Monday, 21 November 2022

Vukovar 2022 Remembrance Day: Visitors are Gone, the City Remains

November 21, 2022 – Wherever you find yourself around the 18th of November, Vukovar will be with you. Whether you like it or not, the name will follow you like a shadow; it will keep calling you, whispering, "Think about me." This year’s day has passed. The visitors have all gone, and the city once again remains. It is time for the first TCN Vukovar 2022 Remembrance Day reflections through the eyes of a resident. Big ask. As a tourist guide here and someone who has written about the city many times before, thinking about what to say to contribute to the discussion in a valuable way is a daunting little task. No words would be enough, yet it feels like four are all we need: We are still here.

1991 – 2022. It has been 31 years. It sounds like a long time, but it feels like time has stood still on the day. Something feels different with every year that passes by, but something is always the same. It’s hard to name it; I can’t put my finger on it. It happens if you live here. You learn something every time you meet someone new. New information, new emotions, new reasons to laugh or cry. But you connect in the old way. And there are two sides to that – the lessons are hard, but they force you to grow. Like Vukovar has been growing. With and without the parade. With and without politics. During November and the remaining eleven months.


18 November 2022 (Photo by Grad Vukovar 2022)


Jean-Michel Nicolier bridge (Vukovar 2022)

If you ask anyone from Vukovar to talk about it in November, they are likely to do at least one of the following things: politely ask you to move on and talk to someone else, tell their family’s story, or ask where you’ve been by now. These are some of the ways people deal with what happened here and what the reality is now.

Some don’t want to or can’t talk about it. Shake their hand and move along.

Some find it easier to tell their stories; they need compassion, appreciation, and a thank you for your sacrifice. They will open their homes and their hearts to you. Sit down with them, let them make you a cup of coffee, and listen. Cry with them, laugh with them. At times feel overwhelmed. And if they say they don’t expect you to understand, don’t believe them. Of course, you should understand. It’s not that complicated; what happened here. The human experience was reduced to its lowest form. Houses were burned, families broken apart, and lives ruined on all sides of the flag. Keep that in mind, and be respectful. Walk the parade, light a candle, and say a prayer. Remember that the whole point is to thank those who gave their lives for you to walk free and never allow that to happen again.

On the other hand, you could meet people who had nothing to do with the war, whose families were lucky, or who ended up moving to Vukovar recently. Your instinct may be to ignore them; it’s not about them. Don’t. Listen to them carefully. They live here now by choice or by fate. The city is theirs, and the city is them just as much as it is you who visits, who remembers, and talks about it.


City centre Vukovar 2022 (21 November)

That brings us to the message I would like to send this year. The message that rings painfully accurate whenever we hear our co-residents say it to the cameras pointed at them in November. Come to Vukovar on the 18th, do the thing and take the pictures. We appreciate it; we really do. Without your support, we wouldn’t even be where we are today.

But don’t let that be your only visit. Do not reduce our city to pain, our streets to the parade. Recognise the artisan shops under the baroque vaults, the business that blooms daily. Sit down for a hearty meal and chase it down with a cold Vukovarsko brewed right here. Wear the Borovo shoes, which still promise and provide quality. Check out the municipal museum or hop over to Vučedol to go on a journey of five thousand years. Come and see July and August – take it easy swimming in the Danube, or get your culture fix at the Vukovar Film Festival. Run, walk, or cycle kilometres of routes through plains and forests. Try fishing for dinner.


Like in many other places in Slavonia, life is hard in Vukovar. Many leave in search of a somewhat normal life. Not because they want to but because they have to. They will come back, though, because enough of Vukovar’s driving force is still here. Those who stay and those who come to Vukovar refuse to live in the bubble of the 18th and have decided to give Vukovar what it needs and what it deserves. Love, laughter, optimism, and friendship – every day. Never forget its sacrifice, and never stop talking about it. But never ignore its future and never underestimate the willpower of its children.

Vukovar is 365, full of life. 

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Travel section.


Monday, 21 November 2022

Istrian Ox (Boškarin) Meat Name Protected by EU

November 21, 2022 - The joint Croatian and Slovenian action led to the Istrian ox, Boškarin, getting protected by the EU.

The Croatian media report today how the meat from a traditional breed of cattle originating from Istria, Boškarin, secured a type of EU protection. Its name was entered 'in the register of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications (‘Meso istarskog goveda – boškarina/Meso istrskega goveda – boškarina’ (PDO))'. It is the third product placed on that register jointly, by Croatia and Slovenia, after the Istrian pršut and Istrian olive oil were already protected. Istrian sheep cheese and Istrian honey are currently in the administrative stages of the same protection. 

The Boškarin meat is fresh, aged for at least 15 days in a controlled environment, from the cattle calved within the Istrian peninsula (within the borders of the Istria County, certain parts of the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County and within the Slovenian Istria).

Boškarin is an ancient cattle breed that was on the brink of extinction at one point. In the 1960s, during the breed's heyday, there were over 60,000 specimens in Istria, but numerous factors led to the decline of the population. In the early 1990s, there were only a few purebred specimens in the Croatian part of Istria, and none in the Slovenian region. Then an association of their breeders was established, and their hard work led to a sharp increase in population, and there are almost 400 cows and bulls in Istria. Boškarin meat is considered a delicacy, and something you should really seek out when in Istria.



