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.
With only a few weeks left until the UK leaves the European Union the British Embassy in Zagreb will organise a discussion entitled “Brexit and Citizens’ Rights.” Whether the UK leaves the EU with a deal or without a deal British citizens living in Croatia, and across Europe, need to be aware of their rights.
From practical advice, like changing your UK driving licence and keeping up-to-date with health services, to general advice British citizens living in Croatia, all will be on the table at this first discussion.
And although this first discussion will be held in the Croatian capital the embassy is also looking to gauge interest to hold similar talks in other parts of the country. They add that British citizens living in Croatia can keep in touch with all future events on the Living in Croatia webpage and can also subscribe to a newsletter.
On the eve of Great Britain leaving the European Union on the 29th of March as Brexit looms ever closer we caught up with the British Ambassador to the Republic of Croatia, Andrew Dalgleish, to discover what the future could bring for the relationship between Croatia and the UK. “Croatian citizens living in the UK needn’t worry if the UK leaves without a deal because the government has foreseen measures to make sure they are looked after,” stated the Ambassador. But the British government “is putting every effort it can into getting a deal.” The Brexit future for the UK has two possible outcomes, at least at this moment in negotiations, a deal or a no deal scenario, which would each bring differing questions and solutions for citizen rights.
After the UK leaves the European Union on the 29th of March with Brexit how, in the case of a “no deal” scenario, will this affect the status of Croatian citizens living in Great Britain?
The Prime Minister has been really clear about this issue right from the start of Brexit negotiations, citizens shouldn’t have to be negotiating pawns, because it’s people’s lives and livelihoods that really matter. And again as we come to the end of the negotiations, the Prime Minister has been clear that whatever happens, Croatians, like other European Union citizens who are resident legally in the UK, can basically expect to be treated exactly the same as they were before the 29th of March. Croatians shouldn’t see any change to the status in the UK immediately. This is a genuine indication of how much the UK values the EU citizens that reside in Great Britain. Irrespective of what other EU members do to reciprocate, the Prime Minister has made her stance clear. After the 29th of March, EU citizens will be able to continue living in the UK with all the social services, health care and education as they had beforehand and then we’ll see which way the negotiations go further. There are processes in place to explain to citizens after Brexit how they continue in the future and to make sure that they are looked after.
It is important to say that there two likely Brexit outcomes at this moment in time, a deal and no deal, and whichever option is adopted will effect what will happen on the 29th of March?
Yes, the British government is absolutely committed and is putting every effort it can into getting a deal. Exactly what that deal looks like we’ll see. But it’s fully clear for the government that leaving with a deal is the best outcome. However, we are also a responsible government which means that we have to prepare for a scenario that we don’t want to see but which might happen. This is why we want to assure Croatian citizens living in the UK that they needn’t worry if the UK leaves without a deal because the government has foreseen measures to make sure they are looked after.
Regardless if there is a deal or no deal how will Brexit affect your role as Ambassador?
Of course, it already has affected my role as Ambassador. I was appointed to my role in Croatia before the referendum had even been held in the UK, in fact I arrived in Zagreb three weeks after the referendum. Of course this meant that all of my preparations changed overnight. But Brexit is a reality and we are facing up and dealing with it. The relationship that the UK and Croatia have has existed longer outside the European Union that it is inside the European Union. Brexit will of course present challenges, because many of the things our two nations do at the moment are done around the table in Brussels. But it also presents opportunities, because a lot of our energy is consumed in the Brussels machinery. Because we won’t be at the table in Brussels anymore, we are going to be making a lot more effort in the future to speak directly between London and Zagreb than perhaps we did in the past, so there are opportunities there.
How are the negotiations with the Croatian government progressing, in the case of a no deal, as far as rights for British citizens living here?
Prime Minister May made it completely clear at the beginning of negotiations that the government would look after the rights of EU citizens living in the UK after the 29th of March and we hope that every other member state will reciprocate. The European Commission have stated that they hope that there will be a generous offer made to British citizens by EU Member States after Brexit, however it is up to each state to figure out their own offer. So these are discussions we are having with not just Croatia but all other Member States. Of course the Croatian government, like the UK government, wants to get to a deal scenario. It is important to understand that in the case of a no deal then there are lots of technical questions that need to be answered, from what it means to be legally resident here to access to health services and so on. All of these things require careful preparation and that’s what we are working on with the Croatian government at the moment.
Do you think that there will be any aftershocks from Brexit for the Croatian tourism industry?
