Friday, 20 January 2023

Bread Club Zagreb to Represent Croatia in Its First Baking Olympics

January 20, 2023 - Bread Club co-owners Darko Kušić and Andrija Pernar will represent Croatia at an important baking competition this weekend in Rimini, Italy. They're going with traditional Croatian recipes, soparnik and čvarkuša.

As Jutarnji writes, along with masters of gelato and coffee, SIGEP, the World Dolce Expo, also hosts an international competition, a sort of Olympic Games of the baking world. Nine countries are participating this year, and one of them is none other than Croatia. The nation's representatives are a team from the super popular Zagreb bakery Bread Club - its co-owners Darko Kušić and Andrija Pernar.

"The whole thing works on the principle of invitations, and Croatia was invited to participate for the first time this year. All competitors must be members of the Richemont club; that's one of the conditions," Andrija Pernar told Jutarnji in a short phone conversation just before leaving for the competition.

The competition will be held over two days, and on the first day, the contestants only have an hour to prepare their dough. The next day, they have to finish the products in five categories in only eight hours.

"We will make ciabatta, one of the default categories, and it is made to exact weight, according to the Italian recipe. There is no compromise. Another category is freestyle bread, and we will make our porridge bread, a bread inspired by proja (corn meal), our white Grandfather's bread, and another bread with horsebean protein. In the tarts category, we will make two sweet varieties, inspired by the Croatian poppy seed roll and the Dubrovnik rožata, as well as two savory kinds, which we have made based on the traditional recipes of Viška pogača and Soparnik.

We will also make Margherita pizza, along with our version with cheese, sour cream, and kulen; while some of our other dishes include čvarkuša, a bread roll with Croatian bacon and cheese, Croatian kiflice and a sandwich with škripavac cheese and Nin šokol (dried cured pork neck). We decided to focus on tradition; we believe that to be the recipe for a good ranking," explained Darko Kušić.

They added that the grading system is quite strict and look at every detail. Each product must be precisely the specified weight. Precision is key, and any deviation is penalized with negative points.

For example, the team of bakers from China has been preparing for this for the last year, and they're sending three teams to Italy in case the first line-up is prevented from performing for some reason. This only goes to show how serious this competition is. By the way, the Chinese representatives also designed a replica of their kitchen just for this competition to make their work easier.

"Everything is done from scratch; we are not even allowed to bring a mature starter. We will knead the puff pastry dough on the first day and laminate it on the second. We must ensure we get it all done in eight hours, which is quite challenging. Given that we only recently opened our new production facilities, along with another branch, we have only been practicing for the competition for the last two months", commented Darko and Andrija and added that they believe their biggest competition is the Italian team. "We met them, and they are absolutely the masters of the craft," they added.

In the end, Jutarnji asked if they planned to keep any products from the competition in Bread Club's permanent offer.

"Extremely intense months are behind us, during which we prepared and tested new products with our team. All our products are made with filigree precision and with special love, so we are looking forward to putting everything we worked so hard on into production," they said. Good luck to Bread Club, and we're looking forward to tasting more of their world-class pastries soon!

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

Friday, 20 January 2023

Croatian State Inspectorate Claims Some Stores Raised Prices by 126%!

January the 20th, 2023 - The Croatian State Inspectorate has been on the hunt for those stores and goods and services providers unjustifiably raising their prices and has uncovered some startling price hikes.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, ever since January the 5th, 2023, when the Croatian Government adopted a conclusion on the implementation of the principle of prohibiting unjustified price increases, the Market and Tourist Inspection of the Croatian State Inspectorate has been carrying out increased inspections aimed at determining whether there has been an increase in the prices of goods and services immediately before the introduction of the euro as the country's new official currency.

Inspections are being carried out on the basis of the Law on the State Inspectorate, the Law on the introduction of the euro as the official currency in the Republic of Croatia, the Law on Consumer Protection and as a result of the aforementioned Conclusion of the government.

Until January the 19th, the Croatian State Inspectorate carried out a total of 1,145 inspections. In 25.2% of the performed inspections, excluding inspections in which the facts are still being determined (163 of them), unjustified price increases which took place December the 31st, 2022 were found.

Out of the total number of inspections, the market inspection of the Croatian State Inspectorate carried out 659 inspections (of which there were 282 inspections of service providers, 280 inspections in retail trade and 97 inspections into retail bakery products).

In the supervision of the market inspection, unfair business practices involving unjustified price increases were found in a concerning 87 cases, of which in 53 cases were discovered in service activities, 19 in the activity of retail trade in bakery products and 15 in other forms of retail trade.