Monday, 21 November 2022

Bolt Withdraws e-Scooters from Varaždin Streets

November 21, 2022 - After a brief period when they were available to the citizens of Varaždin, Bolt's electric scooters will soon be withdrawn from the streets.

Europe's leading on-demand transportation platform - Bolt Electric Scooters has informed the town of Varaždin that it is withdrawing e-scooters from the streets of Varaždin. Recent amendments to the Law on Road Traffic Safety stipulate the mandatory wearing of helmets for all scooter drivers, which greatly changes the way the scooter rental service is carried out, as well as their use in traffic. "Unfortunately, due to the new global situation and economic circumstances in terms of costs, as well as the upcoming winter period, the company Bolt is forced to suspend the service of renting e-scooters in Varaždin. We hope that in the near future we will have the opportunity again, in cooperation with you, to consider the re-introduction of Bolt e-scooters on the streets of Varaždin - the notice sent to the town states, thanking the administration for their support in the "successful implementation of the pilot project".

The Mayor of Varaždin, Neven Bosilj told Večernji list that he believed that the citizens got used to Bolt e-scooters and that they found them quite practical to use. However, he added, it is obvious that the new law and the mandatory wearing of a helmet require some necessary changes to how the project is to be executed. This certainly brings additional costs to the Bolt company and the profitability becomes questionable for them. However, he believes that the safety of the citizens using the e-scooters must be everyone's number one priority, and without the use of a helmet, that segment cannot be satisfied.

Monday, 21 November 2022

Exploring Croatian - A Brief History of the Istro-Venetian Language

November the 21st, 2022 - Delving further into the intricacies of the Croatian language, and veering away from standard Croatian as we know it today, let's look at another lesser spoken tongue - Istro-Venetian language.

We've looked into the main three dialects that make up modern standard Croatian as we know it today - Shtokavian, Chakavian and Kajkavian (as well as Northwestern Kajkavian), as well as some old and almost forgotten Dalmatian words, the Dubrovnik subdialect (Ragusan), and some dialects and languages which are so sparsely spoken today that they barely exist anymore. These include the Istriot language from parts of the Istrian peninsula, and of course Zaratin, once widely spoken in the Zadar area. All this clearly tells us that the Croatian language goes far beyond what most people know it as, and it has a history that is as varied as it is deep.

So, what about the mysterious Istro-Venetian language? The name might give it away, especially if you're familiar with the somewhat complicated history between Italy, Venice and the Istrian peninsula. This language which is often also called the Istrovenetic language, is heavily influenced by Venetian.

Istro-Venetian shares a common basic lexicon and language structure as other languages within the wider ''family'', but what makes the Istro-Venetian language interesting is that it is not only the most widespread (by far) of the so-called Istro-Romanic idioms still spoken today, but that it also occurs on both sides of the modern Croatian-Slovenian border. Both of these languages (the Croatian and the neighbouring Slovenian ''version'') ​​are classified within the wider Venetian dialectal diasystem despite having a few slight differences.

If you know anything about the formerly mighty Venice and its constant expansion and extensive trade networks (you'll know a lot about this if you've ever studied the former Dubrovnik Republic), you'll know that it took not only its culture and style of architecture with it, but its language too. This was to the detriment of both Romance and Slavic languages which once reigned strong in the areas in which Venetian influence took hold. The saga is no different for the Istro-Venetian language, and its history begins with the arrival and expansion of Venetian rule across the what is the modern day Croatian Istrian peninsula.

With the ever-strengthening presence of all things Venetian across much of the Croatian coast, particularly down in Dalmatia, the Istro-Venetian language took hold and prevailed very well across urban areas, and the Republic of Venice contributed to this consolidation when it controlled most of the Istrian peninsula after around 1420.

Today, the Istro-Venetian language is primarily preserved among bilingual native Istrians, most of whom are older individuals who number approximately 25,000-30,000 people. Unlike Zaratin, which you'd be extremely unlikely to hear used at all anymore and which nosedived after the Second World War, these 30,000 people do continue to use Istro-Venetian in addition to their mother tongue.

The initial linguistic ''venetisation'' of Istria took place between the 10th and the 15th centuries, and Venetian was the official language of the administration, which is logical given the ruling body at the time. The rest of the phases rolled out with the process coming to a natural end with the end of Venetian rule in Istria in the 1800s. Despite the end of an era having occurred as far as Venice was concerned, Istrian languages (of which there are several, including Istriot) prevailed. For some lesser spoken dialects and subdialects, the passage of time unfortunately sealed their demise, but for some, such as the Istro-Venetian language, that wasn't the case.

As stated, by the 1800s, the clock had started ticking for the once mighty Venice and it weakened as a state and a ruling body in both political and economic power and influence, and a natural consequence of that came in the form of culture and language, too.

As time passed, one important linguistic period was the one which was marked by the contact of Trieste (Italy), which had gained in power and influence as a free port following Venice's weakening, and the existing Istro-Venetian language, Croatian and Slovenian languages ​​spoken across Istria came into much deeper contact as a result. The economic expansion of that time created an extremely abundant flow of goods, people and information throughout Istria, and communication was largely dialectal. Owing to that, a relatively large part of the former Romance language continuum was restored across a lot of Western Istria. Due to the bilingualism of the original speakers of Croatian and neighbouring Slovenian, the number of speakers of what had then come to be the Istro-Venetian language gradually increased.

