Thursday, February 16, 2006

Friday Column - Croatia, The Week In Review 3

Croatia Online

The week seems to have flown by and we’ve covered some meaty subjects. In Monday’s Destinations Column we looked at what the island of Brac had to offer and you’ll see, from the variety of villages and towns, that we’ve only scratched the surface. Once we’ve been to some of the other islands, and covered more mainland destinations, we’ll return to Bol, Pučisca, Milna, Sumartin, Supetar, and the other gems on Brac, in more detail. Tuesday’s Tourism posting was about beaches in Croatia - read on for the website of the week which we featured in this posting. The state owned shipbuilding industry was the subject of Wednesday’s business column. It’s clearly a great success story for Croatia but obviously has some challenges to face to prepare itself for EU rules and regulations and to reduce its heavy reliance on state subsidies. Finally, in Thursday’s Lifestyle column, we looked at what you can expect from Croatia in the way of newspapers, television, radio and theatre. Theatre is another subject for a more detailed future posting and I’ll be sharing with you some of my experiences of working with The National Theatre in Zagreb - a real insight into the workings of state owned, non profit making, organisations.

Next week we’ll be covering the following areas:

Monday – Destinations 4: Zagreb
The capital city and a much overlooked off season destination.

Tuesday – Tourism 4: Holiday Apartments
The current state of “development” and tips for holidaymakers choosing an apartment

Wednesday - Business 4: The Shipbuilding Industry Part Two
The young but growing private sector

Thursday – Lifestyle 4: Shopping
How good is Croatian retail therapy?

Friday – The Week in Review 4:
News, sport, comment and links of the week

We’ve had visitors and comments from as far afield as the US, Canada, Sweden, Columbia, Hungary and, of course, Croatia and England, in this, our third week of postings. One visitor was looking for information on how to deal with Fina – the state owned organisation which checks all company books periodically. Unfortunately, unlike many similar organisations, Fina don’t seem to have English language web pages so we’ve added this to the list of subjects to cover in a future Wednesday Business Column posting. Thanks to everybody who has visited and especially to those who have left comments. All constructive feedback is welcome and your comments will help to ensure that the site is as informative and entertaining as possible.

News and Comment

1. Recycling
Any reforming government, in a transitional country, is likely to come in for its share of criticism but we’d like to start this week’s news by giving the Croatian government a pat on the back for its new recycling laws. The main provisions provide for supermarkets and other locations to reimburse anyone who brings back glass bottles, or large plastic bottles, at around 5 pence per item. This is on top of the normal deposits for returnable bottles. Although the likes of Coca-Cola, and some of the larger supermarkets, have been whingeing about the cost, the effect on the ground has been that scores of teenagers have been cleaning up the beaches and earning a little extra pocket money. The beaches normally get a spring clean before the season starts but have historically been a little neglected during the winter so well done PM Sanader!

2. Possible Privatisation of the State Owned Ferry Company
It seems it’s not only the shipbuilding industry facing the challenges of privatisation (see Wednesday’s Business Column) but the same prospect might be in store for Jadrolinija, the state owned ferry company, which could face privatisation in five years time. The proposal sparked off a heated debate in Parliament this week and I have some sympathy with the dissenters. With so many inhabited islands, a regular, albeit subsidised, ferry service is an essential feature of island life. Were it to become a strictly commercial operation you can picture the islanders being flooded with tourists in the summer and stranded in the winter and I wonder if this sort of service can ever be run along strictly capitalist lines without destroying the fabric of the country’s way of life, or certainly that of the islanders. Perhaps the Croatian government, could learn a few lessons from the privatisation of British Rail and the UK Post Office, unless it plans to close down some of the “non feasible” islands!?

3. EU Progress
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso visited Zagreb this week, with the enlargement EU expansion commissioner Olli Rehn and the chief EU negotiator Michael Leigh. Barroso urged Croatia to help other Balkan states advance towards EU membership, as well as pushing forward with its own reforms.

4. The Islands
PM Ivo Sanader said last week that the state would not be selling off the family silver but would prefer to lease islands rather than see them sold. Any private seller would first offer an island to the state at the market price. If the state did not respond within 30 days, the island could be sold on the open market. Croatia has 1,185 islands, of which 756 are small and uninhabited or partially inhabited. The government suggests that any state protection program of islands would be devised to help determine which islands are of importance to the state. However I wonder just how practical it would be for the government to make a decision in thirty days or whether a response by the deadline might lock the seller into protracted, and possibly costly, negotiations.

Business News

GlaxoSmithKline PLC announced that it had agreed to buy Pliva Research Institute from Pliva for up to $50 million in cash. The deal is expected to be concluded in April, subject to regulatory approvals


1. Tennis
Croatia won their first round tie of the Davis Cup, against Austria, with relative ease, and will play Argentina in the next round.

2. Skiing – 2006 Winter Olympics
Ivica Kostelic won an Olympic silver medal in the combination in Sestriere, just behind Ted Ligety from America. Austria's Rainer Shoenfelder was third.

3. Sport in Politics
The government has proposed a new law on sport which will set objectives for eight years and set up a national council for sport, with members nominated by parliament. PM Ivo Sanader suggested sports clubs and associations were 700 million kuna in debt (about £64 million) and that the whole premier soccer league could collapse if the law was not passed.


The Croatian National Theatre (HNK), in Rijeka, marked its hundredth anniversary with a premiere of Amilcare Ponchielli's La Gioconda. Have a look at their web site,, to find out more about the theatre.

Websites Of The Week

The websites in our Links section are reviewed every week, as we find new sites of interest. My personal blogspot remains as the first link this week, so that those that want to, can find out a little more about me. This week, I’ve posted the English version of an article I wrote for a Croatian nautical magazine, on the subject of keeping the Adriatic clean. Some of you may find it a little technical in places, for light Friday reading, but it's an important cause. The second link, the Croatian tourist board, stays for its third week, as it’s a great reference point for most destinations. The third and new link of the week is all about Croatia’s beaches. Not only did it save me a lot of work in attempting to draft an informative Monday posting on beaches, but it really does do justice to the vast number and huge variety of one of Croatia’s best natural assets.

The View From Here

This new section of Friday’s Week In Review Column attempts to give you just a small taste of what’s made an impact on my week. The weather is normally a big feature!

…and it's grey, raining and cold. Central heating is not very common in Croatian houses and our cumbersome prehistoric storage heater (designed to take advantage of cheap rate electricity) is struggling to cope. I know that England is suffering from the after effects of some bad American weather but you can take comfort that it’s not so different here and unlikely to change for the next few days.

Croatia Online takes up a big chunk of my week but I’m pleased to say that I’ve just finished another chapter of my Cruising Companion on the Dalmatian Coast. This week’s Croatian lessons have also progressed well, if only to reveal that Dalmatians tell the time completely differently from their northern cousins in Zagreb and Istria. Not only is there a complex language to learn but some very different dialects and words.

Enjoy your weekend and your central heating!


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