The average unjustified increase in service prices stands at 20%, and in some cases the increase has reached a disgusting 126%. For example, the Croatian State Inspectorate found an increase in photography services of 57%, individual hairdressing services by 126%, private parking services by 25%, self-service car wash services by 50%, and that list goes on and on a bit more.

In the retail trade sector, an unjustified increase of 17% was determined on average for controlled products after December the 31st, 2022, for example - chicken and turkey meat, dried meat products, water, juice, eggs, confectionery, dairy products, animal feed, canned vegetables, all shot up considerably.

Likewise, in the retail trade of bakery products, we've been continuing to record an increase in the prices of both bread and other bakery products of up to 15% on average, and exceptionally, for some inspections, an increase of 20 to 30% was found for individual bakery products. Tourism inspectors carried out 486 inspections, of which in 161 inspections (33.1%) they came across an unjustified increase in the prices of catering and hospitality services.

In 72.6% of the completed inspections in which unjustified price increases were found, business entities returned their retail prices to the levels they were at back on December the 31st, 2022 immediately.

Due to the violation of unfair business practices from 149 of the Act on Consumer Protection, fines are being imposed on all business entities that unjustifiably increased their prices after December the 31st, 2022, that is, from January the 1st, 2023 until the day of the completed inspection.

In the completed inspections, 234 fines in the amount of 399,489.09 euros (3,009,950.55 kuna) were issued with their accompanying misdemeanor orders against business entities. Croatian State Inspectorate inspections will continue in the name of consumer protection with each inspection being part of its own respective jurisdiction.

For more, make sure to check out our news section.

Friday, 20 January 2023

Looking for a Job in Croatia? This Week's Top 10 from Posao.hr (January 20, 2023)

January 20, 2023 - Looking for a job in Croatia? A new weekly feature on TCN, in partnership with leading job site agency, Posao.hr, who present a selection of weekly job listings.

How hard is it to find a job in Croatia, and what is on offer?

We spoke to Ines Bokan, director of leading jobs site Posao.hr, who kindly took the time for this excellent interview overview.  

PLIVA Hrvatska d.o.o. is hiring a person for the position of Senior specialist in human resources administration with knowledge of the Polish language (m/f). Place of work Zagreb. Excellent spoken and written knowledge of the Polish language is mandatory, along with a good command of the English language. Send complete applications via link until Jan 22nd.

Sunce Hoteli d.d. / Bluesun is hiring a person in the position of Specialist in Human Resources (m/f). Place of work Tučepi, Brela. Possibility of additional prizes and bonuses. Send complete applications via link until Jan 31th.

MED-EL Elektromedizinische Geräte GmbH is hiring a person for the position of Software Test Engineer (m/w/d) - Research & Development. Place of work Innsbruck, Tirol - Österreich. Send complete applications via link by Feb 18th.

Kempinski Hotel is hiring a person for the position of Director of Food & Beverage (m/f). Place of work Riga, Latvia. Send complete applications via link by Feb 15th.

Aluflexpack Novi d.o.o. is hiring a person in the position of IT specialist (m/f). Place of work Drniš. Knowledge of network technologies (TCP/IP, DHCP, DNS), MS Windows Server operating systems is an advantage. Send complete applications via link by Feb 08th.

dotSource is hiring a DevOps Engineer (f/m/x). Place of work Rijeka. Your work-life balance is important to us – flexible working hours, home office and fitness incentives. Send complete applications via link by Feb 11th.

Tesla is hiring a person in the position of Mechanical / Electrical Technician (m/f). Gigafactory location Berlin - Brandenburg, Germany. Support for moving and traveling to work. Send complete applications via link by February 10th.

Scalable Global Solutions d.d. is hiring a person in the position of C#/.NET Software Developer (m/f/d). Workplace Zagreb. Experience in the development of software for real-time systems or embedded systems. Send complete applications via link until Jan 31th.

Rittmeyer AG is hiring a person for the position of Project Manager IT (a). Place of work Baar, Switzerland. We also offer attractive employment conditions and are a well-positioned company in a market environment with future potential. Send complete applications via link by Feb 3rd.

Eumetsat is hiring a Remote Sensing Scientist – Hyperspectral Infrared Level-2 Products (m/f) for work in Darmstadt, Germany. The company is offering an excellent salary of up to 7.500 € net per month, flexible working time, private medical coverage, and much more. Apply via this link by Feb 2nd.

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For more career options and job listings, visit posao.hr.

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These weekly job listings will appear in the weekly TCN newsletter - you can subscribe here.

