Rebuilt Bridge Brings Hope for Bosnia | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 23.07.2004
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Rebuilt Bridge Brings Hope for Bosnia

Officials gathered in Bosnia on Friday to celebrate the reconstruction of the Mostar bridge almost 11 years after it was destroyed by war. The landmark now symbolizes reconciliation between the region's ethnic groups.


The Old Bridge connected the two sides of Mostar since 1566

Built in 1566 under the Ottoman Empire, the Stari Most, or Old Bridge, belonged to UNESCO's world cultural heritage before it was destroyed during Bosnia's 1992-95 civil war. Giving the town Mostar its name, the 29-meter (95-feet) stone bridge spanning the Neretva River was blasted by tank fire in 1993.

The southern Bosnian town was the center of heavy fighting between Muslims and Catholic Bosnian Croats even though both groups had also worked together to battle Bosnian Serbs at the outset of the war. But there are high hopes that the rebuilt bridge in Mostar will help bring the two groups closer together.

"Now there is something that the population can once again gather behind and that will help grow what was once so important -- a feeling of pride to be a Mostarer," Hans Koschnick, the former EU representative for Mostar, told Deutsche Welle.

Koschnick will be joined by Chris Patten, the EU's external affairs commissioner, at the official ceremony commemorating the bridge's reconstruction on Friday. Britain's Prince Charles, UNESCO chief Koirchiro Matsuura and Croatian President Stipe Mesic are also expected to attend.

International donations

Die zerstörte Brücke von Mostar 1994

The 500 year old bridge was destroyed in 1993.

According to the Associated Press, rebuilding the bridge took two years and cost $15 million (€12.25 million). Much of the funds were donated by the United States, Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands and Croatia, as well as numerous organizations and individuals.

But the situation in Bosnia remains fragile enough that the ceremony will be guarded by 2,000 police officers from across the country. Sulejman Kupusovic, director of Friday's ceremony, said despite the hope for a new beginning in Mostar there's good reason for the precautions.

"Those who were responsible for the destruction of the bridge are still among us. And they have no interest on the return of the Old Bridge and the creation of a new atmosphere here," he told Deutsche Welle.

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