Sunday, 21 July 2024
Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas - The editor and big chief of The Dubrovnik Times. Born in the UK he has been living and working in Dubrovnik since 1998, yes he is one of the rare “old hands.” A unique insight into both British and Croatian life and culture, Mark is often known as just “Englez” or Englishman. He is a traveller, a current affairs freak and a huge AFC Wimbledon fan.

Email: mark.thomas@dubrovnik-times.com

Data from the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) shows Croatia has the longest working week in the EU, excluding undeclared or unpaid overtime, according to the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Croatia (SSSH).

Under the Labour Act, full-time work is 40 hours per week, unless otherwise agreed. Sunčica Brnardić, SSSH executive secretary for labour law and the labour market, notes that although wages and productivity are growing, Croatia's working conditions lag behind other EU countries.

Shortening the working week in other EU nations typically occurs through branch collective agreements. France's reduction to a 35-hour week in 1998 prompted collective negotiations. Brnardić advocates for similar initiatives in Croatia to improve worker satisfaction and productivity.

A survey by the SSSH shows that reducing working hours by three hours per week positively impacts job satisfaction and productivity, especially in the private sector. Croatia faces labor and skills shortages that extended working hours cannot resolve, unlike Greece, where longer hours have been less effective.

Darije Hanzalek, leader of Croatian Independent Unions (NHS), suggests a gradual reduction of working hours without wage cuts, increasing hourly wage value and improving long-term material rights. He emphasizes the need for a societal focus on sustainable, health-preserving work relationships and leveraging knowledge and technology for societal benefit.

Experiments in Sweden and Iceland with shorter workweeks have shown increased productivity, better work-life balance, and improved worker health. Spain's ongoing trial of a 32-hour week aims for similar outcomes.

Hanzalek also highlights the need to adapt working hours to climate change, citing Greece's recent extension of the workweek to six days as a poor example that Croatia should avoid. Instead, Croatia should focus on retaining workers by improving their working conditions.

The vice-captain of the Croatian national football team, Domagoj Vida, has retired from playing for the Croatian national team. He informed the president of the Croatian Football Federation, Marijan Kustić, and the coach, Zlatko Dalić. He then bid farewell to the public and fans with a heartfelt letter, which we share in its entirety:

"When I debuted for the Croatian national football team on May 23, 2010, in front of my family, friends, and my fellow Slavonians, I thought I had achieved my football dream.

A little over 14 years later, I know that was just the beginning of the most beautiful story in my football life. And as difficult as it is to say, write, or articulate these words, because it's hard to part from something that means so much to you, it's easier when I know how much richer I am because of everything I have experienced.

It is an honor to wear the most beautiful jersey in the world and represent your country even once in a career.

And when you do it 105 times, play in seven major tournaments, and win three major medals with Croatia, you can only be endlessly grateful for such a privilege."

Nestled between the hotspots of Dubrovnik and Cavtat, the magnificent island of St. Pietro truly lives up to its slogan, "Beyond Divine." In fact, "divine" hardly captures the splendor of this island. With its incredible 360-degree views, St. Pietro showcases the best of Croatia, from the turquoise Adriatic Sea to the green mountains and the historic cities of Dubrovnik and Cavtat. Here, everything is on your horizon all the time.

A Day on St. Pietro

Having lived in the Dubrovnik region for over twenty years, I can attest that St. Pietro is a unique destination. This relatively small island, easily accessible from both Dubrovnik and Cavtat, offers a quintessential Croatian Dalmatian experience. You will undoubtedly want to spend the whole day there, embracing the relaxed Croatian lifestyle. And I emphasize a day for good reason—it's remarkably easy to spend an entire day on this relatively small island.

Beyond Divine The Enchanting Island of St. Pietro 1

 

Here, you have everything you need: delicious food, a wide variety of drinks, beautiful beaches, shady spots, sunbeds, snacks, and the soothing whispers of the Adriatic Sea in the background. "It honestly feels like we are elegant Robinson Crusoes," laughed an English couple, already relishing their day on the charming island. In a world where we are constantly rushing and demanding instant results, it's refreshing to reconnect with nature and simplicity on an Adriatic island. Just imagine sharing the stories of your Dubrovnik holiday with friends and family when you return home.

Historical Significance

St. Pietro, also known as Supetar, is a small island with a rich history. Despite its modest size—only 946 meters of shoreline—it has a long-standing connection with the former Republic of Dubrovnik, dating back to the 3rd century. Roman amphoras found in the surrounding waters suggest an even older history.

Beyond Divine The Enchanting Island of St. Pietro 2

What to See and Do

Apart from its breathtaking natural beauty, St. Pietro boasts the St. Pietro Lounge Bar and Restaurant. As the restaurant describes, "Our secret ingredient? Heritage. Some recipes are more than 150 years old, carefully preserved, and passed from generation to generation. Mediterranean cuisine at its best, using local ingredients and fresh fish from local fishers. Sustainability is essential to us. Enjoy the unique pleasure of good company, delicious food, and delightful nature. Let us take you on a tour through Mediterranean history in just one bite." Experience this sentiment for yourself—visit St. Pietro and create a day to remember. It truly is beyond divine!

