Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Pelješac Bridge Inaugurated, Ensuring Croatia's Territorial Continuity in South

ZAGREB, 26 July 2022  - The passage of the first cars over Pelješac Bridge on Tuesday marked the opening of this structure to traffic at a ceremony that included a firework display, torches on boats sailing near the bridge and the ringing of church bells.

After 304 years, the bridge put an end to Croatia's territorial discontinuity which was created by a 1699 peace treaty under which the Dubrovnik Republic, or the Republic of Ragusa, ceded the stretch of the coast around Neum to the Ottoman Empire.

The ceremony of its inauguration started at 2015 hours at the Komarna rest area and on that occasion a special composition by pianist Matej Mestrović was performed.

The programme also included a performance of the Anthem of Europe and Croatia's national anthem, and the screening of a video showing the construction of the bridge over the past few years.

Speeches were delivered by Croatia's top officials President Zoran Milanović, Sabor Speaker Gordan Jandroković, and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković after the Croatian road operator (HC) management board chairman, Josip Škorić, and Transport Minister Oleg Butković as well as representatives of the local authorities addressed the event.

On behalf of the European Commission, President Ursula von der Leyen and EC Vice President Dubravka Šuica addressed the ceremony, and a video message by Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang was shown.

The programme featured the sailing of traditional vessels, local "Dubrovački Trombunjeri" men clad in historical uniforms, and motorbike associations of Homeland War veterans.

The ceremony ended with a fireworks display around 10pm when two Croatian-made cars, a Nevera from Rimac Automobili and one built by Croatian racing driver Niko Pulić, drove across the bridge

Regular passenger car traffic starts on the bridge at midnight Tuesday.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Pelješac Bridge Inauguration Ceremony Kicks Off

ZAGREB, 26 July 2022 - The ceremony of the formal opening of Pelješac Bridge began on Tuesday evening at the Komarna rest area where numerous office-holders, guests and citizens came to attend this event.

The importance of Pelješac Bridge for Croatia is multiple. In the economic sense, it improves road connectivity with the southernmost parts of the country and thus facilitates the local economy. The improved connectivity enables better access to healthcare services and education for local residents.

The EU-funded project has enabled Croatia to restore its territorial continuity after 304 years. The territorial discontinuity was caused by a 1699 peace treaty under which the Dubrovnik Republic, or the Republic of Ragusa, ceded the stretch of the coast around Neum to the Ottoman Empire.

The bridge provides a direct road link between the southernmost part of Croatia and the rest of the country, which is currently cut off at Neum, where Bosnia and Herzegovina has access to the Adriatic Sea.

Work on the bridge officially started on 31 July 2018 and the bridge was fully joined together at a ceremony on 29 July 2021.

The entire project, including access roads, cost €525 million, of which €357 million was secured as a grant from the European Union.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Pelješac Bridge Raises China-Croatia Cooperation to New Level, Ambassador Says

ZAGREB, 26 July 2022 - Pelješac Bridge is a prominent project for promoting Chinese equipment, technology and know-how in the construction industry in Croatia and globally, and it will deepen mutually beneficial relations between China and Croatia and the EU, China's ambassador to Croatia has told Xinhua News Agency.

The project has been supported and followed with great interest and appreciation by the leaders of both China and Croatia, Qi Qianjin told Xinhua, as reported by China Daily on Tuesday.

He praised Chinese enterprises that have overcome the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and completed the project on schedule.

The diplomat called Pelješac Bridge a symbol of the fruitful cooperation between China and Croatia within the framework of a broader cooperation scheme between China and Central and Eastern European Countries (China-CEEC Cooperation). 

Qi was quoted by Xinhua as saying that the bridge, the largest infrastructure project undertaken so far by China in Croatia, was a symbol of good cooperation between China and Europe.

The project greatly contributed to economic growth in Croatia and more broadly in Europe, as it employed over 250 local people, while it also helped to cultivate engineering, technical and management skills, thus effectively driving the development of local enterprises and promoting Croatia's economic and social development, Qi said

A total of 18 design and consulting enterprises and 45 construction companies in the EU, as well as 112 global equipment and material suppliers, participated in the project, he said.

