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

The island of Brač will have direct flights from Ukraine this summer with the Ukrainian airline SkyUp Airlines announcing flights twice a week. According to the airline the flights will start on the 1st of June and last until September and will connect Brač with Kiev. These twice weekly flights mark a new market for the island of Brač.

“After local business owners on Brač and Split went to Ukraine last year in search of workers for the upcoming tourist season the opportunity for direct flights opened up,” commented the director of the Brač Airport, Tonči Peović to The Dubrovnik Times. “We still don’t have the exact details from the Ukrainian airline but if all goes to plan then we look forward to once again developing the tourism of the island of Brač with this new operation,” added Peović.

SkyUp airline received a license to fly to European union countries in October of last year and is clearly looking for more destinations in Croatia. When they received the all clear from the European Union SkyUp commented on their social media page that “We are pleased to announce that SkyUp has passed the TCO procedure, having received permission to fly to European countries! Now the sky of Europe is open for us.” In 2016, SkyUp became a registered company in Kyiv, Ukraine and the company began charter flights from the end of May 2018.

SkyUp has three Boeing 737-800’s and one B737-700, and has plans to increase the number of aircraft in their fleet.

This will be the first time that Brač has had direct flights to the Ukraine and in a statement the airport added that "We hope that sales will be satisfactory and we look forward to our first flights from Ukraine."

With its relatively close proximity to Split and the island of Hvar the airport on Brač has seen a solid growth in passenger numbers in recent years and with the opening of new destinations, such as Ukraine, this year should be just as impressive.

Croatia’s marriage rate is higher than the European Union average. Across the EU the average number of married couples per 1,000 inhabitants was 4.3, whilst in Croatia that number is slightly higher at 4.9.

The highest figure inside the European Union was Lithuania which in 2017 saw 7.5 marriages per 1,000 inhabitants, followed by Romania with 7.3 and Cyprus and Latvia both with 6.8, according to figures published by Eurostat.

At the other end of the scale the countries with the lowest marriage rates were Slovenia with only 3.1 marriages per 1,00 inhabitants and Luxembourg with 3.2, followed by Portugal with 3.3. And although the marriage rate in Croatia was higher than the EU average it was placed only 14th of the complete EU list.

The Catholic Church in Croatia is under pressure to release their financial records. The non-governmental transparency watchdog Gong has stated that all of the financial records of the Catholic Church should be public, just as any other non-profit organisation in the country. Although it is law for all non-profit organisations to release their financial details the Catholic Church has still yet to comply.

Gong said that by refusing to review a series of treaties signed with the Holy See in the 1990s, the Croatian government has missed the opportunity to raise the issue of the financing for the Catholic Church, which is entirely funded from the state budget.

"There is no precise data on Church financing which is funded from the state budget. According to figures provided by the government, the Church gets around 600 million Kuna (€80.8 million) every year from the state budget, although no data for spending at the local level is available. When donations received from believers, and also allocations from abroad, are added in, the total amount is much higher, but not specified anywhere," said Gong in a press release.

And Gong added that although all non-profit organisations are required to release their financial details religious organisations are not required to release their revenue or even keep financial records.

Dubrovnik is one of the only diocese that actually publish their financial details, the Bishop of Dubrovnik, Mate Uzinic, was pointed out by Gong as a positive example of transparency.

And not only do the state greatly fund the Catholic Church but they also pay for various other religious obligations, such as Catholic chaplains in the military. In 1996 and again in 1998 the then government, which was made up of the Croatian Democratic Union, signed agreements to fund Catholic religious education at primary and secondary schools and also to pay the salaries of teachers for this subject.

All this means that they government is spending around 900 million Kuna of taxpayers’ money every year on the church and other religious costs. However, apart from the Dubrovnik Diocese, the actual financial reports are still hidden from the taxpayer.

In an attempt to assist traditional crafts and businesses in the historic Old City of Dubrovnik the Mayor of Dubrovnik has announced a tender for financial grants. Businesses, that are based around traditional local crafts, can apply to the City of Dubrovnik and if successful will receive 2,000 Kuna a month as a subsidiary. A total of 32 subsidies will be granted by the City of Dubrovnik in 2019 and will be organised by the Department for Tourism, Economy and Sea.

The criteria for granting subsidies include the length of the traditional business, the achievements so far, the craftsmen's readiness to transfer the acquired knowledge to heirs and the willingness to periodically organize exhibitions and presentations of their products in order to promote Dubrovnik craftsmanship.

Last year the City of Dubrovnik granted a total of 30 subsidies, of which 13 were inside the Old City Walls, and the businesses varied from goldsmiths, artists, Croatian crafts and even a hairdresser.

The deadline for applications is February 25, 2019, and all other information on the terms of the call for tenders, the criteria for granting the subsidy and the form of the application are available on the website of the City of Dubrovnik.

The once Yugoslav state of Macedonia now has officially a new name, North Macedonia. After an agreement was reached between Greece and Macedonia back in June 2018 the official name change happened yesterday, said the Macedonian government in a press release.

The conditions had been met to implement the constitutional amendments to change the country’s name which parliament adopted on January 11. Macedonia was internationally known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) because of a dispute over the name with Greece, whose northern province carries the same name. The dispute was resolved in the so-called Prespa agreement, opening the door for North Macedonia to become a member of NATO and move towards membership in the European Union.

Starting today, the 13th of February, Croatia Airlines is offering a 30 percent discount on all flights booked online. This special offer is limited and will last until Sunday the 17th of February.

Croatia Airlines stated that “While making a booking, passengers will be required to enter a special promotional code, which will be posted on the company’s website.”

The special offer is not limited to flights inside Croatia but to all the international destinations that the airline flies to. Croatia Airlines will be flying to 30 international destinations (in 24 countries) and 8 Croatian ones, this year and will connect the capital Zagreb to 24 European destinations in 22 countries.

This year, Croatia Airlines is expecting to fly approximately 5 percent more passengers than in 2018, when a record-breaking 2,168,863 passengers were flown (2 percent more than in 2017).

The Dubrovnik pigeons of the Gundulić Square in the heart of the Old City of Dubrovnik are always lively at midday, that’s feeding time. The stone square, which is the location for the market, is the lunch-time restaurant as they are traditionally fed as the bell tower clock strikes 12.

The combination of the cold northerly wind, the bright sunshine and the flocks of pigeons caught the eye of photographer Tonci Plazibat yesterday, and the result is impressive.

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Unlike some other European nations Croatia is not facing a recession, at least according to the Minister of Environmental Protection and Energy, Tomislav Ćorić. Speaking to the media today Ćorić stated that the Croatian economy will grow by 2 percent this year and that the negative impact of the slowdown of other economies on Croatian tourism could see an increase in quality in this sector.

When asked about the theory that 2020 could see a recession on a global scale and whether it Croatia should be worried, he said that although there are signs of recession in some countries, primarily in Germany and Italy, he believes that the Croatian economy will continue to grow. "I do not see Croatia facing recession," Ćorić said.

He noted that the slowdown in economic activity in some other countries will affect a very important segment of the economy, tourism, but independently, it is certain that raising the quality of the tourism sector will "somehow address this problem".

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