Did you know that Croatia is divided in two? That you can’t drive from northern Croatia to southern Croatia without crossing Bosnia? Well, you can take to the sea on a ferry and go around Bosnia but that’s about as slow and inconvenient as two Bosnian border crossings.
The configuration is clearly the result of mapmakers driven by high-level political decisions. Bosnia-Herzegonia needed access to the Adriatic so the Croatian baby was split.
Croatia has a long-awaited plan to put itself back together and it’s finally coming to reality, though not without considerable controversy. The dream has been of a bridge to connect the two Croatias. The engineering challenge is considerably less than the financial challenge, so access to capital has provided a compelling reason to join the European Union. Croatia has done so as of 2013, making $400 million in EU “cohesion funds” available to it for this $500 million project. Croatia has drawn plans, taken bids and awarded a contract—to China Road and Bridge Corporation, who was the low bidder by $84 million. Croatia’s leader says the cost savings may be the difference in “to build or not to build.”
Can you build a bridge in Europe with European Union funds using a Chinese construction company? The company plans to use low-cost Chinese labor housed on a cruise ship offshore and has a cozy relationship with the Chinese government. European construction laborers won’t benefit much. China is trying to make friends and gain influence in Eastern Europe—part of its “Road & Belt” policy.
Competing bidders have sued in EU court claiming the deal breaks EU rules but as of now the project is going forward. Meanwhile, Croatians wait aboard a ferry or at a Bosnian checkpoint for unification.