While nowhere near as well known as some other dialects, subdialects and languages (as some linguists and other experts argue many of them to be), the Istro-Venetian language has had a lot of efforts put into preserving it for generations of Istrians yet to come. Since back in 2012, the Festival of the Istro-Venetian Dialect (Festival dell'Istroveneto), an international cultural manifestation dedicated to the protection, evaluation and promotion of the Istrovenetic dialect, has been held in the picturesque Istrian town of Buje.

Buje is of course the ideal location for such a festival, being located in the western part of the Istrian peninsula, where the Istro-Venetian language has arguably remained the strongest, and because this hilltop town is known as the sentinel of Istria. Buje was part of the Venetian Republic from 1358 until 1797, with a high number of people identifying as Italian still living there to this very day.

For more on the Croatian language, dialects and subdialects, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Sunday, 20 November 2022

Seasonal Workers from Third Countries Getting Scammed by Croatian Agencies

November 20, 2022 - After the summer season in Croatia, thousands of seasonal workers from the so-called third countries were left unemployed.

As Poslovni / Dnevnik report, this year alone, 105,000 work permits were issued. There are more and more workers from third-world countries like Nepal, the Philippines, and India. Agencies promised them good salaries, accommodation, meals, transportation, and visa processing, but many still had to pay hundreds of euros to come and work in Croatia.

Many were left on the road, without money, and practically in debt to slavery. What is worrying is that the Croatian institutions have almost no control over the whole situation, writes Dnevnik. The agencies through which they come often take money to get a job, and when they arrive, the salary and working conditions are nowhere near what was promised. Thus, they practically fall into debt slavery. Croatian institutions have no control over this situation nor a migration policy, but by October of this year, more than 105,000 work permits had already been issued.

Debt slavery

According to the Ministry of Labour, there are around 440 agencies that deal with temporary employment and bring foreign workers to Croatia. Another 424 natural and legal persons are involved in employment mediation.
"Let's say that they would come to work in Croatia and if you promise someone that they will have a salary of 1200, 1300 euros, then they will give that money without any problem because he thinks that in two or three months they will earn enough to cover those debts. However, it happens that they come there and work for 500 euros, and with that money, they can never pay back that debt, and they are practically forced to work for even less in the future so that they can pay back that debt and somehow survive," revealed the interviewee for Dnevnik.
The trade union says that this practice is entirely illegal.


Most of the workers claim that Croatian agencies took their money. To the e-mails sent to a dozen of these agencies, some more, some less politely replied that they do not take money from workers.

"I know from the stories that prostitution already appeared, and for very little money, because somehow they have to survive, they have to buy rice and food. And that's the simplest, so to say, the easiest way to make money," said one of the agency's owners.

Who knows?

The Ministry of Interior stated that they "do not maintain data collections on reports of irregularities in the labour relations of citizens of the third countries." In doing so, they issued almost 82,000 residence and work permits in 202 and nearly 106,000 in 2022 by the end of October.

What happens to these people, where they end up, and even whether the employer and temporary employment agencies that are, by the Labour Act, even at the Employment Office, they do not know.

The State Inspectorate responded to the journalist's question that they do not keep precise records of where people are from when it comes to violating the law but that they have received a large number of petitions related to violations of the law regarding the work of foreigners.

In these cases, both employers and workers who worked illegally were punished. That was about 395 citizens of third countries during this year, and the employers paid HRK 4,650,000, writes Dnevnik.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated News section.

Sunday, 20 November 2022

End of an Era: Shops to be Required to Charge for Light Plastic Bags

November 20, 2022 - End of an era in Croatia. No more free tiny little plastic bags. According to the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, shops will be required to display the prices of the plastic bags used for fruit and vegetables.

As Poslovni writes, with the new ordinance on packaging, which should enter into force next year, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development will introduce a return fee for packaging with a volume of less than 0.20 liters for tetrapak and which is not made of PET. At the same time, retailers will have to start charging for very light plastic bags.

The Ordinance envisages the expansion of the existing refund system with less than 0.20 liters of packaging with multi-layer (composite) packaging with a predominantly paper-cardboard component, for example, tetrapak. With plastic packaging that is not made of PET, for example, HDPE (polyethylene of high density, rigid plastic), the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development told Hina.

All products defined as "beverage" to enter the refund system

Regarding products in HDPE plastic packaging, the Ministry said that all products that fall under the definition of "beverage" are included in the refund system.

This concerns alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, table, natural mineral water, and spring water, fruit syrups, fruit juices and nectars, milk and liquid dairy products, and other liquid products based on fruit, as well as any other substance that is packaged together with the liquid base and forms a complete unit of primary packaging.

This means that oils, detergents, and other products that are not "beverages" do not enter the refund system.

Glass bottles for alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks with a volume of 0.1 liters are included in the refund system, as well as plastic packaging with a volume of three litres or less.

The Regulation on waste management compensation and return compensation will prescribe the method of calculation and the compensation amounts. A new look for the packaging label in the return fee system is also proposed.

Very light plastic bags must be charged to consumers

The ordinance also proposes that all very lightweight plastic bags, thinner than 15 microns, used for fruit and vegetables and other bulk food, and are not currently charged in the future must be charged to consumers and that they may not be displayed and sold at cash registers.

Also, in the places where the consumer packages the goods, their price, which the seller will determine, must be displayed, according to the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development.

