Friday, 22 November 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

Christmas in Croatia will have a political twist this year as the government has decided to hold the elections for President of the Republic of Croatia will be held on Sunday the 22nd of December, just three days before Christmas. It what would normally be an extremely busy weekend of last minute shopping, the last weekend before Christmas, citizens will now be asked to spare some of their valuable free time to vote.

And the run up to Christmas will be a cocktail of adverts for Christmas presents and political messages as the election campaign will run up to the 21st of December. Thankfully on the Saturday and Sunday of the election any publicity from Presidential campaigners is prohibited, so at least there will be a small respite before Christmas.

Holding the vote on the eve of the biggest religious holiday in the calendar is sure to be unpopular with many citizens. And why the government has chosen this date has yet to be announced but it is sure to negatively affect the number of people at the polling stations across the country.

 

The front runner in the election is current President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, from the ruling HDZ party, although she is closely followed by Zoran Milanovic from SDP and the independent candidate, and singer and TV personality, Miroslav Skoro.
In addition to the decision to call the presidential election, the government also made a decision on the amount of compensation for election campaign expenses, which is distributed to candidates who win more than 10 percent of the votes. For the candidate with the highest number of votes received in the first election round, this fee amounts to 1 million Kuna, but may not be paid in excess of the expenses incurred in the election campaign. 2.8 million Kuna has been earmarked in the budget for reimbursement of election campaign expenses.

If no one wins a majority or more than 50 percent of the votes cast, two weeks later, a second round of elections will be held, with the two candidates receiving the most votes in the first round. So as it seems that not one candidate will win more than 50 percent of the vote at the first time of asking there will yet another election coinciding with New Year. Meaning that between Christmas and New Year more presidential campaigning will bombard voters. It’s a political festive period for Croatia this year.

The storm of the century crashed into Dubrovnik today with incredible scenes all over the city. With wind speeds touching 140 km/h, trees uprooted and waves actually throwing sea water over the iconic Dubrovnik City Walls. As the southerly winds reached gale force levels the rising sea spilled over onto the pavements and roads.

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The whole region has experienced extreme weather and today it was the turn of Dubrovnik to feel the force and power of nature as the stone walls of the ancient Old City once again stood strong to defend the city and its inhabitants.

Check out the video and photos of today’s amazing storm

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The powerful storm that hit Dubrovnik today brought down trees, crashed advertising signs to the ground and sent waves crashing over the whole city.

One of the absolute hotspots of the storm and indeed the centre for the high seas was Pile and one of the victims of the weather was the kayaks based down by the shoreline. The waves literally picked up kayaks from the shore and tossed them into the Adriatic. At one point seven kayaks were left stranded in the sea until workers came to rescue them.

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To say it wasn’t an easy job to fish them out of the crashing waves would be an understatement. The sea also created havoc with the equipment and advertising the kayak owners had left packed away for winter.

kajak in storm dubrovnik

The popular low-cost airline easyJet has made another step to strengthen their place on the Croatian market. A five-year agreement between Pula Airport in Istria and easyJet was signed at the recent World Travel Market in London and is sure to bring ever more flights and passengers.

It is believed that with this new deal easyJet will open even more UK cities to Croatia with more flights and a longer flight schedule in the pipeline. Pula is seemingly an important destination for the budget airline as every year flight numbers have grown, with a total of ten European destinations now connected to Pula via easyJet.

 

The national flag carrier Croatia Airlines on Tuesday recorded its forty millionth passenger, Ivanka Candrlic, who arrived at Zagreb Airport aboard a Croatia Airlines flight from Frankfurt.

"We are very pleased to welcome our forty millionth passenger in the year when we celebrate the company's 30th anniversary. Additionally symbolic is the fact that the forty millionth passenger was recorded on a flight which was our first international flight in 1992," said Croatia Airlines Management Board chair Jasmin Bajic.

Asked to comment on the future of Croatia Airlines, considering that three scenarios have been mentioned in the media, Bajic said that he believed in the company's future.

"In the third quarter we earned a profit of HRK 41 million. That is the reality of Croatia Airlines - we lose in the wintertime and earn in the summer, when there is competition. We have to find a solution for the wintertime, when we are practically the only airline connecting Croatia with the rest of the world. In the wintertime we have 15 rivals, and in the summertime more than one hundred on this highly competitive aviation market," Bajic said.

