Sunday, 21 October 2018
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 unemployment rate in Croatia continues to drop and in August this year was one of the lowest rates in the European Union. In August the overall rate of unemployment in the European union was 6.8 percent, according to new data released today by Eurostat.

And once again Croatia was ranked among the group of countries with the biggest unemployment rate drops.

There are approximately 16.6 million people out of work in the EU, as of August this year. The highest unemployment rates were seen in Greece and Spain. However, across all EU members the rate of unemployment fell in August, with the largest decreases were registered in Cyprus (from 10.5 to 7.5 percent), Croatia (from 10.9 to 8.5 percent), Greece (from 21.3 to 19.1 percent between June 2017 and June 2018) and Portugal (from 8.8 to 6.8 percent).

In August 2018, the unemployment rate in Croatia was 8.5 percent, or 0.2 percentage points down from July 2018. A total of 154,000 Croatians were jobless in August 2018, or 3,000 fewer than in July.

One of the largest telecommunications companies in Croatia, Vipnet telecom, has rebranded itself to A1. In a press conference held in Zagreb today the company stated that as of the 1st of October all of the company's clients and services will be using this new brand.

In one single move the telecoms company went from the back of the phone book to the very beginning. Speaking about the reasons for the rebranding after spending 19 years carrying its old name, Vipnet Croatia CEO, Jiri Dvorjancansky, said that the company wished to adapt to its clients' new habits, and needs as well as to new technologies and digital processes on the global market. He failed to mention that the company just climbed the alphabet considerably.

Dvorjancansky added that in the next three years A1 Croatia would invest around €300 million in upgrading network infrastructure and services, and noted that new generation 5G networks were essential for new services which increasingly rely on artificial intelligence, robotisation, and other technologies.

A1 Telekom Austria Group operates in seven countries and provide services for approximately 24 million customers. 

Could the newest member of the European Union be following the lead of the UK and leaving just a few years after it joined? If the opposition party “Human Shield” gets into power then Croexit will happen according to their leader Ivan Vilibor Sinic.

"Now those in Europe are very afraid that so-called populists will take over the European Parliament at the next election. We have never seen Europe as a community that will help us when we need help and whom we will help when they need help, but we have seen it as a group of alienated bureaucrats where corporations and banks wield strong influence and where there is very little democracy," commented Sincic for the HINA news agency.

And it isn’t only the EU that Sinic wants to leave, he would also take Croatia out of NATO.

“There is a huge democratic deficit surrounding the European Commission. Europe has huge problems, not only because of migration, but also because of mutual relations, the euro crisis, etc. From Croatia's point of view, Europe has done more damage than good to Croatia. We are a country on Europe's periphery, Europe has got human and economic resources from us and we have got much less in return," he said.

Even though support for Human Shield is growing, especially in and around Zagreb, they currently only have three members in the Croatian parliament and have yet to gain a member of the European Parliament although Sincic commented that they were preparing for the elections in May 2019.

The causes of the recent forest fires in the Dubrovnik – Neretva County are currently being investigated. It has so far been concluded that the fires near Metković were caused by open fires or burning embers that spread from a household or farm, the investigation is still under way to find the culprits.

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Burnt out building near Orebic - Photo CROPIX 

Furthermore, by an eyewitness at the fires that broke out in Konavle on the 26th of September stated that the fires were started by a spark from an overhead electrical line. It is believed that the same problem that caused the fires in Peljesac around the town of Orebić.

It would appear from eye witness reports that gale force northerly winds blew over an electrical pylon and the sparks caused the forest fire to ignite in the hills above Orebić.

On this day, 27 years ago, the 1st of October 1991 at 6.00am Dubrovnik was attacked from the land, the sea and the air by the Yugoslav National Army (JNA). It is a day etched in the memories of the citizens of the city as they were awoken by the Homeland War. The Yugoslav National Army started their offensive on the south of Croatia and Dubrovnik on this day 27 years ago.

The first shells were fired from artillery units of the JNA from positions around Trebinje and from mortar units just across the border in Ivanica in Bosnia and Herzegovina. These first mortars landed on the village of Bosanka on the Srđ Mountain and in Mokošica. Within a few hours of the attack the JNA air force had taken out the electrical substation in Komolac leaving Dubrovnik without electricity and water. Later the communications centre and antenna on top of the Srđ Mountain was bombed and destroyed leaving the city without communications to the outside world. This was the beginning of a three-month blockade of Dubrovnik.

More than 10,000 enemy soldiers, around 100 tanks, heavy artillery, navy warships and MIGs opened a frontline of up to 200 kilometres and on the other side of the battlefield were only 750 poorly armed Croatian defenders, police and volunteers.

