Bosnia and Serbia settle two-year arm-wrestle over $3.4bn Sarajevo-Belgrade motorway

The government of Bosnia Herzegovina announced yesterday that it had finally agreed on a route for a $3.4bn highway linking Sarajevo to Belgrade. The project was proposed two years ago, but was suspended after officials struggled to choose between 16 possible paths.

Bosnia Herzegovina is made up of two political entities, the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The main conflict was between Serbia’s preference for a road through eastern Bosnia via Visegrad in the Republika Srpska, and Bosnia’s proposal for it to run through the more densely populated area of northeast Bosnia, via Tuzla, its third largest city.

The dispute was settled by an agreement to build two roads through each city. This was first proposed at a meeting in January last year in Turkey between President Recep Erdogan of Turkey, President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia and former Bakir Izetbegovic, Bosniak member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Turkey is funding the project to encourage peace and integration in the region, which was formerly part of the Ottoman Empire. The offer has been opposed by Bosnian Serbs on the grounds that it will extend Turkish influence in the area.

A decision to build the road through both cities was announced by Milorad Dodik, chairman of the Bosnia Herzegovina Presidency, after meeting with ministers.

He told a press conference: "We agreed that an official route will be drawn on the map in the next seven days. I can say that the route will go from Raca via Bijeljina, then across Brcko and Loncar, down to Sarajevo, through Tuzla and Zepce, next to Pale, Rogatic and Visegrad, where a connection is made for Gorazde. We will connect to Serbia at Vardiste near Visegrad."

This route represents a compromise between the two countries’ proposals.

In December 2018, Turkish contractor Tasyapi signed a contract with the Serbian government for the highway.

Image: Santa Maria is the most southern of the Azores archipelago (Carlos da Cruz/Public Domain)

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