The aim of introducing a fee for lightweight plastic bags is to separate their uncontrolled free distribution and excessive collection, which often leads to the disposal of such bags in the environment.

In addition, the goal is to improve the use of thicker plastic bags, those with a wall thickness of 50 microns or more, because they end up being discarded much less often due to their greater mass and convenience for multiple uses. The ministry wants to encourage the use of bags made of alternative materials.

The Ministry says that the new rulebook is being adopted due to Croatia's obligations to transpose the provisions of the EU directives on packaging and packaging waste into the national legislation and on reducing the impact of plastic products on the environment.

The existing waste packaging management system should be harmonized with the Waste Management Act from July 2021.

Consultation on the rulebook until December 10

The rulebook was published on the Central Portal for public consultation, and the consultation is open until December 10. After that, the Ministry announced they would proceed with its final drafting.

The start of the application will be determined in the final version of the rulebook so that a period for adjustment will be set, and the Ministry will inform the public about the current application dates.

The Ordinance proposes measures to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic products, as well as measures related to the extended responsibility of producers of single-use plastic products and fishing gear containing plastic.

Measures are also proposed to raise awareness about the harmfulness of discarding plastic products and the availability of reusable alternatives.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated News section.

Sunday, 20 November 2022

Exploring Croatian Recipes: How Slavonian Can You Go? Pogacice sa Cvarcima

November 20, 2022 - It is getting cold in Croatia, the days are long and dark, and the Slavonian soul is starting to crave the hearty food of its childhood. The recipe we’re bringing today is like a warm hug from your grandmother, with just a little dose of a heart attack. But it’s worth it. Time for pogacice sa cvarcima.

This is one of those recipes that you needed to start preparing last year. It is made with one of the most exceptional ingredients you can find in Slavonia. We have no idea if there is an official name or what it’s called in other parts of Croatia. In eastern Croatia, its name is drožda, which could be compared to caviar or truffles in how precious it is. It is made during the process of making čvarci (Slavonian pork cracklings). To make these little cubes of fun, the fatty bits of pork (just under the skin) are usually fried in a large pot until a lot of the fat separates, and the pieces have turned golden brown. During this process, crumbs will fall to the bottom. Čvarci are then taken out, the lard is strained, and whatever is left (the mentioned crumbs) is your sweet, sweet drožda. Traditionally, this was done to use every single part of the pig when meat was not as affordable. These days, drožda is in most households kept specifically for pogacice sa cvarcima.

Pogacice is a simple sourdough with a healthy dose of the naughty stuff. They remain a very occasional treat, best served with yogurt, kefir, or sour milk. Their appearance at parties and gatherings is always celebrated. You can try and only have one, but we promise you’ll be happy to forget about the calories for a couple more.


1 kg of flour

2 eggs

2 tbsp of salt

250g of drožda (čvarak lard)

1 cube (20g) of fresh yeast

500 ml of milk

2 tsp of sugar


Start by developing the yeast in warm milk (250 ml), a tablespoon of flour, and two teaspoons of sugar. It is ready once it rises and doubles in volume.


Add it to all the remaining ingredients and knead a soft dough. Leave that to rise in a warm environment for about 45 minutes. Again, it’s ready once it doubles in volume and becomes soft enough to leave indents which do not bounce back. Knead the dough once again and roll the whole batch out until it’s about one centimetre thick. 


Before cutting into shapes, with a sharp knife cut parallel lines diagonally on the surface to create a textured top, adding a fun dimension to the pogacice. Use a round mold or a glass (diameter up to 5 cm) to cut them out. Bake at 180 °C / 356 °F for 20 minutes or until golden brown.


For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 20 November 2022

Is It Time for The Croatian National Bank to React to Inflation?

November the 20th, 2022 - Is it time the Croatian National Bank (CNB) reacted to the ongoing inflationary pressures we're all continuing to face? What could happen as costs spiral over the coming months?

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Ana Blaskovic writes, October 2022's inflation of 13.2 percent at the annual level exceeded expectations and broke records yet again. Economists continue to struggle with predictions, people are increasingly angry because they can afford less and less, and the window for companies to elegantly pass on the impact of costs to customers is constantly narrowing.

That said, long-term inflation, which has remained rather stubbornly in double digits for the past six months, has begun to erode demand and slow down the flywheel. Cumulatively, inflation increased by 10.2% in a mere 10 months, and after a slight summer break, it has been increasing on a monthly basis for two months now. In October, prices increased (on average) by 1.3% compared to September.

Clothing and footwear took the lead by 6.9%, followed by the category that includes housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels by 2.8%, while food and non-alcoholic beverages rose in price by 1 percent. October is the first month this year in which one category stuck out like a sore thumb with a drop in prices – the segment of recreation and culture (-0.8%).

Although the reduction in prices at least in one area may seem like a bit of good news at first glance, it is a concrete indication that the standard has been undermined to the extent that non-essential consumption has begun being firmly squeezed out.

"Despite the Croatian Government's measures to cap prices in certain product categories, inflation is evidently spilling over to other product groups and is beginning to exert pressure on the demand side as well. This is partly a consequence of the previous increase in costs (which is especially visible in the continued strong growth of producer prices), so with still solid demand, consumer prices in other categories are also rising," RBA analysts point out.

The governor of the Croatian National Bank, Boris Vujcic, recently said that the latest data shows that the spread of inflation started to decrease for the first time in October. He said that this is good news and that it may indicate that we're "closer to the peak of inflation".