 

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Asked if he expected help from the state, Bajic recalled that Croatia Airlines was owned by the state and that currently a process was underway that would result in a change of the ownership structure. But that's up to the owner and not the company itself, he said.

The Vecernji List daily reported on Tuesday that the consultants that have been hired to find a strategic partner and define a recapitalisation model for Croatia Airlines are expected to propose a plan to salvage the national airline by the end of the year.

The consultants are currently working on three models which include airports, pension funds and the ACI marina operator.

Sources close to the consultants have said that according to one of the models, a holding company consisting of Croatian airports and Croatia Airlines would be established. Another solution would be for pension insurance funds to take over Croatia Airlines and airports, and the third solution would be for pension insurance funds to take over Croatia Airlines as well as ACI.

After sunshine and blue skies yesterday the weather certainly took a turn for the worse today as gale force winds and pouring rain battered the whole city. Incredibly powerful winds whipped up the sea and uprooted trees and torrential rain made driving conditions very treacherous.

One of our readers caught this video of a yacht in the Bay of Lapad as extreme winds threatened to completely overturn the boat. The yacht had apparently dropped anchor in the sheltered bay a few days ago presumably looking for a good spot to avoid the heavy seas. However, the bay acted as a funnel for the winds and tossed the yacht around like a toy duck in a bath.

Just yesterday in this same bay we filmed a swimmer as he bathed in the Adriatic, today was a completely different story.

The weather has eased off in the meantime but more extreme weather is forecast for the rest of the week in Dubrovnik.

The inevitable path of Croatia adopting the Euro as the official currency is gathering pace as the Prime Minister announced that it is a strategic goal of the government.

“The economic benefits of the Euro are many, the currency risk in the economy will be eliminated, the cost of borrowing will drop for all domestic sectors, and citizens and businesses will have lower financing costs than they would if Croatia stayed outside the euro area,” stated Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.

And it seems that the public won’t be asked their opinion as to whether the country should ditch the Kuna and adopt the Euro in the form of a referendum as the Prime Minister reiterated that the people have already decided when they voted to join the EU. As part of Croatia’s accession into the EU family there was the obligation to adopt the Euro as the official currency.

“The euro is the second largest and strongest global currency used by more than 340 million people in the euro area,” added Plenkovic.

And he backed up his belief that Croatia should start using the currency of Europe with some hard facts. Plenkovic emphasized that around 76 percent of Croatians already save in Euros rather than in Kunas, meaning that Croatia has the highest deposits of Euros of all EU member states outside the euro area. He added that almost fifty percent of loans and mortgages are in Euros and that businesses export almost 60 percent of their goods into the Eurozone.

So when will Croatians start paying in Euros rather than Kunas?

In the second half of 2020 Croatia is expected to enter the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II upon confirmation of compliance with all conditions. Then the country would spend about 2 to 3 years in this mechanism, meaning that the full introduction of the Euro as the official currency would be somewhere between January 2023 and January 2024.

And although there is still some fear amongst citizens that prices will rise overnight the fact that most major transactions in Croatia are already carried out in Euros should help to ease those fears. Houses, cars, boats, land, in fact most things of larger value are quoted in Euros already.

And one major benefit of introducing the Euro would be the increased spending by tourists. Exchanging their home currency into Kunas tends to mean that tourists don’t exchange more than they really need. And there is also the positive effect it would have on interest rates, it is believed by financial experts that the introduction of the Euro would bring interest rates in line with the Eurozone, basically meaning lower interest rates for both private loans and business loans.

As the sun poured down on Dubrovnik today after a spell of grey and overcast weather some people were tempted to dive in the Adriatic Sea and determined to make the most of a sunny start to the week.

 

 

With sea temperatures around 20 degrees in fact the sea isn’t that chilly, indeed the sea in Dubrovnik today was twice as warm as the air temperature in the capital. This brave swimmer in the Bay of Lapad today certainly had the sea to himself. No worries about finding a spare spot on the beach to roll out his towel or whether a jet-ski would whizz past his ear, he crawled, a front crawl that is, to his heart’s content.

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Sunset Beach Dubrovnik in the November sunshine - Photo Mark Thomas 

However, the forecast for the rest of the week doesn’t look so promising for our swimmer, he might want to pack away the speedos, as rain and storms are predicted. But on the 11th day of the 11th month at exactly 11:00 am he splashed away even though Christmas is just around the corner. 

The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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