Wednesday, 16 January 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

Croatia Airlines has posted record passenger numbers for 2018. The national airline carried 2.17 million passengers in 2018, a 2 percent increase over the previous year, which was a record for the company. Breaking down the numbers 1.64 million were passengers travelling on international flights, whilst on domestic flights there were approximately 526,000 passengers.

Croatia Airlines added two new destinations for 2018, Mostar and Dublin. Flights to the Irish capital were based only on a seasonal basis but proved popular quite possibly due to the fact that a large number of Croatians have moved to Ireland in search of work.

Hollywood heartthrob Goran Visnjic is back in Dubrovnik and has published a photo of a famous landmark on his Twitter account. The Croatian born actor who broke onto the scene in the iconic serial ER as the sexy Dr. Luka Kovac is often in Dubrovnik and it would appear from his latest photo that he is staying at the five-star Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik.

The Lovrijenac Fortress, which is directly opposite the luxury hotel, is often the stage for the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, a fact not lost on the Sibenik born Visnjic as he commented under his photo “Back in Croatia... Beautiful Dubrovnik Lovrijenac fort... I spent 8 years playing Hamlet on this stage...nice to be back...#croatia.”

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As the black clouds of uncertainty hang over the UK with some kind of Brexit around the corner, the restrictions on foreign workers seem to be just as stringent as ever. It is slightly ironic. Croatia is handing out tons of visas to foreigners to replace the workers that have left for the greener fields of other EU members. And yet as the UK is leaving the EU family and faces an uncertain future, especially with filling job positions, the requirements for actually obtaining a work visa are, to say the least, challenging.

One of the toughest tests, and yes it is a test, for foreigners is the so called International English Language Testing System, or IELTS. Think of the hardest English test you remember from school, multiply it by 100 and that’s how tough this test is. Shakespeare himself would struggle to ace it! But the Brits are tough. NO IELTS no entry.

Even though it is so exceptionally hard I admire the fact that they have stuck to the rules and demanded that foreign workers have an above average level of the native tongue. Not only do people have to learn the language they are also forced to understand something, if only on a surface level, of the culture, the history and traditions. All of these are important tools to start a new working life in a foreign land.

But if look at the flip side, Croatia. You want to work in Croatia as a foreigner there is absolutely no test of Croatian, zero! You can start a business, run a business with thousands of employees and you don’t even have to know “dobar dan.” You don’t have to understand any of the culture or history, in fact anything and you can work freely.

Now you could argue that being a member of the EU means you have to obey EU policies. Of which one of the most rigorous is free movement of people and the freedom to work in any other member state. That is true up to a point. Except in the UK and Germany who both require a test of the language to obtain a work visa. It is a classic case of one rule for the big boys and one for all the rest.

In Dubrovnik we have had plenty of cases of foreign managers and directors, many of the major hotels have at one point been steered by a foreign “captain,” and yet very few of them knew more than ten words in the language of the country they were working in. One foreign director meant that the whole force work had to speak English. I guarantee you that if you only spoke Spanish and wanted to work in the London, or Berlin or in fact Paris, as a director the door would by firmly shut in your face. And quite right to. And yet in Croatia we have countless cases of directors from all over the globe forcing their language onto a whole organisation.

In their wisdom the government has decided to increase work permits for foreign nationals this year seven times more than last year. A massive 65,000 will be handed out. How many of these applicants will need to know Croatian? Not one. You could argue that many of these visas will go to workers from the former Yugoslavia and they will already have some language skills. And you would be right. But a huge chunk will go outside of the neighbouring countries. Beggars can’t be choosers. The country faces a crippling labour shortage. It’s true.

Without these foreign workers we would almost stop, or at least be stuck in second gear. So can the government be strict with the application process? Can they even afford to turn people away? I imagine if you put a Croatian language test as part of the application process then you would automatically lose at least half of the interested workers. But at the same time by not having a language test you are also showing a lack of respect towards your own culture. It is a catch 22 situation. As the English would say “You can’t have your cake and eat it.” 

The initial construction works on the new Peljesac Bridge started yesterday with installation of the first metal pile for the bridge.

At 127 metres in length the first pile was eased into place on-board a special ship brought from China by the construction company, China Roads and Bridges.

A total of 130 piles of various lengths will be needed for the construction of the future Peljesac Bridge.

From UNESCO sites to air pollution, the website cool camping has pulled together the statistics to reveal the best countries in the world for living life in the great outdoors.