Chinese enterprises strictly followed relevant environmental protection regulations of the EU and Croatia to minimize the impact of the project on the surrounding environment, he added.

Qi said he had been aware of the worries of local oyster producers concerning the possible negative impact of the construction project on the quality and volume of oyster production at the nearby Ston Bay.

However, thanks to the highest environmental protection standards observed throughout the project, no negative impact has been observed. On the contrary, the bridge has opened up new sales routes, Qi added.

The opening of the new bridge is expected to further deepen the mutual political trust between China and Croatia, strengthen the alignment of the development strategies of the two sides, and expand cooperation in various fields such as economy and trade, Qi said.

In summary, it will take the comprehensive cooperative partnership between China and Croatia to a new level, he added.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Slovenia Sends Croatia Letter of Congratulations on Pelješac Bridge

ZAGREB, 26 July 2022 - Slovenia on Tuesday sent a letter of congratulations to Transport Minister Oleg Butković on the inauguration of Pelješac Bridge, describing it as a historic day for Croatia.

"Congratulations to Minister Oleg Butković and all in Croatia on this historic day and opening of the bridge that will make Croatia territorially whole," Infrastructure State Secretary Alenka Bratuš, said in her message on social networks.

She also welcomed the fact that the main designer of the bridge is Slovenian architect Marjan Pipenbaher.

"This has particular importance and reinforces the good-neighbourly relations and friendship between our countries," says Bartušek, a former Slovenian PM.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

European Commission Welcomes Opening of Pelješac Bridge

ZAGREB, 26 July 2022 - The European Commission on Tuesday welcomed the official opening of  Pelješac Bridge, one of the biggest projects in the EU and the biggest one in Croatia funded by the EU.

This is a Cohesion Policy-funded project with an EU contribution of €357 million. In June 2017, the Commission approved the EU financing of the bridge following a feasibility study.

Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira said the bridge "will improve the economic development and the territorial cohesion of South Dalmatia and Croatia as a whole. This is a project of great importance for both Croatia and for the EU. This bridge is a symbol of European solidarity and support to Croatia in financial and political terms. It will improve the lives of citizens on the ground and will be part of the development history of Croatia."

Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, Dubravka Šuica congratulated Croatia on "the tremendous work" done. "The EU is about building bridges, connecting territories and people. We do this metaphorically every day. Today, we are adding real bridges, real connections with the same goal: bringing people together and making our Union and member states stronger."

The new bridge will connect the southernmost part of Croatia and Dubrovnik to the rest of mainland Croatia, the Commission said.

"This bridge will significantly improve the everyday life of Croatians - by reducing the travel time between Dubrovnik and Split - and travellers in the nearby areas. A smooth flow of goods and people will facilitate access to public services, such as healthcare, and economic services in the different sub-regional centres," the Commission said.

"This seamless connection will also greatly benefit tourism, trade and will reinforce the territorial cohesion of the region," it added.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Veterans Ministry Says Pelješac Bridge Connects Croatia Territorially, Symbolically

ZAGREB, 26 July 2022 - Pelješac Bridge connects Croatia territorially and symbolically, it unites and calls for the unity which led to victory in the Homeland War, the Veterans Ministry said on Tuesday, adding that veterans from every part of the country will participate in tonight's bridge inauguration ceremony.

"Therefore let's celebrate this feat, too, thinking of those who did not live to see this day, to whom we are eternally grateful for our freedom and independence," the ministry said, adding that connecting Croatia's north and south is a generational project and the inauguration of the bridge a historic event.

There would have been no Pelješac Bridge without the contribution and sacrifice of the people who defended and liberated our country, the ministry said.

"Remembering all our victories in the Homeland War ahead of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Veterans Day, we are proud that we can also celebrate together the successful completion of this project whereby Croatia is finally joined together," it added.

