Bosnia Pledges Partnership with Croatia on Border Issues

Minister says Bosnia wants to avoid tensions with Croatia on border issues around the town of Neum – and will accept any solution that doesn’t limit its maritime access and undermine its sovereignty.Bosnian’s Transport and Communications Minister, Damir Hadzic, said Bosnia and Croatia were partner states that should solve oustanding problems together.

Referring to the unresolved border issues around the Bosnian town of Neum, Hadzic said that Bosnia “will not tolerate any other kind of relationship than a neighbourly and equal one… [wihout] blackmailing and disrespecting one another.”The minister called for final ratification of a 1999 border deal agreed between the two former presidents, Bosnia’s Alija Izetbegovic and Croatia’s Franjo Tudjman.This defines the Bosnia-Croatia border a little differently from today’s maps, and stipulates that Croatia should give Bosnia two small islands and a part of the island of Klek near Neum.

Croatia’s parliament discussed the issue on Tuesday, when the opposition Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, criticized Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic for backing the 1999 border agreement.

“If Croatia does not ratify it, we hold that the question should be resolved through international arbitration,” Hadzic said.

He said was “unnecesary to raise tensions in the media about such questions as the Peljesac bridge and the Neum corridor”.

This referred to Croatian plans to circumvent the town of Neum, which divides Croatian Dalmatia into two on the Adriatic coast, isolating the town of Dubrovnik from the rest of southern Croatia.

Bosnia has previously objected to the idea of Croatia building a bridge to connect the two parts of Dalmatia on the grounds that it would prevent large ships from coming to Neum, as they would have to pass under the bridge.

But Hadzic said the issue was not closed. “We will not question Croatia’s intention to link the two parts of its territory if it respects two conditions,” Hadzic said on Wednesday. “Those are Bosnian access to the open sea and respecting Bosnia’s sovereignty.”

Bosnian and Croatian foreign ministers are currently in Brussels to hold a trilateral meeting with EU officials on resolving unfinished issues between the two countries.

Croatia is under pressure to close any remaining open border issues with its neighbours in the run-up to becoming an EU member on July 1 next year.

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