The engine of annual inflation (so far) has been the acceleration of prices in categories that are driven by cost shocks, although other categories are also suffering. Looking from the perspective of the month of October alone, food has risen in price by almost a fifth in a year, restaurants and hotels need people to allocate 17.8% more, while the costs of housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels are 16.1 percent higher. The category of furniture, home equipment and regular maintenance has seen an average price increase of 15.8 percent. Transportation is also 11.5 percent more expensive today.

"It is slowly becoming more and more clear that the European Central Bank is lagging behind the curve of expectations. Here in Croatian conditions, we also have the element of introducing the euro, which will release enormous liquidity with inflationary potential. Therefore, it would be good for the Croatian National Bank to resort to the macroprudential measures it has as an instrument at its disposal, such as limiting the dynamics of lending, setting stricter requirements for collaterals, and the like," explained Zeljko Lovrincevic from the Institute of Economics.

Most recently when it comes to inflation, Lovrincevic sees two phenomena. "It's important to read that inflation has accelerated significantly since we met the nominal criteria for the introduction of the euro, and it keeps on surprising us. In other words, today we wouldn't manage to meet the inflation condition even with exceptions (countries that are excluded from the calculation for certain reasons) for its introduction,'' he stated.

"The figures show that what we're seeing is very widespread inflation, spanning all categories. If initially it came from energy sources, now inflation is radically spreading to all other groups, with food and non-alcoholic beverages taking the lead. In short, today inflation is fed by demand, which enters the zone of responsibility of central banks,'' explained Lovrincevic.

The months-long debate about inflation raises the question of where it comes from and, consequently, who is responsible for it all. Central banks, including the Croatian National Bank are responsible for ensuring things like price stability, but the economic profession has emphasised the limited capacity of monetary policy when inflationary pressures come from the cost side, in this case the explosion of energy prices across Europe.

People and companies are most interested in what will happen with inflation in the coming months. Roughly, a third of inflation is made up of administratively determined energy and utility prices, that part will directly depend on the government's decisions. The freezing of certain products, which "polished" the inflation statistics, resulted in shortages, but also compensations in the prices of other products.

"The real standard indicates that the burden of rising prices has been transferred to labour. The state will protect itself through the growth of the tax base, and employers through the growth of production and trade margins," the analyst points out.

The latest polls reflect exactly these trends; consumer optimism lags significantly behind that of the corporate sector, indicating the transfer of costs to the end customer. For this reason, this year in the triangle 'labour-capital-state', which depicts the contribution of individual components to GDP, Croatia will have the largest deviation in the share of labour of 2.5 percentage points (44.5 percent instead of the previous 47 percent), whereby the difference to be divided by the state and employers, concluded Lovrincevic.

Over more recent months, RBA expects a continuation of double-digit inflation with a slight tendency to decrease, 10.6% at the level of the whole of 2022, i.e. above 6% in the next year. They warn of the likely continuation of increased energy prices due to the war in Ukraine, but also of the necessary delimitation of administrative prices, which would bring a new inflationary blow with it.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Sunday, 20 November 2022

New Rules for Croatian Documents Which Aren't Picked Up on Time

November the 20th, 2022 - COVID-19 rules saw some changes to those who needed new Croatian documents such as ID cards and driving licenses, and MUP has further explained the rules which will remain in place for now.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, let's say you asked for some new Croatian documents such as a new ID card from MUP but you didn't have time to pick it up or you simply forgot about it - don't worry. Your new or updated Croatian documents still at the police station, due to the situation caused by COVID-19, all Croatian documents whose pick up deadline fell on March the 11th, 2020, or will fall during the duration of the coronavirus pandemic (so until the end of the pandemic is declared), can be picked up from MUP with no issue for a maximum of 30 days from the day the end of the coronavirus pandemic is announced.

According to the provisions of the Law on Identity Cards, it is prescribed that a person is obliged to come and pick up their new identity card within the following 90 days from the expiry of the deadline for its issuance, which is 30 days in the regular procedure, 10 days in the accelerated procedure and three working days in the urgent procedure. If the person doesn't pick up their new identity card within the specified period, the competent police department or station will terminate it - MUP replied to Vecernji list. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, different rules currently apply.

When it comes to Croatian documents such as driver's licenses, it is stipulated that a driving license that the driver fails to collect within the next 90 days from the date of expiry of the deadline prescribed (30 days in the regular procedure, three working days in the accelerated procedure and 24 hours in the urgent procedure) becomes invalid, and the competent police department or station will also terminate it.

''Due to the situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the amendments to the Law on Identity Cards and the Law on Road Traffic Safety have seen the deadline for people to come and collect their identity cards and driving licenses extended,'' they stated from the Ministry of the Interior (MUP), noting the aforementioned information above regarding March the 11th, 2020.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Sunday, 20 November 2022

Do Most Croatian Counties Need to be Scrapped Once and For All?

November the 20th, 2022 - Is it time to finally scrap Croatian counties, of which there are an obnoxious amount, employing an even more obnoxious number of people? With an enormous number of people employed in positions that nobody quite understands over the last thirty years - most believe so.

As Index/Vedran Salvia writes, some believe that Croatian counties created by a legally convicted criminal organisation, are an important lever of the entire social and state system. These seemingly pointless Croatian counties are the ones in which careers are made, and where you can allegedly advance even more easily if you agree to the rules of the game set by HDZ, which are, according to many, mostly based on party loyalty.