There is no intention on any side of the discussion to make the lives of people more difficult, and going on holiday is a natural thing that people want to do. No government in this discussion is saying that obstacles should be put up to make tourism more difficult in the future. Of course if we have a deal then every party and country knows where they stand. In the event of a no deal situation, we have to make sure that the technical questions are solved so that Brits can come into Croatia on holiday, which is the intention of both the UK and Croatia.. I don’t see any likelihood that there will be any problems in the future as long as we all do our jobs in the meantime.
Petrol prices in Croatia have fallen slightly this morning in what the Ministry of the Economy describes as a “regular price correction.”
From today the price of a litre of petrol is 9.48 Kuna, a drop in the previous price which was 9.50 Kuna per litre.
However, diesel prices are continuing to rise and as of today, with the new price increase, a litre of diesel in Croatia will cost you on average 9.61 Kuna, an increase from the previous price of 9.55 Kuna.
Croatia Airlines expect a five percent increase in passenger numbers in 2019. The national airline commented that this summer season they will operate to 30 foreign and 8 Croatian destinations.
And to cope with this increase in passenger numbers the airline has also announced that for this year they will lease two more planes, both are Bombardier planes with a capacity of 100 seats.
In 2018, Croatia Airlines carried some 2.17 million passengers, a record high in the company's 30-year history, and a 2 percent year-on-year increase.
With over 750,000 passengers expected to arrive at the port of Dubrovnik this year in cruise ships from all over the world it will be another busy summer in the city. All of the major cruise lines operate to Dubrovnik, from Celebrity Cruises, MSC and Disney Cruises. And if you are one of these thousands of passengers disembarking in Dubrovnik this year you’ll need a few helpful hints to make the most of your time in the pearl of the Adriatic.
Whether you still unsure how to actually get to the historic Old City, or what to see when you get there or even some more practical advice, we have collected a few top tips so that your time, however brief, in Dubrovnik is as enjoyable as possible.
Here are the top ten tips for cruise passengers to Dubrovnik in 2019
#1 The Dubrovnik Card is a unique pass allowing entry into 8 cultural-historical monuments, the top attractions of Dubrovnik. Depending on the length of stay, you can buy 3 types of cards: 1, 3 or 7 days. By purchasing a Dubrovnik Card, you will get a bus card that is valid throughout the city of Dubrovnik and some discounts too. You can buy it in tourist board offices, hotels, etc. but the easiest way is online - where you also get 10 percent off.
#2 The walk on the City walls usually lasts from ninety minutes to two hours. Wear comfortable shoes, take a bottle of water and avoid the hottest hours of the day. And of course don’t forget your camera!
#3 The Dubrovnik Cable Car whisks you to the top of the Srd Mountain in under five minutes. The price for an adult return ticket is 150 Kuna and 60 Kuna for children. Why not get a single ticket up the mountain and walk down? The pathway is good and the walk to the Old City takes around 40 minutes.
#4 From the Port of Dubrovnik to the Old City of Dubrovnik is approximately a 30 to 40-minute walk. It is relatively straightforward to find your way from the port to the Old City however it can get hot in the summer months.
#5 Directly in front of the Port of Dubrovnik there are numerous taxi ranks and the ride will last for between 7 and 10 minutes depending on the traffic. The fare from the port to the Old City ranges between 80 and 120 Kuna. Taxis also offer panoramic rides.
#6 The public bus company in Dubrovnik, Libertas, runs a frequent service passing the Old City towards the Old City as well as other destinations. The public transport service in Dubrovnik is clean and well organised and most of the buses inside the city run a regular service. The bus ride from the Port of Dubrovnik to the Old City (Pile) takes around 10 to 15 minutes depending on traffic. There is a bus heading to each part of the town every 10-20 minutes. All the city buses are numbered from 1-9 (including 9).
#7 Don’t forget that the official currency of the Republic of Croatia is Kunas. You’ll need Kunas to pay for all the attractions, buses and in restaurants. So be prepared to change your currency as soon as possible.
#8 Walk to the Banje Beach. Just a stone’s throw from the Old City is the iconic Banje Beach. You’ll need to plan ahead, by taking some swimwear, but dipping in the crystal clean Adriatic Sea is a memory you hold forever.
#9 Visit a museum. The Rector’s palace should be on your "must see” list. The former home of the Rector of Dubrovnik this stunning building in the centre of the Old City holds a very interesting museum inside.
#10 It can get crowded in the height of summer so be prepared for queues. Don’t forget to take a bottle of water with you! To avoid the main crowds try to plan your visit. Get up early and catch the first bus into town and then you’ll avoid the midday rush and the midday sun.
Cavtat has been ranked among the 10 best destinations in Europe to visit in 2019! In the European Best Destinations launched a competition to collect votes from tourists and travellers from around the world on the favourite European destination. And the pictersque coastal town of Cavtat has finished in the top ten, ahead of much bigger names such as Paris, Berlin, Athens and Vienna.
