Li, Croatian PM say project demonstrates potential, benefits of stronger relations
Premier Li Keqiang and his Croatian counterpart Andrej Plenkovic visited the construction site of the Peljesac Bridge on Thursday. The bridge will connect two parts of the European Union member's territory and is being built by Chinese companies.
The leaders spoke highly of the progress made in the bridge's construction, calling it a good example of what can be accomplished with stronger ties between the two countries.
Speaking at a news conference after their visit, Li said the bridge offers peace and security by connecting two places in Croatia that have no land links. Currently, Croatians have to go through two customs clearances in Neum, a town in Croatia's neighboring country Bosnia and Herzegovina, to reach the famous tourist destination of Dubrovnik.
The bridge, when completed, will be beneficial to regional peace and development, as well as to the livelihoods of people living around it, the premier said.
Li called the bridge a landmark project for China's cooperation with the EU and 16 Central and Eastern European countries, using EU financing and standards. Chinese companies competed for the project during fair and transparent bidding and will fulfill all conditions in the contract to make it a good facility that can stand all tests, he said.
It will strengthen logistics, the interaction among Croatian people, and the development of southern Croatia, Li said. "I hope Croatian people will enjoy the convenience the bridge will bring as soon as possible," he added.
Peljesac Bridge, at 2,440 meters in length, will connect the mainland part of Croatia with the nation's Peljesac Peninsula. The structure is estimated to cost 420 million euros ($473 million), 85 percent of which will be paid by the EU.
In April of last year, a combination of Chinese companies signed a contract with the Croatian government to start construction of the first phase of the bridge at a cost of around 280 million euros. The phase is to be completed in three years.
Hu Zhaoming, Chinese ambassador to Croatia, said the bridge is Croatia's biggest infrastructure project and also the largest project Chinese companies have undertaken in the CEE nation.
At the news conference, Plenkovic said Croatia has wanted to build such a bridge for two decades, and Chinese companies and their local partners have demonstrated excellent performance.
"We adhere to the principle of fairness and transparency in the bidding process and the project will promote Croatia's cooperation with China in diverse fields, such as trade and tourism," Plenkovic said.