A midnight opening ceremony featuring folk dancers, singing and a huge fireworks display took place on the Peljesac Bridge on Wednesday after the installation of the last segment of its span.
The construction, at a cost of 420 million euros ($ 500 million), is 85% EU funded and is a rare Chinese project in Europe that has been the subject of an appeal process regular offers.
During the ceremony, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said that the bridge represents “a fascinating strategic achievement of the Croatian people and their state” which fulfills their long-held dream of connecting the Adriatic coast.
“I really think this is a huge event for Croatia, the Croatian people, for our friends in Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said.
“We have connected what we call modern sovereignty, a very clear project with which we realize strategic interests, realized at the time when we have strengthened our international position and enriched it with the accession to the European Union.”
The bridge and its connecting roads are expected to be fully completed by June of next year.
Until then, road travelers wishing to visit some of Croatia’s most attractive tourist destinations, such as the Old Town part of Dubrovnik, will still have to go through two border checkpoints between Bosnia and Croatia in the seaside port. Bosnian from Neum.
Plenkovic said the bridge will not divide, but will connect people and nations.
“The bridge not only connects Croatia, but it connects the EU as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said.
But the project angered Bosnian officials, who claim the bridge violates the state’s sovereign access to the open seas of the Adriatic.
Construction began in July 2018 after the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) won an international bid to build a 2.4 km (1.5 miles) bridge.
In recent years, China has invested funds in Central and Eastern European countries as part of its Belt and Road Initiative strategic project, which includes the modernization of infrastructure and aims to create a network. transport and trade links between China and Europe.
EU officials fear, however, that Chinese investments will strengthen its economic and political weight in the region, which is still reeling from the bloody 1990s shattering of the former Yugoslavia.