A massive 26,953 people voted for Cavtat in the poll and means that Cavtat finished in the top ten in ninth position.
European Best Destinations has been promoting culture and tourism in Europe to millions of travellers and tourism professionals and the media since 2009; it is the most visited website dedicated to travel in Europe, reaching an audience of over 5.5 million travellers.
“It is my great pleasure to inform you that your destination is one of the top 15 destinations that have received the most votes from travellers. Our competition is now in its tenth year and this year has been a record year with more than half a million of votes (515,375 votes) from 153 countries and more than 145,000 shares of the voting page on social networks,” commented European Best Destinations to the Cavtat Tourist Board.
Adding that “The 15 most voted destinations will be promoted to millions of travellers, media and tourism professionals as the trendiest destinations to visit in 2019 and they will feature on our European Best Destinations website. There will not be just one winner but 15 exceptional destinations ranked among the most beautiful destinations in Europe by travellers from all over the world.”
Cavtat was the only representative from Croatia and placing so high on the list is great promotion for the destination ahead of the main tourist season.
In fact, Cavtat placed higher than London, Brussels, Florence and Bratislava. The number one destination on the list for this year was Budapest which 62,128 votes.
The first cruise ship of the year arrived in Dubrovnik today and it was a rather special occasion. On its inaugural journey Viking Jupiter docked in the Port of Dubrovnik this morning. The latest addition to the Viking Cruises fleet was launched in Ancona, from the Fincantieri shipyard, only three days ago and on this maiden cruise she first visited Split before sailing down to Dubrovnik.
As is the normal practise when a ship comes to Dubrovnik for the first time representatives from the Dubrovnik Port Authority exchanged plaques with the ship’s captain as well as touring the new ship.
Every passenger has a sea view and a balcony on this luxury cruise ship and a week on-board will set you back around $5,000. On this first trip to Dubrovnik the Viking Jupiter had passengers from the travel industry as well as VIP guests. And with an indoor pool with a retracting roof, cinema, various restaurants, theatre and spa centre these first passengers had a taste of what future passengers can expect.
The latest Viking cruise ship has a capacity for 930 passengers and a crew of almost 500. “She is the sixth ocean going vessel in the Viking group and we aim to increase our fleet in the coming years,” commented the Viking Jupiter’s captain. The line has 10 additional seafaring ships scheduled for delivery starting 2021, with its ocean fleet set to grow to 16 ships by 2027.
During its maiden season, Jupiter will sail through the Mediterranean and Scandinavia. It will be officially named in Oslo on June 6 by godmother Norwegian soprano Sissel Kyrkjebo. “It is always a proud moment when we are able to welcome a new ship to our fleet,” said Viking chairman Torstein Hagen.
The Dubrovnik Times visited the first cruise ship to arrive in the city in 2019.
With the UK set to leave the European Union on the 29th of March this year many countries are thinking ahead and offering attractive rates and conditions to companies to move their headquarters from their British base to a new European one. Among these is Lithuania who, according to a report in Reuters, have managed to attract around 100 British financial and technological companies to their new European and financial technology centre.
By moving their base from the UK to Lithuania companies would therefore secure access to the European Union after Brexit. With the fog of doubt hanging over the UK after a deal to leave has still yet to be agreed UK companies have decided to take matters into their own hands and find a new EU base. Companies that have obtained a business license in the UK may not be eligible to provide such financial services to the EU. British companies are looking for business licenses with electronic money, a member of the Board of Directors of Central Lithuanian Bank Marius Jurgilas said in an interview with Reuters.
Financial-technology companies have shown interest in Lithuania a few years ago. By the beginning of this year, the central bank issued a total of 83 licenses, making Lithuania ranked second among the EU countries, immediately after the UK, according to government data.
And it isn’t only Lithuania that is looking to cash in on Brexit. The Irish Central bank have also reported a sharp rise in interest in UK companies looking to register or expand their business after Brexit. According to a report in Reuters they are currently handling over 100 such requests. And about 250 UK-based companies are in negotiations with the Dutch Government on moving businesses to that EU member state. The negotiations have been confirmed by the Dutch government, who added that 42 British companies have switched business to the Netherlands over Brexit last year, opening up 2,000 new jobs the process.
The Guardian newspaper states that Luxembourg, France and Belgium are also strongly lobbying for UK based companies to look for a European future.
Croatia however has been slow to see the new opportunities for European Union members opened by Brexit. Whereas whilst many other European countries and cities have been running active campaigns in an attempt to attract UK businesses after Brexit the Croatian government has yet to make any moves.