Is Croatia a country where it is important to be obedient to both the state and the clergy?

The rules of the game set over the past 30 years aren't difficult to detect. The late Branimir Luksic who was once the Prefect of Split-Dalmatia County was also one of President Franjo Tudjman's close friends, and he uttered some words that affect today's reality.

"In Croatia, thank God, there is a considerable number of honest, hard-working, patriotic, philanthropic and God-loving people, and that is the hope for a brighter future for this country," said Luksic. That's how a former prefect saw Croatia. The Croatia of these honest, hard-working, patriotic, philanthropic and God-loving people is the Croatia we live in today. In other words, it is a vision of a country where the ideal is to be obedient, above all to the state and the clergy.

HDZ draws strength from bloated Croatian counties

Croatian counties are the fundamental point here, and they're something that Luksic himself and others like him obviously had a somewhat deeper insight into. HDZ and other parties draw their strength from the sheer amount of counties this country has. Through employment within them, they act as a political tool, and at the same time they're an incubator for stamping (and monitoring) successful party members, some of whom will move on, and some of whom will stay right where they are.

In other words, with all the unified brains that function on the idea of ​​community, patriotism and an apparent love of God, Croatian counties are the core of the Croatian petty bourgeoisie and, above all, a symbol of clientelism, and therefore the decline of the state into a party society.

Sociologist Srdjan Dvornik: Local life is dominated by one party

Sociologist Srdjan Dvornik also talked about this. "In small local [self-government] units, there are often no conditions for interest, political, cultural and other pluralism. Local elites are often concentrated around a small number of powerful and/or rich individuals, and there are not enough strong (or any!) counter-elites that would leave the possibility of a real election.

Because of this, even more than Croatia itself as a whole, local authorities, but also the entire social arena, media and culture live under the domination of one single party. Pluralism is necessary for all the various checks and balances that enable the democratic control of government to work. Instead, there is one dominant party, one centre where it is informally but powerfully decided who will get which job, who will occupy which workplace.

When we look at the level at which real plurality begins in politics, economy, culture... It even goes above the existing Croatian counties, and would be located somewhere in those regions that have been going around for 10-20 years on various proposals to reform the territorial organisation of Croatia. That level is not systemically recognised. In fact, you will see the horror with which almost all nationalist politicians react to the regionalisation of Croatia. To most, that word itself seems like a swear word," says Dvornik.

Indeed, it is enough to recall only the Prefect of Dubrovnik-Neretva County, Nikola Dobroslavic, otherwise known for saying that Croats will be divided into those who crossed the Peljesac bridge and those who didn't, who once stated that the proposal for an organisation with five regions is harmful and that it "splits the Croatian national being and opens up room for possible conflicts that have marked our history".

He said that even if there is a new division, Dubrovnik must be the regional centre. In other words, he sees an attack on the "Croatian national being", i.e. on patriotism, in the mere idea of the country being divided up administratively in a different way, although perhaps this would bring economic prosperity and lower costs, which actually means far more meaningful and greater consideration for the homeland.

Dvornik also mentions employment and that Croatian counties serve as training grounds for exactly this. The high-profile case of HDZ member Goran Pauk, the former Sibenik-Knin Prefect who openly bragged to the media that he was a less than savoury character, is a great example of this. Let's remember how Pauk bragged about cheating in an interview with Slobodna Dalmacija more than four years ago.

"I've met a lot of known and unknown people. If we were to look at classic employment, in terms of tenders, applications, references, then we could conclude that everyone got a job through a connection. There's no one who applied for a job without having some recommendation, some kind of relationship,'' said Pauk back then.

Employment isn't the only problem in this sphere. Many prefects literally act like old school sheriffs. Let's just take the case of Varazdin Prefect Andjelko Stricak, who took part in a fight in a cafe in the very centre of Varazdin on the night of September 23-24, and was of course drunk at the time.

He himself admitted that he drank a glass of wine, but from the findings we received it seems that he had a little more than that. Namely, Index is in possession of the findings that Stricak didn't want to comment on, which regard his blood alcohol level being very high. To briefly look back, it was initially published that Stricak was hit in the head with a glass, and then a surveillance camera recording was published that shows that he was the one who physically attacked another young man. The recording was made from a distance, so it wasn't really possible to determine in detail what exactly happened, and it is not known what those involved were saying.

The video shows several people and a ''lively'' discussion. As it seems, the HDZ prefect put his hand around the neck of an unknown young man, and a fight then began.

There is also the example of Vukovar-Srijem Prefect Damir Dekanic, who once said that we ''got Croatia with God's help''. In April, he was involved in a traffic accident on the road between Andrijasevac and Cerna.

"In the aforementioned accident, I participated as a passenger in an official car of Vukovar-Srijem County, which was driven by K.B. at my request," he wrote on his Facebook after his blood alcohol levels came to light. K. B. is his cousin Kresimir Bicanic. Despite that statement, an RTL Potraga team published that they had spoken with three witnesses to the accident and that they all claim the same thing - Dekanic was alone in the car on the night of April the 17th.

Visibly drunk, they say, he crashed into a parked car at the entrance to Cerna and begged those present not to call the police. Although the witnesses do not know each other personally, their stories match in key details, as was reported by RTL's Potraga.