For more news about Croatia, click here.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

HTZ: Pelješac Bridge Becoming New Tourist Attraction

ZAGREB, 26 July 2022 - Pelješac Bridge is already becoming a tourist attraction and is expected to further boost the demand for holiday destinations in Croatia's south, Croatian Tourist Board (HTZ) Director Kristjan Staničić told Hina ahead of the bridge's opening on Tuesday.

"The bridge will certainly be a new tourist attraction, both for boaters, for whom sailing under the bridge will be a special experience, and for travellers and tourists who will be able to enjoy the magnificent view of the bridge from surrounding vantage points and roads," Staničić said, adding that the HTZ would use the bridge in its promotional campaigns.

He said it was still early to speak about the direct impact of the bridge on tourist trends and destinations in Croatia's far south, but added that the bridge would certainly reduce the dependence of the local tourist industry on air traffic.

"Although the United Kingdom and the United States are among the most important markets for Dubrovnik-Neretva County, also important are the markets of Germany, Poland, France and Slovenia, as well as the domestic market, so it is expected that Pelješac Bridge will increase the demand from these markets and contribute to the image of Croatia of a well-positioned car  destination," Staničić said.

He said that a Euronews crew had visited the bridge last week for a travel story. He noted that this leading European news channel was available to about 70 per cent of households or about 145 million people in Europe.

For more news about Croatia, click here.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Bridge Designer Says Pelješac Bridge His Biggest Challenge Yet

ZAGREB, 26 July 2022 - Slovenian engineer Marjan Pipenbaher, who designed Pelješac Bridge in southern Croatia, said ahead of the bridge's opening on Tuesday that this was the biggest challenge in his career, which includes more than 200 similar projects.

"Pelješac Bridge is among Europe's five largest bridges spanning sea bays that have been built in this century and ranks among the world's finest," Pipenbaher told Slovenian Radio, adding that it was a challenge to design it because it is situated in a wind-swept and earthquake-prone area.

He said that the bridge is important not only for Croatia, because it connects its southernmost part with the rest of the country, but also for Europe at large. "After all, it is one of the conditions for Croatia to join the Schengen area."

Pelješac Bridge was built by China Road and Bridge Corporation, and Pipenbaher said that no one was killed during the construction. "There were only two fairly serious accidents, which should also be noted."

For more news about Croatia, click here.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

As Peljesac Bridge Opens, Does HDZ or SDP Deserve the Most Praise?

July the 26th, 2022 - As Peljesac bridge opens after what seems like an endless wait, which government actually deserves the most praise? While SDP is responsible in the most part for pushing forward with the EU, HDZ was the one to sign the final agreement.

As Faktograf/Sanja Despot writes, with both HDZ and SDP having played their respective roles, Peljesac bridge opens not only itself, but many questions about precisely who the most praise should be directed at. Competitive discussions about whose government is most responsible for its construction have started up again.

President Zoran Milanovic (SDP) stated that he started working on the bridge's implementation back in 2012, claiming that it is indeed true that he questioned whether or not it was a profitable investment, but that he asked those questions during the period from 2005 to 2011, and not back in 2012.

"My team and I participated in the realisation of this bridge, practically in a 95 percent way. Everything was over when I handed over the post of prime minister," he said and added that it all started with Ivan Sprlje, the former prefect of Dubrovnik-Neretva County, who spoke about the idea way back during his 1997 campaign.

When asked to comment on the president's statement that SDP is responsible for this enormous project, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said: "They're one hundred percent responsible. They messed around to try to ensure that nothing came of it,''

It's fairly easy to find Milanovic's quote from back in July 2015 on the Croatian Government's website, on the eve of the parliamentary elections that took place that year. Milanovic then said that "Peljesac bridge will be built regardless of who wins the elections", and that, as he said, "no one can blow it anymore, and they blew it for five years straight".

It's worth noting that the European Union (EU) didn't simply decide out of nowhere to provide the funds for the construction of the bridge back in 2016 when HDZ returned to power.

