Svilaj Bridge opens to traffic

Photo /slike/foto 10_21/foto MOST SVILAJ 1-10_21/nsl MOST SVILAJ 1-10_21.JPG
The Svilaj Bridge across the River Sava, which connects Svilaj in Croatia with Donji Svilaj in Bosnia and Herzegovina and is part of the international Pan-European Vc corridor Budapest-Beli Manastir-Osijek-Sarajevo-Ploče, opened to traffic on Thursday, September 30th, 2021.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Bosnia and Herzegovina Prime Minister Zoran Tegeltija jointly cut the ribbon officially marking the bridge open to traffic.

Prime Minister Plenković said that the Svilaj Bridge across the Sava River represents yet another connection between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), but also between the EU and BiH.

"It symbolises the values that connect us, togetherness, responsibility, trust and mutual respect and the wish to communicate without disruption, for people, goods and services to move without restrictions", said Plenković, announcing that next year the bridge at Nova Gradiška would also be completed.

According to Plenković, the Svilaj Bridge has special value because it is part of the international Vc corridor, with BiH having to construct another 200 kilometres of motorways whereas Croatia will complete the section from Osijek to the Hungarian border as early as next year while Hungary will build a section to the Croatian border.

Croatia wants to strengthen its relations with BiH, Plenković said. "I've often said that Croatia will not put up any fence on the border with BiH", he said, underscoring that Croatia wishes to intensify cooperation with BiH in numerous areas.

Referring to a new meeting of leaders of the EU and Western Balkan countries, Plenković said that that will be an opportunity to discuss a further package of economic infrastructure assistance for the region, as well as send a strong political message for the first time after 21 years after the first Zagreb summit, that the process of enlargement is alive and continuing, and that a strong desire exists to advance mutual trust.

"That mutual trust can be built only if the three constituent peoples in BiH are truly equal. And that means respecting what was agreed to in the Dayton-Paris peace accords based on the concept of one state, two entities and three equal peoples, as well as all others in BiH. We advocate and support efforts by political parties and institutions in BiH, with the support of the international community, to find a solution for an agreement to amend the election law so that in future Croats are not left without a legitimate representative in the highest BiH institutions", Plenković said, adding that he was saying this as BiH's greatest friend.

Von der Leyen: Bridge connects Western Balkans and EU

European Commission President von der Leyen said that the Svilaj Bridge connects the Western Balkans and the European Union, and, more importantly, symbolically builds bridges and connects people, countries and cultures.

That is key to our common future, she said, underscoring that BiH and the entire Western Balkans belong in the EU. That is our common interest and I believe our destiny, she said.

The EU cooperates with the Western Balkans with the aim of creating jobs and connecting the region, she said, citing as an example plans with BiH for further investments in modernising the road and rail infrastructure along Corridor Vc.

Prime Minister Tegeltija said that the bridge was a joint success by BiH and Croatia with the support of the EU, which he thanked for its help in building the bridge and its support for many other projects in BiH.

"We have shown that we have sufficient know-how, skills and courage to jointly design, build and finance a project as important as this one. It is important not only for our two countries but for all the countries gravitating to the pan-European Vc corridor", said Tegetlija, highlighting the importance of the bride in connecting citizens and enterprises.

He also commented on one other joint project, building a bridge across the Sava River at Gradiška, saying that the start of summer 2022 should be an opportunity to open that bridge too with Croatia's prime minister and the EC president.

The Svilaj Bridge across the River Sava connecting Svilaj in Croatia with Donji Svilaj in Bosnia and Herzegovina is 660 metres long and 29 metres wide, and has three lanes in either direction.

The bridge was built pursuant to an agreement between the Croatian government and Bosnia and Herzegovina's Council of Ministers.

Each state financed 50% of the construction costs. Croatia's share was covered by the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and an EIB loan. The construction cost amounted to €22.31 million without VAT.

The construction of the bridge started in 2016 and was completed in 2020.