Friday, 22 February 2019
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

In an attempt to stop the flow of fake news across its platform the popular messaging application “WhatsApp” has brought in new stricter measures. Messages can now only be forwarded on by users a maximum of five times, as opposed to the 20 times until now, in a move the Facebook-owned app believes will cut down on the spreading of fake news.

Up to 256 people can be enrolled in a WhatsApp group so after this new move messages could theoretically be forwarded on to 1,280 other people. “The forward limit significantly reduced forwarded messages around the world," added a statement from the company.

The restriction comes at a time WhatsApp and Facebook's other services are under scrutiny for their role in the spread of propaganda and other untruths online. Last week, Facebook announced it had removed 500 pages and accounts allegedly involved in peddling fake news in Central Europe, Ukraine and other Eastern European nations.

While across the European Union every sixth pensioner continues to work after retirement in Croatia that number falls drastically to every thirteenth pensioner, according to new results from the European Commission.

Among EU members Sweden has the largest share of pensioners continuing to work, in fact every third retired citizen is active on the labour market. This trend is constant in two other northern European countries, Iceland and Norway, where almost two-fifths of older people remain on the labour market after retirement.

On the other hand, the smallest share of pensioners who, after retirement, continue to work is in Greece and Spain, only about two percent. In Belgium and Luxembourg, it is around seven percent, roughly the same percentage as it is in Croatia. These figures are well below the average across the European Union where around 16 percent of pensioners continue to work in some capacity after retirement.

Croatia can expect a change in this situation in the near future. After the amendments to the Pension Insurance Act, which came into effect on the 1st of January this year, retirees are able to receive retirement and work part-time at the same time. The shortage of labour force in Croatia, due to the demographic downturn, has been evident in recent years. Especially in activities like tourism and hospitality, trade, transportation, construction, shipbuilding and agriculture. Many of the holes in the job market could well be filled by Croatian pensioners. It is unrealistic to expect that pensioners can cover all the cracks in the Croatia labour market but with their experience they can certainly bring a new dimension and could be a valuable tool.

Croatia has the largest supply of drinking water in the European Union, however also the highest losses of water. In the drinking water system of Croatia up to 80 percent of the fresh water is lost due mainly to old pipes.

The vast majority of the water pipes throughout the fresh water system are older than 50 years old meaning a huge problem with leakages.

The solution to the chronic situation in the water supply network is seen by many in withdrawing funds from EU funds. Croatia has around 200 utility companies, and in order to increase the efficiency of the system, the solution is seen in their unification.

In spite of the rather chilly weather and the ever present danger of the heavens opening over the city the ancient Old City of Dubrovnik was a magnet for locals and tourists this morning.

The stone streets of the city certainly had a winter feel with plenty of space to explore and take an al fresco coffee, somewhat different from the summer crowds.

Check out the gallery from today by Branka Mumalo

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Uber saw a 30 percent increase in users over the Christmas and New Year period in Croatia in 2018 compared with the previous year according to a statement from the company.

The online transportation company have added that during the Advent festivals in Croatia they handled users from almost 80 different countries, with the majority of tourists coming from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Austria and Belgium. Uber reported a higher interest in four Croatian cities, Zagreb, Rijeka, Split and Dubrovnik.

The most popular destinations for Uber in Dubrovnik were to the Old City Walls and to the Dubrovnik Airport. Whilst other the other major Croatian cities saw an increase in journeys to shopping centres.

The Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Franković, the Deputy Mayor, Jelka Tepšić and the Director of the Port of Dubrovnik, Blaž Pezo, participated in a meeting at the Ministry of Tourism on the topic of amendments to the Tourist Tax Act. The new proposal put forward aims at collecting tourist taxes from tourists on cruise ships, with a set fee of 2 Euros per passenger proposed.

The Minister of Tourism, Gari Cappelli, explained that this new tax was a dedicated resource that would be reinvested into the transport infrastructure to raise the standard of destinations. Local government units could decide whether to introduce this tax or not.

The new proposal was supported by Mayor Frankovic who pointed out that this fee will certainly not deter people from coming to Dubrovnik, and that the City and the citizens will certainly benefit. With a tax of 2 Euros per guest, or per cruise ship passenger, the City of Dubrovnik would benefit to the tune of around 12 million Kuna which the city would then reinvest back into the transport system of the city. The mayor pointed out that it was important to notify the cruise ship companies in time so that the new fee could be calculated into future prices. It was agreed that the implementation of this new tax should be in 2021.

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One of the stars of the popular Step Up movies, Adam Sevani, has published a photo of himself in the Old City of Dubrovnik.

Sevani (26) sprung to fame for his role as Moose in the dance films and the American actor was clearly quite inspired by the beauty of Dubrovnik. He even noticed that he his selfie on the stone steps in Dubrovnik had been “cat photobombed.”

And with over 570,000 followers on Instagram his Dubrovnik based photo soon had well over 115,000 likes.

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Dubrovnik is fast becoming a playground for the stars. At times the Stradun has reassembled a catwalk or the red carpet for the Oscar ceremony over the last few years. We have seen stars of the silver screen, world famous singers, princesses, Hollywood stars and Russian billionaires strolling down the streets of the Old City. It’s almost like the word has got out in celebrity circles that Dubrovnik is the place to be seen.

There are, undoubtedly, many benefits of famous faces visiting us. The power of endorsements works with destinations just as well as products. So celebrities endorsing Dubrovnik just by coming here and having their photo taken and then published across the world can’t be bad. At the end of the day it is free publicity for the city. Through history the pearl of the Adriatic has always had a strong connection with the celebrity world. Whereas today in Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn stroll the Stradun they are walking in the footsteps of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton who did the same thing forty years ago.

That’s reminds me of a story a “real” Dubrovniker told me a few years ago. I soon realised that people born and bred in the Old City were, let’s say, indifferent to celebrities. There was no rushing for autographs, photos or hassle. I got the feeling that people who lived in the Old City considered themselves more blessed than the famous face simply because they lived in the Old City. So, back to the story, I’ve forgotten some of the details but the point of the story is still there. Elizabeth Taylor was visiting Dubrovnik and staying in Hotel Excelsior.

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The first two days of her visit she didn’t leave her room, worried that people would swarm around her on the streets. On the third day, after being convinced, she decided to walk down from the hotel to the town. To her surprise, and maybe even slight frustration, nobody took a second glance at her, let alone ask her something.

Near to Orlando she stood to admire the view when a Dubrovnik “original”, (I think his name was Ivo Labaš) approached her. She probably though “oh no, an autograph hunter has spotted me”, the reality was completely the opposite. He asked her for a piece of paper, and while a little surprised she dug in her bag and found a piece and handed it to him. He carefully signed his autograph on the piece of paper and handed the paper back to her. Perfect example of the attitude forty years ago, a time when celebrities could walk unhindered around the city.

It’s only really recently that famous faces have been “hassled” on the visits here. As the great poet Lord Byron questioned “What is fame? The advantage of being known by people of whom you yourself know nothing, and for whom you care as little.”

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