Von der Leyen Opens Svilaj Bridge Between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen opened the Svilaj bridge connecting the Bosnian with Croatian shore of the River Sava on Thursday 30 September, in the presence of the Head of the EU Delegation and Special Representative Johann Sattler, Member of the European Parliament Željana Zovko, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and the Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina Zoran Tegeltija.
Speaking about the opening of the bridge and crossing, she said it symbolizes easier movement for a better future and that the region must build the most important bridge – the bridge of reconciliation and trust: “I hope you will reach that bridge. It is our debt to the victims of the past. We owe it to future generations to make that dream a reality. Leaders must have the interests of citizens in their agendas. Reforms are needed. I assure you, we are ready to go through every step together with you as friends and partners”.
President von der Leyen said: "The essence is in connecting and building bridges between peoples, countries and cultures. That is crucial for all of us. Bosnia and Herzegovina and the entire Western Balkans belong in the European Union. Our common priorities for the future are clear. It is currently the fight against Covid and vaccinations. We have to dedicate ourselves to the economic development of our countries”.
She also talked about recovery and future: “I hope that Bosnia and Herzegovina will soon become part of the digital platform, which is the name behind easier travel and movement. As far as the economic recovery is concerned, we have invested additional funds for an accelerated recovery. We have provided €3.3 billion to support our partners in the Western Balkans, of which some €190 million is for Bosnia and Herzegovina in the fight against the pandemic. We must now work on building a common future. I believe that all Bosnia and Herzegovina citizens, especially the young people, deserve a greener, more prosperous and digital future. More jobs are needed. And that is the backbone of the engagement. We have foreseen €9 million for the Western Balkans, but we also need your engagement there”.
The Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković echoed President von der Leyen in stressing that bridges symbolizes the values that connect us – community, responsibility, trust, mutual respect and the desire to communicate without obstacles so that people, goods and services can move without restrictions: “Svilaj is just one of the bridges connecting Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Croatia. The bridge near Gradiška will be opened next year. By strengthening infrastructural connections, we connect our peoples, economies and exchanges”.
The Chairman of Bosnia’s Council of Ministers Zoran Tegeltija stressed on the importance of this project for both countries: “We have shown that we have enough knowledge, skills and courage to jointly design, build and finance such an important project. It is important not only for our two countries but for all the countries that rely on the Pan-European Road and Corridor 5c. There is a huge desire to connect the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Croatia on both sides of the Sava River. We waited a long time for the construction, and we never thought of giving up. The desire to connect is much greater than steel and concrete. This bridge will be one of the strongest symbols of the connection of our two countries” .
The Svilaj Section on the Corridor Vc is the first WBIF Connectivity Agenda project to be completed. The section covers the northernmost 10.7 km motorway section from Odžak to Svilaj (incl. 2 interchanges, rest area, toll station), state of the art border crossing facilities and a 660 m long cross-border bridge between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. The motorway section was completed in early 2018, the bridge in 2020 and the border crossing facilities in August 2021. A temporary opening of the bridge and border crossing facilities for passengers is on 30 September 2021. The border crossing is expected to be fully functional for passenger and cargo traffic in the coming period.
The construction of Corridor Vc in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a priority investment Flagship 2 "Connecting North to South", as identified in the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, within the investment window "Sustainable Transport". The 325 km motorway will cross the country from the border with Croatia near the port of Ploče in the south to the border with Croatia in the north, contributing towards a more inclusive economic and social development.
WBIF Video on Corridor Vc (June 2021)