ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) – A major European Union-funded bridge built by a Chinese company has been connected over the Adriatic Sea, connecting two strips of the Croatian coast that are divided by a small part of Bosnian territory.
The China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) won an international tender in 2018 for the construction of a 2.4 kilometer (1.5 mile) bridge. The 420 million euros ($ 500 million) construction is 85% EU funded and is a rare Chinese project in Europe that has gone through a regular tendering process.
Following the installation of the last segment of the span, a midnight opening ceremony on the spectacular bridge featured folk dancers, vocals and a huge fireworks display.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said at the ceremony 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.
The bridge and its connecting roads are expected to be 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.
Bosnian officials were not happy when construction began, saying the bridge that bypasses Bosnian territory violates the state’s sovereign access to the open seas of the Adriatic.
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.
In recent years, China has invested funds in Central and Eastern European countries as part of its Belt and Road strategic project, which includes the modernization of infrastructure and aims to create a network of transport and trade links between the China and Europe.
EU officials fear, however, that Chinese investments will strengthen the economic and political weight of the Asian country in the region, which is still reeling from the bloody break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.