Back in July 2015, then Prime Minister Milanovic, together with ministers Branko Grcic and Sinisa Hajdas Doncic, presented the project to connect the extreme south of Croatia with the Peljesac bridge, saying that the idea of a bridge was chosen as the best option by those who decided on it all in the European Union.

The then Minister of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, Hajdas Doncic, said that the Peljesac bridge construction project inherited from the previous government was oversized and too expensive, which is why Milanovic's government terminated the contracts with the contractors in 2012. He added that after that, through OP traffic in 2007-2013, they were provided money for the pre-feasibility study and said that in parallel, through OP Cohesion and Competitiveness, in the part concerning transport for the financial period 2014-2020, funds were provided for connecting the isolated part of the Republic of Croatia (southern Dalmatia) to the rest of the country. Through European Union funding, Croatian Roads (Hrvatske ceste), as the project holder, contracted the feasibility studies.

On that occasion, Hajdas Doncic recalled that several connection solutions were considered, stressing that as the best solution, the Peljesac bridge project with all of its connecting roads received the best marks and was identified as a project that would meet all the set goals.

"The bridge can apply for cash from European Union funds on the condition that we prepare the studies that show that this is the best solution", said the Minister of Foreign Affairs Vesna Pusic back in 2012, before Croatia formally entered the European Union on July the 1st, 2013, which was also during the mandate of former Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic. Pusic had then hoped that it could be financed from the IPA pre-accession fund.

In 2013, a preliminary feasibility study was carried out, financed by the European Commission (EC), which concluded that the best solution of all options for connecting the extreme south of the country was indeed a bridge.

During 2014 and 2015, once again during the mandate of Milanovic's government, a feasibility study was carried out, which was financed by EU funds, and which also confirmed that the best solution was the construction of Peljesac bridge. Then, at the end of 2016, confirmation was received from the EU that the project was ready for application for co-financing in the maximum amount of 85 percent. Finally, on June the 7th, 2017, a formal decision was made by the European Commission to co-finance the construction of the huge structure with 357 million euros.

In the spring of 2018, the then HDZ Minister of Regional Funds, Gabrijela Zalac, signed the contract on the construction of the bridge, which was worth over 2 billion kuna, between Croatian Roads and the Chinese consortium led by the China Road and Bridge Corporation.

Regarding the part of Milanovic's statement that Ivan Sprlje, the late SDP prefect of Dubrovnik-Neretva County, was the initiator of the idea of ​​building the bridge, it should be noted that SDP and HDZ are persistently competing for the right of precedence, each with their own arguments. SDP claimed that Sprlje was the first to present the idea in his campaign, that is, they refer to the exact information that he was the first to draw up the bridge in the spatial plan, and from HDZ, they highlight the role of Luka Bebic, who was the first to speak about it in Parliament for HDZ in 1998.

It's a fact that in the years leading up to the moment when Peljesac bridge finally opens, SDP wasn't entirely sure whether or not it should dive in with that project, until the party took over the government, that is. It's also true that former HDZ Prime Minister Ivo Sanader "rather emptily" started his work on the bridge as part of his PR campaigns.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Neum Tourism to Change Forever after Pelješac Bridge Opening

July 26, 2022 - Today's Pelješac Bridge opening will be a new start for Croatia - but what will it mean for Neum tourism? 

While the opening of the Pelješac Bridge to Dubrovnik is of significant importance to Croatia, both from the tourist and economic side, Neum tourism workers, especially restauranteurs, are feeling quite the opposite. 

Namely, from Tuesday, July 26, the Pelješac Bridge will officially connect Croatia for the first time in 300 years! 

Last weekend, Neum restaurateurs and hoteliers were not shy about speaking to the media, revealing their worries that nothing will be the same from Tuesday. 

Restaurateurs and tourism workers worry that the traffic on the main road through Neum will decrease significantly, threatening their businesses. Hoteliers and private apartment renters are also concerned because there will likely be fewer guests, reports Čapljinski Portal

"You have to call things by their right names and tell the truth - restaurateurs and merchants made a lot of money from tourists who traveled on the highway to Dubrovnik and vice versa," said one restaurateur who has operated a restaurant along the highway for many years.

