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Croatia builds bridge to bypass Bosnia’s 12-mile coastline

Croatia builds bridge to bypass Bosnia’s 12-mile coastline
Link across Adriatic joins two parts of country but draws complaints from neighbour

Croatie has opened a long-awaited bridge connecting two parts of the country separated by Bosnie Herzégovine’s 12-mile stretch of coastline.

The one-and-a-half mile bridge spans the Adriatic Sea to link Croatia’s mainland to the Peljesac peninsula in the south, allowing easier access to the country’s most important tourism destination – the medieval walled city of Dubrovnik

Croats rushed early on Tuesday to be among the first to cross the Peljesac bridge on foot as it admitted pedestrians ahead of the formal opening ceremony planned in the evening. It was to open to road traffic after the ceremony.

Co-funded by the European Union and built by a Chinese company, the elegant, cable-stayed bridge with six pylons is a rare venture of its kind amid concerns in Europe over China’s bid to boost its economic influence through investment in infrastructure, known as the Belt and Road Initiative.

State HRT television described the bridge opening as a “historic day that generations awaited.”

“This is big day for Croatia,” said Andrej Plenkovic, the Croatian prime minister. “Let’s enjoy it today!"

<p>Map shows Croatia and Bosnia, with inset highlighting the latter’s coastline </p>

Map shows Croatia and Bosnia, with inset highlighting the latter’s coastline

Croatia and Bosnia were two of the six republics that made up Yugoslavia. When the communist state broke up in the early 1990s, Croatia’s Adriatic Sea coastline was split by a narrow strip of Bosnia.

Both residents and tourists had to pass border checks, which slowed down traffic and left the inhabitants of the southern area feeling isolated from the rest of the country.

That area includes Dubrovnik, a medieval town with a spot on Unesco’s protected heritage list that is Croatia’s biggest tourist attraction.

<p>People run over the Peljesac Bridge at Komarna village</p>

People run over the Peljesac Bridge at Komarna village

The bridge was in planning for years before finally securing funding in 2017 when the EU allocated €357 million euros (£300m), which covered much of the €526 million-euro cost. The China Road and Bridge Corporation in 2018 won an international tender to construct the bridge.

The project, pourtant, had faced criticism from Bosnia, whose officials complained of unresolved border issues and said the bridge would hamper access to its part of the coastline.

Known for its nature and hundreds of Adriatic Sea islands, Croatia is a major tourism destination, attracting millions from Europe and all over the world every summer. Tourism also is key for Croatia’s economy, which remains among the weakest in the EU.

Additional reporting by Associated Press