Ljubovija and Bratunac cannot survive without bridges, just as the Balkans cannot do it, Serbia’s PM and President-elect Aleksandar Vucic said on Friday.
Vucic made the statement as he, along with other top Serbian and Serb Republic (RS) officials, visited a new bridge across the Drina River, that connects Ljubovija, a town in Serbia, and Bratunac in the Serb entity (RS) of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Vucic, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, RS President Milorad Dodik, and RS Prime Minister Zeljka Cvijanovic, met in the middle of the 227-meter long bridge, named “Bratoljub” (Serbian given name; literally, “one who loves one’s brother”).
The EUR 13-million project, financed by the Serbian government, is currently “72 percent finished.” The RS will fund the building of access roads on its side of the border.
Pedestrian and cycling tracks still need to be finished, and the road paved, before the bridge is officially opened.
The Drina River – which forms a natural border between Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina – does not separate, but instead connects Serbia, the Serb Republic, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Vucic told the citizens and officials who gathered at the site today, adding, “not to mention the love and the need to connect the Serb people.”
According to him, “this Serbian government” and that of the RS “have done much regarding this issue.”
“This is the 12th bridge on the Drina, and we need 120 and 1,200 more in Serbia, the RS, and the whole of the Balkans,” said Vucic.
Serbia’s outgoing president, Tomislav Nikolic, also spoke, describing rivers as “the blood flow of all lands” – including “the Serb ones.”
“However, nobody but us has the Morava and the Drina that flow across the middle of the Serb lands. They are witnesses to our history,” Nikolic said.
He also wished that those gathered would see the day “when it no longer matters where you are going – since it will all be one.”
According to Nikolic, the bridge symbolizes togetherness that brings up “our striving to love and respect each other, because we are children of the same mother.”
Apparently referring to practices of Ottoman Turk occupiers, Nikolic added:
“Children were snatched from Serb mothers with impunity, while they were left standing in tears on the left side of the Drina, because there was no bridge. Bratoljub connects us forever, a step toward our brother, and toward a future together.”
Speaking to reporters after the event, the president revealed that he sincerely hopes that Serbia and the RS will one day become – one.
“Fortunately, they’re still not arresting Serbs for expressing their wishes, so we are still free to express them. Yes, I sincerely hope that one day we will become one,” he said.
According to Nikolic, Serbia and the RS are painstakingly and with great effort, facing much opposition, building their common future.
“Europe is uniting and many states are rejoicing some alliances, organizations where they can achieve common goals, while here a nation is divided by the Drina, and has trouble proving that everything that is done in Serbia influences Srpska (the RS) and vice-versa,” he said.
According to Nikolic, “the RS is in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia respects that” – but Serbia also “has an obligation, not only a right” to cooperate with the Serb entity, “in order to realize the wishes of all citizens of Srpska and of Serbia.”
RS leader Milorad Dodik said that the bridge would be opened in August.
“This bridge is connecting the banks of the Drina, a mythical river for our nation, and in this way, we are demonstrating and proving our persistent determination in favor of unity of the Serb people on both sides of the river. The RS looks to Serbia, the RS rejoices in Serbia’s strength an its economic, and every other kind of strengthening,” Dodik said.
According to the Belgrade-based daily Blic, several thousand citizens from both sides of the Drina gathered today at the new bridge.