Representatives of Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Investment Bank /EIB/ signed a EUR6.8 million grant agreement on Tuesday for the construction of a cross-border bridge in Gradiska, as well as a EUR47 million agreement for financing the Banjaluka-Doboj B motorway. The signing ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Zeljka Cvijanovic, National Assembly Speaker Nedeljko Cubrilovic, Head of the EU Delegation to BiH/Special Representative Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, and ministers and assistant ministers of Republika Srpska.
Cvijanovic said she was pleased that the Srpska Government was a host as well as a participant in signing such important arrangements and thanked the EU for the EUR6.8 million donation which will help finish a major infrastructure project such as the Banjaluka-Gradiska motorway.
“Without the bridge and a new border crossing and building of a modern road to reduce traffic jams in the city, all other things would have been only partially useful. Fourteen years ago, Republika Srpska started activities on building the new bridge, even before the activities related to the motorway; we had spoken with several Croatian governments and always hit the wall,” explained the prime minister.
Cvijanovic thanked the EU representatives who recognised Srpska’s needs and in a way lobbied and financed the implementation of the project.
“This will give a whole new dimension to Gradiska and the border crossing and give a new meaning to the motorways we are building in Republika Srpska. We have entered the final stage, a working team of Srpska, BiH and Croatian experts are already harmonising tender documentation, creating the conditions to publish an international tender for building the bridge and for the Croatian side to issue the building permit,” said Cvijanovic.
She said they were working simultaneously on several fronts, one of them being the finalisation of the financial aspect and pointed out that it would take two years to finish the building stage of the project.
“The total project value is estimated at around EUR17 million. One portion of the money is provided from GSM licences, while Republika Srpska and Croatia will secure around EUR10 million,” recalled Cvijanovic.
Apart from this, she said, another major infrastructure project is entering its final stage – the Banjaluka-Doboj motorway – which fits in the big strategic plan for building a motorway network in Republika Srpska.
Cvijanovic said another credit arrangement of EUR47 million was needed to finish the demanding infrastructure project, which includes not just building the motorway but all other supporting structures such as interchanges, overpasses, underpasses, tunnels, etc.
“The estimated value of the entire project is around EUR565 million, where Auto-putevi provides EUR145 million and the rest comes from EIB and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development loans,” added Cvijanovic.
National Assembly Speaker Nedeljko Cubrilovic said that Republika Srpska was ready to build the bridge in Gradiska seven years ago but that the lack of good will by the other side had not allowed a tender for building the structure to be published.
“This is the best news for business people on both sides of the River Sava, for those who were spending hours and days at the border crossing. This is definitely good news for Gradiska which had huge traffic jams inside the city itself,” said Cubrilovic.
Wigemark said this was a good day for the EU and BiH for making another step towards each other and finally starting to build the bridge in Gradiska, a promise made several years ago.
“I am extremely pleased that the EU will give nearly seven million euros for this project. This is a good day for both Republika Srpska and Gradiska as traffic will not go through the centre of the city anymore but three kilometres away from the centre, and as a result of this project around 300 new jobs will be created,” Wigemark told the press after the signing.
Wigemark pointed out that waiting times for lorry drivers at the border would be reduced from 30 minutes to 12, and that the crossing would be much more efficient. He also said that BiH and Croatia would have to work together to make the crossing of the border as safe as possible.
“I hope that it is going to be one of the most important border crossings between the EU and BiH. It is expected that in ten years’ time around 28,000 vehicles will drive through there on a daily basis. The bridge will be just a part of infrastructure projects we have committed ourselves to, and they will reach one billion euros,” said Wigemark.
BiH Minister of Finance and Treasury Vjekoslav Bevanda said he was honoured to sign such essential documents and pointed out that the financial arrangement for the bridge over the Sava and all supporting infrastructure was finalised.
Head of the EIB Slovenia, Croatia and Western Balkans Division Matteo Rivellini said the Bank was proud to be able to make a significant contribution to the construction of structural connectivity in BiH and thanked all the participants who contributed to the success of building the Banjaluka-Doboj motorway.
“The Bank remains committed to providing the resources for building road infrastructure in this region as a financial partner of the authorities in BiH,” said Rivellini.
The grant agreement for the bridge in Gradiska was signed by Rivellini, EIB legal advisor Branko Cerviz and Minister Bevanda, while the agreement on financing the Banjaluka-Doboj B motorway was signed, apart from the three mentioned officials, by Srpska Minister of Finance Zoran Tegeltija and chief financial officer of the public motorway company Auto-putevi Republike Srpske, Marko Mitrovic.