Beyond Divine The Enchanting Island of St. Pietro Your Story

El fútbol vuelve a casa!

For the past month, although it felt like a year, Germany hosted a European celebration of football. We’ve had the highs and lows, the drama and suspense, last minute goals and penalty shootouts. Have I enjoyed it? Not so much, to be honest.

Normally I am all over these major sporting events. I am listening to podcasts, reading the websites and filling out my wall chart of the “Path to the Finals.” This time I have haven’t been inspired at all. I haven’t even watched many matches on TV, the odd highlight on YouTube maybe, and I only really watched a couple of England games, including the final.

I think it could be something to do with the boring football England played early in the tournament, or maybe the general lack of goals, the always frustrating VAR, or just the whole slow pace, it felt like watching a game of chess of a large green field. Teams seemed to be to afraid to lose rather than have the courage to win.

And even though we made it through to the final I still couldn’t find the fire.

I am actually glad that Spain won, they deserved it and had played by far the best football, not to mention that they had won all seven matches, against England, Italy, Germany, Croatia and France. They won the cup the hard way, and playing attacking football. Or as the TV pundit and former England striker Gary Linaker wrote “This is a win for attacking football.” He is right.

Did I want England to win? Of course, I did.

The last time (and first time) we won a major international competition was three years before I was on this planet. Was I unhappy that Spain won, not at all.

Even though the football has been like watching grass grow I have been enjoying the comments and facts floating around. And surprisingly King Charles III led the pack with the most humorous comment. After the last minute win in the semi-finals against the Netherlands he wrote “If I may encourage you to secure victory before the need for any last minute wonder-goals or another penalties drama, I am sure the stresses on the nation’s collective heart rate and blood pressure would be greatly alleviated!”

Of course England staying in until the final was a huge boost for the UK economy. And the figures are a little mind-blowing.

Let’s just talk about beer, 300 million pints were served over the four weeks, filling pubs with a 100 million Euro summer bonus. With 17 million pints served just in the final match. And I know of a few bars in Dubrovnik that have been rubbing their hands and chilling the beer glasses as England progressed. The stock market climbed, the TV industry had its best month on record and airlines have had an unexpected month-long “fully booked” period.

I know someone who drove all the way from the UK to the finals and his ticket alone cost him a staggering £5,000.

Regardless as to whether we won or not it looks increasingly likely that Gareth Southgate will become Sir Gareth. Just the general hype around the whole event has been off the scales, even if the football hasn’t. I have messages from all over the world all the way through the tournament, and a few sarcastic ones after we lost the final. That “banter” side has been fun, more fun than most of the games.

So football isn’t coming home, I just hope that at some time in my lifetime it does come home, this year El fútbol vuelve a casa, it’s coming home to Iberia.

And I think it is only fitting that I leave the last word to the King “But please know that your success in reaching the European Championship final is a really great achievement in itself, and one that brings with it the pride of a nation which will continue to roar for the Three Lions today – and in the many triumphs which I have no doubt lie ahead." Well said, your Grace.   

Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to

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About the author
Mark Thomas (aka Englez u Dubrovniku) is the editor of The Dubrovnik Times. He was born and educated in the UK and moved to live in Dubrovnik in 1998. He works across a whole range of media, from a daily radio show to TV and in print. Thomas is fluent in Croatian and this column is available in Croatia on the website – Dubrovnik Vjesnik

The President of the City Council, Marko Potrebica, and the Deputy Mayor, Jelka Tepšić, along with their associates, received a delegation today from the Chinese sister city of Sanya, led by Mayor Chen Xi.

The reception was attended by the Head of the Mayor's Office, Ivana Brnin, the President of the City Council's Committee for International Cooperation, Katarina Doršner, the Director of the Dubrovnik Reconstruction Institute, Mihaela Skurić, and the representative of the Port of Dubrovnik, Blaž Abramović.

Dubrovnik and Sanya Strengthen Ties with Cultural Exchange and Tourism Cooperation 1

The cities of Sanya and Dubrovnik signed a cooperation protocol back in 2013, and the addendum to the friendship memorandum from 2024 guarantees the continuation of successful cooperation and further intensification of relations, especially in the fields of inter-institutional exchange, culture, arts, protection of the historical core, and investment promotion.

The representatives of the Chinese sister city showed particular interest in Dubrovnik's experiences in preserving historical and cultural heritage and successes in sustainable tourism management, with an emphasis on the cruise ship market, given that this Chinese city in Hainan province is also a cruise destination.

At the end of the reception the Mayor of Sanya with a sculpture titled "Saint Blaise and the City," which will be displayed in the Friendship Park in the city of Sanya.

A large number of Chinese tourists traditionally visit our city during periods outside the main tourist season, even in the winter months. During the peak of the corona crisis, a total of 14,000 protective masks were delivered to Dubrovnik from Sanya and the city of Yangzhou.

