Speech by the President of the Republic at the Pelješac Bridge opening ceremony
“Citizens of Croatia, my fellow Croatians!
Bridges are, above all, the works of specific people. The talent, knowledge, effort and courage of the designers and builders are to be most credited for the beauty that will flash before our eyes tonight in all its glory. A big thank you to them for that!
Not a single bridge, however, is the fruit of architectural vision and craftsmanship alone. The bridge is also the result of a combination of the irrepressible human desire to improve life, to overcome obstacles, and the authorities’ ability to obtain funds and arrange construction.
I congratulate all those who have in any way contributed as much as they could in their time to the realisation of our, above all, noble aspiration!
Pelješac Bridge will forever remain a monumental reminder of the boldness of one generation of Croatian people in their effort to reach the long-desired shore of liberty – ‘a gift in which all treasures have been bestowed upon us by the Almighty God’. The best among us gave their lives, their health, their dreams in reaching and rounding off the key Croatian national goals.
This bridge would not be possible if a small number of the right kind of people hadn’t defended Dubrovnik 30 years ago, freeing the south of Croatia. One of the symbolic functions of this impressive structure is that we never forget those people and their sacrifice.
We must not be held hostage to the wartime past, but we would be unworthy if we were ever to withhold our debt of honour and debt of the heart.
Pelješac Bridge was built in the interest of Croatia and its people, but never to spite anyone, and especially not to spite or to cause damage to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We would be thinking that way even if Bosnia and Herzegovina wasn’t a homeland also to the Croatian people, the homeland of our brothers and sisters, without whose wartime contribution we wouldn’t be here tonight taking pride in our achievement.
This bridge is to the benefit of all people, regardless of nation, faith, nationality, social status, origin, beliefs. A bridge built with the opposite motives would eventually give way under the weight of its own absurdity.
I believe that ahead of us are years in which, as a nation, we will strengthen our sense of self. This does not mean being introverted. We have no right to that and we will not survive that way. Escape from reality and self-criticism is not acceptable. This means developing the awareness that our country is, ultimately, meant for us, only us and for no one else.
I believe that in the years to come we will fight for everything that is important to us without complexes and feelings of inferiority. Nothing was ever given to us for free. No one will ever give us anything for free. Pelješac Bridge was mostly financed with EU money, but that is, in fact, our money that we paid dearly for.
My fellow citizens, dear friends! Ahead of an uncertain autumn and globally uncertain times, let us stick together! Let us be ready to help one another!
We will never have the same opinion on everything. And we don’t need to. It wouldn’t be good. All disagreements, however, must not for a moment distract us from serving the common good and Croatia’s national interests.
We must not leave any of our people out in the cold. Faith that in troubling times we will not be left to our own devices and that we will fight for each other – that should bring us, as fellow citizens and as a nation, as close together as Pelješac Bridge will bring together the Croatian territory.
‘To je tvoja zemlja, tu sagradi dom, tu je stari temelj, tu na kršu tvom’.
[That’s your land, build your home there, the old foundations are there, on your karst.]
In this spirit – all the best! Long live the Republic of Croatia!”