One of the two witnesses who asked that their identity be withheld described what happened:

"When we arrived at the scene of the accident, he simply got out of the car from the driver's seat. He was visibly drunk. He literally fell out of the car. Then he begged us not to call the police, that everything would be sorted out. Even the woman who owned the car he ran into said herself, however quietly: ''It's the prefect, don't call the police.''

However, at that moment I don't think there is any law because if you are in the HDZ, you can simply do whatever you want on the road. I guess the law is the same for everyone," witnesses told Potraga.

The most famous HDZ deviant prefect is Alojzije Tomasevic, the former prefect of Pozega-Slavonia County. In December 2020, he was sentenced by the County Court in Karlovac for domestic violence. He was sentenced to 10 months probation, with a two-year probationary period. This confirmed the conviction of the court in Slavonski Brod, which found him guilty of abusing his wife.

"'You know what I'm like when I drink. I'm a drunkard, I don't wish you harm. And the fact that sometimes you get slapped, so what? It's not terrible, it's normal!' he said.

''I was afraid being in such a marriage, if he knew how to come home in such a state, I'd become afraid. Waiting for my husband with fear isn't easy to deal with,'' his wife said at the time.

Through the case of the former Prefect of Sisak-Moslavina, Ivo Zinic, we discovered how many prefects are difficult to get rid of. Let's recall that journalists discovered that Zinic was using several properties owned by the state, which is why he resigned from the position of president of the HDZ County Organisation of Sisak-Moslavina County. However, he remained in the post of prefect until last year's elections in May. His case then reminded us that it is more difficult to remove a Croatian prefect than an American president.

According to the law, the mandate of a Croatian prefect ends by force of law in only six situations: if they submits a written resignation, if they're deprived of his business capacity by a final court decision, if they're sentenced to an unconditional prison sentence of more than a month by a final court decision, if their residence in the territory of the county ceases, if their Croatian citizenship ceases, and if they die.

Two years ago, Index published a piece on how much useless Croatian counties and prefects actually cost the taxpayer. It was at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, just after the process of merging state administration offices and Croatian counties began under the guise of savings.

In the county budgets of the time, Index decided to investigate how much Croatian counties cost us when healthcare institutions, secondary and primary schools, care homes, and other facilities suffer. Index then talked about this topic with the scientific adviser of the Economic Institute, Dubravka Jurlina Alibegovic, a former minister herself.

Index immediately asked her why the number of Croatian counties was so large, to which she said that the question of the number of Croatian counties needs to be asked in a wider context.

"Primarily, we need to look at the context of what Croatian counties are, as defined by the Constitution and the Act on Local and Regional Self-Government Units, what jobs they should do and what they actually do, how they're being financed, and how they should or could be financed in a different way.

Furthermore, do they follow the needs of residents and companies and do they adapt them to development planning, do they analyse and evaluate what results and concrete outcomes have been achieved by spending public funds and implementing their policies and development strategies, and do they sufficiently include all important stakeholders in the monitoring and evaluation of what has been achieved?

I'd like to remind you that Croatian counties are organised as units of regional self-government to carry out tasks of regional importance, and their area represents a natural, historical, transport, economic, social and self-governing entity.

I'm not the only one who is of the opinion that politicians didn't take enough account of all these criteria when establishing Croatian counties, but that they were guided by some completely different wishes and interests that resulted in the existing unchanged number of counties and strong political resistance at all levels and from all political options to the counties will eventually survive within the existing borders.

The Croatian Constitution states that when determining the scope of local and regional self-government units, the breadth and nature of the tasks involved must be taken into account, as well as the requirements of efficiency and economy, which are often forgotten when talking about either local or regional self-government units," she said.

Index then reminded her of her former words that the division into five regions is enough.

"I base my position on the need to consolidate Croatian counties into larger territorial entities on the results of research conducted at the Economic Institute in Zagreb, in which we presented the framework proposal for a new territorial organisation in order to achieve a more efficient and effective provision of public services. The goal of the conducted factor and cluster analysis was to group Croatian counties into larger spatial entities so that they'd be able to perform public tasks within their scope.

When classifying Croatian counties into larger spatial units, we applied the criteria of homogeneity, i.e. the establishment of regional units (regions) according to the criterion of relative equality or the greatest similarity of the elements that make up the space, then according to the criterion of functionality and classification of space for planning purposes.

Our proposals for the new territorial organisation of regional self-government units are primarily guided by the fact that the basic development task of the formed regional unit is the coordination of development in its area and the high-quality and efficient performance of public affairs,'' she added.

Index then asked her a little more about employment in all of these Croatian counties...

"Employment in Croatian counties should be carried out in accordance with the Law on Officials and Employees in Local and Regional (Regional) Self-Government Units, which stipulates that each unit should prepare a recruitment plan, except for positions that are fixed-term or vacant after the adoption of the plan. It's impossible to speculate about the methods of employment and which criteria, in addition to the prescribed ones, are given priority when selecting candidates for the positions of those who meet all the formal conditions of the tender.

In public, I expressed my opinion that the number of employees in Croatian counties is continuously increasing, especially after the local elections. That opinion is based on the average number of employees in the administrative bodies of these counties. This is publicly available data of the Ministry of Finance from the financial reports of the counties themselves. The data is presented for the period from 2002 to 2020. According to the methodology and coverage, all employees are included in that data, from those who are financed from the county budget and the budget of the European Union (EU) for work on various European projects to former employees within state administration offices that are attached to the counties themselves.