“At Cool Camping we love the great outdoors and, for us, time outside is about much more than just weekend camping holidays. From hiking and biking, to simply getting out into the countryside and exploring new places, we know (and studies have shown) that time outdoors helps us live happier, healthier lives,” writes the website. Adding “Compiled by analysing a variety of factors that we believe any right-minded outdoor enthusiast would find important, our Fresh Air Living Index identifies which countries around the world best meet the criteria, then brings every outdoor factor together in an overall ranking. Important factors include the number of natural UNESCO sites a country has, the average level of air pollution and the number of recognised, long-distance hiking routes available to trek.”

And their list of the best places to enjoy an al fresco way of life sees Croatia coming in at an impressive 18th position. The Fresh Air Living Index ranks the best places for outdoor enthusiasts to live, 365 days of the year. The ranking was comprised by analysing a variety of factors including: Adventure experiences, Natural UNESCO sites, Hiking routes, Attractiveness of natural assets and Level of air pollution.

Spain was ranked as the number one destination for outdoor enthusiasts after it ranked highly in almost every category. And Croatia came in at 18th position, sandwiched between Austria and Norway, and ahead of countries such as the UK and South Africa.

The overall results by continent are

Best country for outdoor enthusiasts in Africa: South Africa

Best country for outdoor enthusiasts in Europe: Spain

Best country for outdoor enthusiasts in South America: Chile

Best country for outdoor enthusiasts in Asia: Thailand

Best country for outdoor enthusiasts in North America: Costa Rica

Best country for outdoor enthusiasts in Oceania: New Zealand

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The Dubrovnik Police Chief, Ivan Pavlicevic, has confirmed that the dead body of one of the three workers missing in the fire at the hydroelectric power plant in Plat, just south of Dubrovnik, has been found in a drainage channel. The other two workers are still missing.

The fire at the hydropower plant in Plat was extinguished this morning. It is assumed that the cause of the fire is of a technical nature, and Ivan Vučetić will conduct the investigation on the cause.

At the time of the fire in the hydro power plant there were 9 workers present, said Pavlicevic. Six of them were taken to the General Hospital in Dubrovnik, two are in the emergency department, the severity of their injuries and health condition is unknown for the time being. The search for the remaining two workers continues with police boats and divers in the vicinity.

Croatia has posted the largest drop in unemployment throughout the European Union on a year-on-year level in 2018. According to figures just released by Eurostat the rate of unemployment in Croatia in 2018 fell from 10 percent to 7.8 percent.

Across the European Union the rate of unemployment stood at 6.7 percent in November 2018, which is the lowest level since January 2000.

Eurostat estimated that a total of 16.491 million people in the EU28, including 13.040 million in the euro zone, were unemployed in November 2018. Month-on-month, the number of persons unemployed dropped by 107,000 in the EU28 and by 90,000 in the euro zone. Compared with November 2017, unemployment fell by 1.489 million in the EU28 and by 1.135 million in the euro zone.

Croatia tops the EU in terms of unemployment decrease in 2018, followed by Greece, which went from 20.8 percent to 18.6 percent and Spain, which went from 16.5 percent to 14.7 percent. By countries, the lowest unemployment rates in November 2018 were recorded in the Czech Republic (1.9 percent), Germany (3.3 percent) and the Netherlands (3.5 percent). On the other hand, the highest unemployment rates were observed in Greece (18.6 percent in September 2018) and Spain (14.7 percent).

Although the figures look encouraging it has to be taken into account that during 2018 hundreds of thousands of Croatian workers left the country in search of employment in other EU member states. This mass exodus certainly helped to decrease the rate of unemployment. In fact, so many workers left that the Croatian government was forced to react and drastically increase the number of work visas for foreigners, seven-fold to 65,100. Many of the visas will be issued to cover the shortfall of workers in the tourism industry. The quota, applied to non-EU workers and subdivided into quotas per sector, is set every year by the government in December. It is based on recommendations by various business associations and serves as an indicator of the shortage of workers, especially in areas such as tourism and construction.

A fire broke out this morning in the hydroelectric power station in Plat near Dubrovnik.

A helicopter is standing ready at Dubrovnik General Hospital to take three injured workers who were caught in the fire, confirmed the director of the hospital, Dr. Marijo Bekić. Unconfirmed reports suggest that two of the three injured electric workers were caught in the tunnel of the hydroelectric power plant when the fire exploded. 

The fire brigades from Dubrovnik, Konavle and Zupa are on the scene as well as the police to control the traffic. The cuase of the fire is as yet unknown.

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