"From Tuesday, things will change. All those tourists, mostly Poles, Czechs, and Germans, after waiting at the border, which used to be long and over an hour, would stop in Neum to freshen up, have lunch or dinner, a drink. And mind you, it was not a small number of people, from the beginning to the end of the season," they added. 

Travelers also enjoyed Neum because the prices were much more affordable.

"With their standard, these prices were low for them, and of course, they will stop to have lunch or dinner here before coming to Dubrovnik, where everything is ten times more expensive," they added. 

It seems there is an overall concern for a considerable drop in traffic immediately after the opening of the Pelješac Bridge.

"Come at the beginning of August and follow the number of cars going over the bridge and the number of cars on the highway. Nobody will want to wait at the border for hours now that they have a road to Dubrovnik without waiting. This will affect us," added the interlocutors for Čapljinski Portal. 

Hoteliers and private apartment renters are also worried, as they believe the number of overnight stays will decrease compared to the previous figures.

"Things simply won't be the same; the focus will shift to Pelješac. A good number of guests used Neum as an overnight destination, from where they visited Mostar, Dubrovnik, and the Dubrovnik coast in general, but that will surely change now. Nobody wants to wait at the borders for hours," the interlocutors pointed out. 

But could the newly opened Stolac-Neum road somehow compensate for a drop in travelers?

"Difficult. That road will not bring us anything in terms of tourism. However, it will make it easier for us locals to travel to Mostar and the interior of BiH, as well as for tourists who come to Neum from the interior of BiH so that they do not have to cross the border wait in lines. Those guests, frankly, were not our main consumers, at least when it comes to catering along the highway," said the same Neum restaurateur. 

According to them, Stolac will benefit the most from this road.

"Stores, fruit and vegetable sellers along the road, cafes, and restaurants located in Stolac could now benefit from passing tourists because it takes an hour to drive from the center of Stolac to the center of Neum, so Stolac is an ideal place to stop for a break," they added. 

In the end, they concluded that no one would fail in Neum tourism, but it will never be the same as it was.

"We will work, we have to work and live, but I think we can forget the golden times and the good income from foreign guests in Neum," the restaurateur pointed out.

Neum will thus have to consider offering new content in the seasons ahead to attract guests in summer, as tourism is paramount for restaurateurs and hoteliers, concludes the Čapljinski Portal.

With the ceremonial opening of the Pelješac Bridge on Tuesday, southern Croatia will be reunited with the rest of the country after 300 years.

The opening program starts already at 8 am at the Brijesta rest area, with a vigil by several orchestras from Dubrovnik-Neretva County. During the day, there will be races under the bridge and performances by klapa groups and cultural and artistic societies until the evening hours.

Visitors will be able to walk to the first pylon of the Pelješac Bridge as early as 10 am, the Dubrovnik-Neretva Police Department reported on Monday. From the Komarna side, the bridge will be accessible by organized mini-bus transportation from 10 am to 4 pm (departing from the parking lot in the Klek tourist resort), after which preparations for the official program will begin.

The central ceremony will be opened by the Dubrovnik-Neretva County prefect, Nikola Dobroslavić, and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Sea, Transport, and Infrastructure, Oleg Butković. Afterward, the representative of the President of the European Commission, Dubravka Šuica, will address the audience, followed by a video message from Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang. Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, President of the Croatian Parliament, Gordan Jandroković, and President of the Republic Zoran Milanović will then speak.

The musical program will include the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra, Dubrovnik Trombunjeri, Lado, Linđo, and others, and the ceremony will end with the performance of the "Hymn to Freedom" and fireworks, during which the bells of all the churches of the Dubrovnik Diocese will ring, as well as the blessing of the bridge.

After the bridge's opening at 10 pm, motorcyclists of the defense forces will be the first to cross it.

tourisFor more, make sure to check out our dedicated travel section.

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