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.
And I thought I had done enough by learning one crazily difficult language, it seems I was wrong. Welcome to the People’s Republic of Croatia (PRC), the 24th province of the Asian motherland. And with a population of only 4 million PRC is the least populated of all the Chinese provinces, only Qinghai with 5.7 million can compare in size, with many provinces over 60 million. Yes, it is time for me to learn another language, Chinese, or more precisely Mandarin.
We are slowly being swallowed up by the Asian giant. Croatia is supposed to be a member of the European Union and not the National People's Congress. However, I am getting the feeling that whenever we need help we are turning East and not West. Not only were we the host of a mega Chinese congress, in which Premiers from all over the region came with hopes of investment from China, but we are also home to a Chinese owned hotel and the biggest Chinese investment in the Croatia, the Peljesac Bridge.
And don’t presume that the Chinese have chosen Croatia as a partner because they love our coastline or have a taste for Rožata. We are one tiny piece in a much bigger plan.
From highways in Pakistan, railways in Kazakhstan and ports in Sri Lanka, the trillion-dollar plan nicknamed Belt Road Initiative. Basically it’s a plan to reroute global trade and the Chinese plan to become the world’s superpower. Romantically it is linked with the former Silk Road but there is no real romance behind the project. They are loaning billions and billions of dollars to countries that will probably never be able to pay the money back. But they are buying power and influence. Italy have recently got on-board with by signing the “Silk Road Pact” earlier this year becoming the first of the G7 countries to jump into bed with the Asian giant. But as public debts in Italy are even worse than in Croatia, sorry the People’s Republic of Croatia, it is easy to see why they are interested in a few billion Yen.
It started back in 2013 when Chinese President, Xi Jinping, stated that “We should take an innovative approach and jointly build an economic belt along the Silk Road.” The first public mention of the Chinese masterplan. And the plan seems to be going full steam ahead. From a new health clinic, two football stadiums and now interest in purchasing Croatia’s ailing shipbuilding industry, we will soon be part of the global jigsaw.
And on a side note it would seem that Chinese business is lacking in creativity, at least when it comes to naming their companies. The Peljesac Bridge is being constructed by the China Road and Bridge Corporation, whilst our shipyards could soon be bought by the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation. Maybe this is a Chinese custom, to name companies directly after what they actually do. They probably don’t have McDonalds or Starbucks in Beijing, instead the China Hamburger Corporation and the China Coffee Corporation.
So I have spent all this time learning Croatian when I should have been learning Mandarin. As the new Silk Road ploughs right through our county think of all the new business opportunities if I was fluent. And will this new shipyard case be only a reflection of the future? When the government is in trouble with another failing public, or indeed private business, will they continue to go cap in hand to China? I am guessing that the EU, of which our government is a huge fan, is far from pleased with the current state of closeness. After all they pretty much funded the Peljesac Bridge and all those millions of Euros are now heading East.
“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build bridges,” states an ancient Chinese proverb. Are you listening Mr. Trump? For the Chinese are not only building bridges but they are building an economic future, and we are inside their story for world domination, whether we like it or not.
Today is an official public holiday in Croatia, the 1st of May, and International Worker’s Day or Labour Day or May Day. The day, which is a celebration of workers and the working class, dates back to 1886 in Chicago. The Haymarket Affair was a peaceful rally in support of workers who were striking to try and get an eight-hour week. However, the rally turned fatal when someone threw a bomb at the police officers, killing seven and injuring dozens. It was seen as retaliation for the police killing eight workers trying to disperse the crowd.
The 1904 Sixth Conference of the Second International, called on "all Social Democratic Party organisations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace."
The first of May is a national, public holiday in many countries across the world, in most cases as "Labour Day", "International Workers' Day" or some similar name – although some countries celebrate a Labour Day on other dates significant to them.
Get your thinking caps on and your pencils at the ready, its Pub Quiz time. This Thursday, the 2nd of May, a Pub Quiz in English will be held at the Dubrovnik Beer Company in Gruz.
Test your knowledge and have some fun and learn something new at the hottest night out in the city. The fun kicks off at 8:00pm in the Dubrovnik Beer Company and the categories include history, media, science, film & TV, music and much more.
To enter all you need to do is register your team.
The maximum number of people in one team is 5 and the minimum is 3. So think up a funky name for your team, phone your friends and get yourselves down to the Beer Company this Thursday. Even though the Pub Quiz starts at 8:00pm make sure you arrive by 7:30 to register your team and try a few pints (sorry half litres) of the finest craft beer straight from Dubrovnik.
