European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen opened the Svilaj bridge connecting the Bosnian with Croatian shore of the River Svilaj on Thursday, in the presence of delegations from both countries, including EMP Zeljana Zovko, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and his Bosnian counterpart Zoran Tegeltija.
“The essence is in connecting and building bridges between peoples, countries and cultures. That is crucial for all of us. BiH 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,” said Von der Leyen.
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“I hope that BiH will soon become part of the digital platform, which is the name behind easier travel and movement for BiH. Please take make use of that. 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 380 million Bosnian marks (some €190 million) is for BiH in the fight against the pandemic. We must now work on building a common future. I believe that all BiH 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,” said the President of the EC.
Speaking about the opening of the bridge and crossing, she said it symbolizes all of the above – easier movement for a better future. She stressed that it is clear 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,” Von der Leyen noted.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said that the bridge 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.
“It is just one of the bridges connecting BiH and the Republic of Croatia. The bridge near Gradiska will be opened next year. By strengthening infrastructural connections, we connect our peoples, economies and exchanges. We want to take this opportunity to strengthen relations with BiH. We have a thousand kilometre-long border that doesn’t separate but connects us. I said that Croatia will not raise any wire towards BiH because we know how important it is to be connected. This does not mean that we will not cooperate together in the field of illegal migration and all other areas,” said Plenkovic.
The Chairman of Bosnia’s Council of Ministers Zoran Tegeltija said this is a very important investment 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 BiH and the Republic of Croatia on both sides of the Sava River. We waited a long time for the construction, but 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,” said Tegletija.