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Friday, 20 January 2023

A Week in Croatian Politics - Davos, Bureaucracy Injections and Price Hikes

January the 20th, 2023 - This week in Croatian politics, we've still more or less been talking non stop about inflation, Schengen and Eurozone entry and of course - ongoing price increases, but that isn't all. From meetings with Azerbaijani officials and Google's top brass to new ways of injecting even more bureaucracy, let's take a glance at the last week.

The government is set to introduce a special ID card for state institution employees, a move which will cost millions

Just when you thought Croatia couldn't possibly have more forms of card that you need to carry around with you, it goes and introduces yet another one, this time for the employees of state bodies. Yes, you're right, this is precisely what the country needs to be spending time on during difficult social and economic times. Still, we may as well visit the subject - as Index reports, despite being firmly in the shadow of the heated debate regarding the military training of Ukrainian soldiers in Croatia, the final proposal of the law on the official identity cards for state body employees, has remained strong.

Here we have just another way of spreading the plague of needless, time wasting bureaucracy among the Croats, and it is going to cost a pretty penny (or two). What is an official ID card for a state employee anyway, and why bother with it? Those are valid questions, so here is what Article 4 of the Final Bill on the matter says: "An official ID card is an electronic public document by which an employee of a state body proves their official status and electronic identity."

"An official ID card is to be used as a means of electronic identification and authentication to access electronic services, to activate other authentication or signature means, and to sign acts for which the user of the official ID card is authorised," it is stated in paragraph 3 of the same article.

In addition to the above, this card "can be used for physical identification and contactless application for the purpose of registering entry into the premises of a state body and for other purposes prescribed by special regulations".

I'm sure you'll agree that this additional bureacratisation in a society already perversely obsessed with red tape is something that we all really require.

There is plenty of opposition to this, both from the world of Croatian politics and from various other experts in this field. Most people will oppose the sheer amount of cash coming from somewhere that will be poured into this. 

The opposition criticised this idea last summer, believing that this law is utterly redundant, unnecessary, that without it the state would have saved a massive 5.8 million kuna, and so on.

"This law makes no sense, it should be withdrawn, why the new cost?'' asked Zeljko Pavic, a parliamentarian for the Social Democrats, who also went on to explain that there are already ready-made services that can be used without such ID cards which enable greater flexibility.

State Secretary Josip Salapic also stated that these identity cards "are in line with the development of the information society and digitisation", which is why it is "necessary to enable state and judicial officials as well as civil servants and state employees both simple and quick access to various databases and applications that are used to perform business and electronic signature of acts".

He added that around 60,000 official state body employee ID cards now need to be changed, of which 30,000 would be financed with EU funds. The new cards would be valid for three years, and one would cost 125 kuna.

Plenkovic has been busy meeting with all and sundry, from Google's boss to the the president of Azerbaijan

PM Andrej Plenkovic has recently held numerous bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, with, among others, the Secretary General of the OECD, the President of the European Investment Bank, the head of Google and the head of Visa Europe.

He took to the social media platform Twitter to tweet that he had met with Werner Hoyer, head of the European Investment Bank (EIB), an institution which, at least according to Plenkovic, has so far directed seven billion euros through various loans to both the public and private sectors in Croatia.

"We're discussing project cooperation as well as global financial challenges," the tweet reads.

In Davos, the Prime Minister also met with representatives of the Global Citizen organisation, whose activities, as he wrote, Croatia continues to strongly support. At the meeting with the Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Mathias Cormann, he discussed Croatia's accession to Schengen and the Eurozone as the final strategic step of the country's integration into the circle of the most developed countries in the world.

"We also exchanged opinions regarding the economic situation in Europe and efforts to overcome energy and inflationary pressures," tweeted Plenkovic.

Meetings with the head of Google, the president of Azerbaijan, the president of the European Parliament also took place during what was a very busy week for the PM. Google's president of global affairs, Kent Walker, was also on the list of Plenkovic's meetings, as was the head of Visa Europe, Charlotte Hogg, with whom he discussed potential cooperation and investments.

He discussed the further strengthening of relations between Croatia and Azerbaijan with an emphasis placed primarily on energy and economic cooperation with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and he also met with the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola.

"We're grateful to the European Parliament for supporting Croatia's accession to Schengen and the Eurozone. We've been discussing the continuation of aid to Ukraine, the European [Union] path of Southeastern Europe, and the green and digital transition," concluded the Prime Minister on Twitter.

He also met with the Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic.