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Dubrovnik under attack - Photos Wikipedia 

The heaviest attacks on Dubrovnik in its history occurred from the 8th to the 14th of November when more than 5,000 missiles were fired into the city area and then again on the 6th of December when over 600 artillery missiles landed inside the UNESCO World Heritage Site. In that attack, nine buildings inside the Dubrovnik walls were completely burnt out, 456 were severely damaged, and 45 grenades landed directly on the Stradun.

During the attack and occupation of the Dubrovnik area more than 33,000 people were evicted, 184 Croatian defenders and 92 civilians were killed died and more than 1,500 people were wounded. In concentration camps in in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Montenegro 423 people were detained. From Ston to Konavle a total of 2,127 houses were burnt to their foundations.

Next year a maximum of two cruise ships carrying no more than 5,000 passengers in total will be allowed to dock in Dubrovnik in one day.

One of the biggest challenges facing Dubrovnik’s tourism industry has been the cruise industry. The city receives around the same amount of cruise ship passengers as it does regular tourists every year. This year has seen the start of a program to reduce the impact on the city with cruise ships being rescheduled to arrive at differing times of the day, and next year the city is going one step further. The days of ten and more cruise ships in one day carrying upwards of 10,000 passengers is over, from next year only two cruise ships will be allowed to dock in one day with a maximum of 5,000 passengers.

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"The contracts with the cruise companies have been signed for next year, so we have a maximum of two cruise ships per day, from Monday to Sunday. Sometimes there will be only one, sometimes two will arrive simultaneously, sometimes one in the morning and one in the afternoon, but we will have a maximum of two a day," commented the mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Frankovic.

Frankovic added that a problem to traffic jams still needs to be fund and he is convinced that the liberalization of the taxi market, which saw over 1,000 taxi drivers working in the city this year, is the main reason that the city is often gridlocked.

The reorganisation, or rescheduling, of cruise ship arrivals for this season certainly helped with the overcrowding problem, although the historic Old City, which is of course a magnet for tourists, was often extremely crowded. This latest step for 2019, limiting the number of cruise ships to two a day, takes the reorganisation to another level.

By limiting to two a day, and to a maximum of 5,000 passengers, the mayor is making a clear statement that enough is enough. The city has been surrounded in bad publicity from the international press regarding the problem of overcrowding. From The New York Times in America to the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, the world’s press has linked Dubrovnik’s tourism challenges to the popularity of the Game of Thrones to the hundreds of thousands of cruise passengers that arrive every year.

UNSECO were even considering to revoke Dubrovnik’s World Heritage listing and advised that a maximum of 8,000 tourists should be allowed in the historic core at any one time. The Mayor and the City of Dubrovnik have now gone one step further than UNESCO and limited that to 5,000.

"The key to the success of each destination is management, and we have made it through contact with the world-leading CLIA group, which brings together all the key cruise travel organizers. We have arranged a better schedule of arrivals and departures for cruise ships, thus significantly improving the flow of guests into the Old City of Dubrovnik. Although this season we have an increase in the number passengers on cruise ships by seven percent the streets of the historic core have not been blocked for the first time in the past ten years,” commented Frankovic.

According to the Croatian National Bank (HNB), in the first six months of 2018, revenues from foreign tourists amounted to 3 billion euros, which represents a growth of 10 percent compared to the same period last year, or 276 million euros higher than in 2017.

In the second quarter of 2018, revenues from foreign tourists reached a healthy 2 billion and 558 million euros, which is 9 percent more than in the same period of 2017 or 222 million euros more. The share of tourism revenues in GDP was 19.7 percent or 1.6 percent more than in the same period last year.

"At this point we have already exceeded 100 million overnight stays, a month earlier than last year, and we are particularly pleased in the first half of this year we have made 3 billion euros in revenue from foreign guests, which is 10 percent more than in the same period last year. Growth of revenues in tourism is the basis for further development, investment and increase of competitiveness, and precisely because of our activities, programs and legislative changes, we focus on increasing the efficiency of tourism system, quality growth and diversification of supply. The results achieved so far have confirmed the great progress made towards the whole year's tourism, but I believe that we will be even more successful in the future ", commented the Minister of Tourism Gari Cappelli.

Thanks to the quick intervention of firefighters from the Dubrovnik Fire Brigade a fire that broke out close to the Dubrovnik General Hospital was quickly extinguished.

At around 2.00 pm a fire broke out between the hospital and the helipad towards the sea. According to a statement from the Dubrovnik Fire Brigade three fire trucks and nine firemen attended the blaze and quickly put the fire out.

Around 100 metres squared of grassland was burnt in the fire.

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