See you all in the taproom for the Dubrovnik Pub Quiz this Thursday!
A centre of Chinese-Croatian health tourism was formally opened last week at the premises of the Medikol healthcare facility in Zagreb by Chinese Ambassador in Zagreb, Zhaoming Hu.
The centre, which practices traditional Chinese medicine and which is the result of cooperation of the two countries' medical tourism sectors, was given support during the recent 16+1 format summit meeting in Dubrovnik.
The ambassador recalled that during the recent visit of the Chinese delegation led by Prime Minister Li Keqiang, 10 documents on cooperation were signed, and some of them concerned tourism and connecting traditional Chinese medicine and Croatian tourism.
All this will make Croatia a more favourable tourist destination, the diplomat said. Three Chinese physicians are currently working in the centre. This cooperation started in 2013. An executive of Houliping TCM Hospital Group, Liping Hou, was also present at the opening ceremony.
Medikol Management Board chairman Ivan Rajkovic said that the Chinese-Croatian cooperation in health tourism had great potential.
The fifth Dubrovnik Half Marathon attracted runners from all over the world yesterday with the whole city beating to the sound of running shoes on stone. After the torrential rain and overcast skies on Saturday for the popular “Run the Walls” event the weather cleared and the sun shone for the Dubrovnik Half Marathon.
The Dubrovnik Half marathon is the jewel in the crown of the Du Motion event in Dubrovnik which sees the city in active mood for a few days. Runners started their Dubrovnik run on the Stradun in the heart of the Old City of Dubrovnik and ran out to the river Ombla where they turned and made their way back into the historic core with a big finish again on the Stradun.
Over its brief history the Du Motion events have already picked up many awards and the Half marathon is particularly proud of the five-star rating from the European Athletics Association award for quality and safety.
The winner of this year’s Dubrovnik Half Marathon was Kristijan Stošić from Serbia who completed the course with a time of 14 minutes and 2 seconds. In second place was Yordan Petrova from Bulgaria, while third Matt Edmonds from Great Britain came in third place.
In the women’s race the field was led by Amela Trožić from Bosnia and Herzegovina with a time of 31 minutes and 19 seconds. In second place was Hannah Grant from Switzerland, with a time of 32 minutes and 34 seconds and in third was Martina Schimanski from Germany with a time of 33 minutes and 24 seconds.
The winners of both competitions were presented with their awards by the Deputy Mayor Jelka Tepšić and city councillor Dživo Brčić.
At the beginning of the 21.1-kilometer race, there were a thousand competitors from almost 40 countries.
Flydubai has published its summer flight schedule and Dubrovnik will receive half as many flights from Dubai as it did last summer season.
In 2018 FlyDubai operated four flights a week between Dubai and Dubrovnik from April and continuing until October. However, it what appears to be a shakeup of their whole flights schedule for 2019/2020 to Croatia the airline has announced that this year they will connect Dubai and Dubrovnik only twice a week and will not start flights until June this year.
FlyDubai will therefore operate two weekly flights between Dubai and Dubrovnik from June to October this year, a halving of their summer flight schedule from last year. They have also announced that flights to the Croatian capital, Zagreb, will be decreased for this coming winter.
Ivana Trump, the former wife of US President Donald Trump, arrived in Croatia late yesterday afternoon and is a guest at the luxury Hotel Esplanade in Zagreb. Ivana Trump flew from the US to Vienna and then onto the Croatian capital by car.
Ivana Trump arrived to Croatia to take part in the Miss Universe pageant where she will be the president of the jury. 18 ladies from all over Croatia will compete for the Miss Croatia trophy and the winner will represent Croatia at the main event, the Miss Universe competition that will be held at the end of the year.
During her visit to Zagreb Ivana Trump visited the Svjetlost Clinic where she had a minor eye operation, that according to information, was extremely successful.
The renowned credit rating agency Moody’s has changed their financial forecast for Croatia from stable to positive. The American based agency stated that “the improved fiscal performance is mainly attributable to a significant reduction in the structural deficit, meaning that public finances are strengthening in a durable way."
The agency expects a solid surplus of the primary balance to be maintained in the coming years.
"Under its base case scenario, Moody's expects that continued fiscal prudence and positive economic growth will allow public debt to continue its downward trend and reach around 70% of GDP in 2020," reads the report on Croatia.