In a period of three decades, the number of employees in Croatian counties increased almost three and a half times. I emphasise that the scope of work in the counties has not changed significantly. There's no recent research on the results of public work performed by the counties, and there is a particular lack of opinions from people and businesses when it comes to their level of satisfaction of the public services they expect in their county. I don't know the reason why the Ministry of Justice and Administration doesn't regularly publish data on the number of employees in local and regional self-government units in its Statistical Overview publication.

The latest information available is from the year 2018. There's a lack of transparency and the possibility of public inspection of data on individual employees in Croatian counties. In particular, there is a lack of data on the number of employees from state administration offices in Croatian counties who, after taking over, became employed officials and state employees.

On top of that, the data of the Ministry of Finance is still not available for the year 2021, so we can't really know how many people were employed in official and employee positions in county administrative bodies after the last local elections. It isn't possible to conclude whether this increase in employment in Croatian counties has cotinued or not," she said.

Index then asked her if she thinks that some jobs are invented or unnecessary.

"The answer to that question requires a complete analysis of the business processes in all administrative bodies in Croatian counties and the number of professional characteristics of the people who perform them. However, I'm convinced that there are a certain number of jobs that have no justification for their existence and that those positions are filled by people who receive a salary for doing those jobs. There are certainly those workplaces that aren't described in the rulebook (pravilnik) on internal order and that prefects don't want to think about it all, be it due to ignorance, lack of interest or for other unknown reasons.

Ordinances on internal order are adopted by the prefects, on the proposal of the heads of administrative bodies, separately for each administrative body or as a common rulebook for several administrative bodies, and it determines the names and job descriptions of the workplaces, professional and other conditions for assignment to workplaces and the number of executors involved.

Since the prefect makes a decision on admission to a service, assignment to a workplace, on other rights tions of officials, individuals must comply with the general conditions for admission to this service (adulthood, Croatian citizenship, health capacity for performing the duties of the workplace to which the person is admitted). There are also special conditions for admission to a service and assignment to a workplace (certain vocational education and profession, work experience in appropriate jobs, passing a state exam, knowledge of a certain foreign language, special knowledge, abilities and skills, special health capacity, etc) she explained.

She added that all jobs in local and regional self-government unit are classified according to standard criteria for all administrative bodies, from the necessary professional knowledge, complexity of work, independence in work, degree of cooperation with other bodies and communication with parties to the degree of responsibility and influence on decision-making.

"Croatian counties differ in the number of employees they have in their administrative bodies. The latest available data shows that 92 officers and employees are employed in the administrative departments of Pozega-Slavonia County, the least among all counties, while Split-Dalmatia County has the most employees, a total of 550.

It's interesting to compare Croatian counties according to the indicator of the relationship between the number of inhabitants they have and the number of employed officers and employees in the administrative bodies of the county itself. We can notice big differences between them all. In the administrative bodies of Lika-Senj County, with the smallest number of inhabitants among all of the counties, there aren't (as one may expect) the fewest employees, and one of their employees performs tasks for 346 inhabitants of the county.

On the other hand, in Varazdin and Zagreb counties, the ratio of residents to employees is almost identical (1054 and 1053). Split-Dalmatia County, the most populous, employs the largest number of officials and employees, and one employee performs tasks for 773 inhabitants. The best relationship between residents and employees is in Medjimurje County, where one employee is able to provide all the work required of them for 834 residents. Here, too, we cannot say anything in detail about the quality of the work performed," she added.

Index continued to talk with the sociologist Srdjan Dvornik about the political and social aspects of the existence of so many Croatian counties.

"The place of counties in the territorial structure of government and administration in Croatia, if we compare them with local and state government, was to ensure, on the one hand, sensitivity to the needs of narrower parts of the country, and on the other, functionality. When a country of only four million inhabitants (and now not even that many) is divided into hundreds and hundreds of local units, it's clear that a large part of these units don't really have the capacity for quality governance. Where in a municipality of a few thousand people, often without the presence of any serious industry or other strong economic activities, will you find professional staff and adequate supply and demand, and in the end the income to even detect, let alone meet the needs of life that cannot be satisfied by commercial activities?'' he asked.

He added that counties have the capacity for administrative functions and social activities, but often not for a sufficient level of pluralism, which has been almost non-existent throughout Croatian society throughout history.

"Even in these last few decades of formal democracy, which have still been dominated by the political sphere, it hasn't really developed much,'' he said.

"People who in a municipality or city support a political option that is not ruling at a higher level will find themselves having to deal with many problems if their local unit is not economically strong enough. Candidates often get local voting support based on how well they are (or are portrayed as being) able to attract support from the county under their party's rule. This concentration is one of the explanations for ubiquitous corruption: one institution will not effectively control or limit other institutions if all are decisively influenced by the leadership of the same party.

Staff in the county - whatever their profession and wherever they work - have the opportunity to advance precisely along that party-political line, and so various forms of support are given from the centre, and control is provided to the centre from the local and county level. Such inconsistent decentralisation doesn't ensure much-needed pluralism, because local and sub-regional authorities aren't organised in such a way that they can function independently. They remain dependent on higher authorities, and create the appearance of decentralised adaptation to the specificities of various regions," sociologist Srdjan Dvornik concluded for Index.

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