the open sea, and then the connection of the two territories of Croatia in a way that is acceptable to BiH,” concluded Alikadic.