Croatian citizens save the most in real estate and cash, with earnings from stocks, investment funds, and bonds being less represented, according to a study published by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

The global personal wealth survey by the consulting firm showed that bonds, investment funds, and stocks, which could generate higher returns for investors in the long term compared to cash, are much less present in the portfolios of Croatian citizens.

On the other hand, the share of cash and deposits is much higher in Croatia than in Eastern Europe or globally, BCG highlighted.

“We can observe a potential reason for the slower growth of financial wealth among Croatian citizens – the share of cash and deposits is much higher in Croatia than in Eastern Europe or globally. At the same time, bonds, investment funds, and stocks, which could generate higher returns for investors in the long term compared to cash, are much less present in the portfolios of Croatian citizens,” said Krisztian Horvath, partner and director at BCG, in a statement quoted in the report.

These asset classes, with a combined share of 22 percent, are only slightly higher than half the Eastern European average. At the same time, the share of longer-term wealth instruments such as life insurance and pension savings makes up a significantly larger portion (40 percent) of financial wealth than in Eastern Europe overall (31 percent), according to BCG.

Namely, the financial wealth of Croatian citizens, defined as total wealth excluding real estate and debt, has grown at a rate of six percent annually over the past 20 years, which is significantly slower compared to the Eastern European average of ten percent, reports HINA.

“This significant four percentage point difference could partially explain the rather unique occurrence that the real assets of Croatian households are twice the value of their financial assets,” assessed Krisztian Horvath, partner and director at Boston Consulting Group, in a statement quoted in the report.

Real assets include real estate, durable consumer goods, physical gold, and other precious metals at current prices. In comparison, Horvath pointed out, the difference between financial and real assets in Eastern Europe is on average “only” 1.3 times greater in favour of real assets.

BCG also notes that from 2018 to the end of 2023, the financial wealth of Croatian citizens grew at an annual rate of 7.2 percent, reaching nearly 100 billion dollars, giving Croatia 2.1 percent of the financial wealth in the Eastern European region.

It is noted as interesting that Croatia simultaneously has “one of the more equitable” distributions of wealth, with citizens holding less than 250,000 US dollars owning 72 percent of the total wealth, significantly more than in Eastern Europe, 42 percent, or globally, 30 percent.

“Although we see a slow decrease in that number, down from 75 percent in 2019, Croatia still shows less wealth concentration than elsewhere,” commented Horvath.

This is particularly evident in the segment of the “super-rich,” i.e., citizens who own more than 100 million dollars, where this group owns only three percent of the total wealth, which is much less than the global 14 percent.

The longest-serving governor ever of the Croatian National Bank commented on gaining confidence for a third term in the Croatian Parliament and said that he primarily focuses on his job, leaving others to judge whether he is doing it well.

"The trust I received is obviously a judgment that I did my job well," said Governor Boris Vujčić on the main news program of HTV.

What marked his second term was the introduction of the euro. He said that this was the biggest project he participated in and "the largest monetary reform in Croatia after independence and the introduction of the national currency."

"What we said from the beginning as the biggest advantages of the euro have come true. This means that the euro has eliminated the exchange rate risk, which was the biggest risk in the Croatian financial system because Croatia was an extremely euro-central country. Therefore, the Croatian National Bank practically ensured the entire economic system, the corporate sector, the state, and the public from exchange rate risk by maintaining a stable exchange rate," Vujčić explained.

Regarding the claims about losing monetary sovereignty, he said they are unfounded. "We haven't actually lost anything; we have gained a lot," he added. "Eliminating exchange rate risk has led to a reduction in the country's risk premium, a reduction in the risk premium for Croatian companies, and lower interest rates than would have been the case if we hadn't entered the Eurozone," he continued.

The City of Dubrovnik continues its intensive investments in communal infrastructure, with nearly 800 meters of new pedestrian and traffic fences being installed across seven locations as part of a program to enhance the maintenance of public and traffic areas.

To date, pedestrian fences have been installed on Bana Josipa Jelačića Street (300 meters), in the Zlatni Potok neighborhood (120 meters), and on Ivana Matijaševića Street (100 meters) and Od Izvora Street in Nova Mokošica (100 meters). Additionally, protective pedestrian fences have been set up at the entrance to the Nuncijata neighborhood (15 meters) and in Komolac (near the "gas plant").

At the entrance to the Nuncijata neighborhood, a new protective pedestrian fence has been installed, while on Bana Josipa Jelačića Street, the old traffic fence has been replaced with a new pedestrian fence. There are plans to install another protective barrier fence on Iva Vojnovića Street, measuring 120 meters, on the section above the Palčica Kindergarten.

The works, valued at 135,237.50 euros (including VAT), are being carried out under a dynamic road maintenance system by the company Asphalt Team.

Following the completion of the fence installations, work will commence on installing handrails in over 25 pedestrian streets in the City of Dubrovnik, with an investment of 115,992.50 euros

The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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