Economist Damir Novotny claims that the government is trying to turn the trade sector into ''enemy number one''

What with the recent introduction of the euro as Croatia's official currency and the scrapping of the kuna, price hikes as a result of inflation and of the introduction of the new currency have been the hottest topic since the new year began. The government has stepped in and has involved all of the relevant authorities in making sure those stores and service/goods providers who are unjustifiably raising their prices lower their prices to what they were back in December 2022, but not everyone feels their moves are correct.

Economic analyst Damir Novotny was a guest on N1 television's Novi Dan/New Day, during which he commented on price hikes and inflation trends, as well as the government's moves as a result of the above.

Commenting on the new data on inflation and whether it is a decreasing trend, Damir Novotny said: "It's possible, but not because of the movement on the Croatian market, but because of the global movement. This is happening on large markets such as those of the USA, France, etc, and that will spill over to Croatia. It's possible that the trend of slowing growth will spill over into Croatia, but prices will not return to what they were back in 2020."

When asked why most products are cheaper in other countries, which is especially evident after the introduction of the euro, the economist explained the details:

"The main reason is the difference in the tax burden. In Croatia, until recently, there was one rate, 25%, and it's higher than the VAT rate. That rate is very high compared to the rates in Austria, Germany, Italy... not to mention the reduced rates. Austria has 9.5% VAT on all food products, including pet/animal food, taxed at significantly lower rates than in Croatia. Lastly, excise taxes in Slovenia are very low. Here in Croatia, there is an excise tax on plain water, while in Slovenia such an excise tax is very low or non-existent. Jana is therefore cheaper in Slovenia. Another important component of price growth in this country is the long-term closed market. While we had one monopolist, one litre of oil cost 15 kuna back in the year 2000, which is a very high price. And thirdly, in a short period of time over the summer, Croatia has a sudden increase in demand for all goods due to the tourist season. Ten million people come to the Croatian market, the demand increases and those people are ready to pay almost any price."

When asked whether or not it is really realistic to expect what the government is asking from traders in reality, which is the return of December prices, Novotny pointed out:

"For the past twenty years, every single government has chosen an enemy in the private sector. Milanovic's government turned the banking sector into enemy number one. Now this government wants to make the trade sector the enemy, they constantly talk about traders being dishonest. This isn't the discourse of market-oriented economies... Of course, the government needs to have an institutional framework to try to protect consumers and force retailers to disclose product defects, but that's impossible. Hundreds of thousands of items cannot be controlled."

When asked if it was possible to reduce the VAT and whether it would affect the movement of prices, he said: "I think it's impossible. Once the VAT is raised, which was done by Jadranka Kosor, it can't be reversed. The government relies on VAT when it comes to tax revenue, which is the most important source of tax revenue and it is indeed a generous tax. The government will probably maintain this tax burden, and this individual reduction leads to nothing. Government interference in prices is a wrong direction for government policies.

The government reacted, at least in my opinion, unnecessarily abruptly, there was hysteria, the media from Germany, Turkey, Poland, Slovenia called me, asking what was happening. Europe saw that something was happening in Croatia, but they didn't understand why it was happening. Prices have been rising across the entire EU."

Novotny pointed out that it is not true that Zagreb is unjustifiably raising its water prices: "That is not true, the price of water was terribly low here."

He also noted that he doesn't expect any further price increases, explaining that we have now passed the first energy shock and that we won't see a sharp rise in prices again. "I see that retirees are the ones who complain the most, and it's true that pensions are very low in this country, the government needs to intervene there if anywhere," concluded Novotny.

Now the Eu(ro)phoria surrounding Eurozone and Schengen accession has died down, Plenkovic and Milanovic are back to falling out with each other

Plenkovic had a recent interview for French television during which he discussed the vote in the Croatian parliament on the training of Ukrainian soldiers. He said that journalists keep asking him about it and he has to explain to them repeatedly what it's all about.

"It's not a denunciation, I heard what Zoran Milanovic said about all this. Imagine coming out with some thesis that Croats are some kind of American slaves. These are serious theses, what kind of anti-American policy, anti-NATO policy is that? These absurdities never end. These are very serious political mistakes that people in the political community are shocked by. They ask: 'Hello, what is Croatia saying here!?'' he stated, saying that those who have been observing the situation will know precisely where Croatia stands when it comes to the Russia-Ukraine war, and that is firmly by the side of Ukraine and firmly against Russia.

"I'm talking about this again because journalists keep asking me about it," he repeated, before opening fire on Milanovic again. "He's leading an absurd policy against Croatian interests..." concluded the Prime Minister when discussing his disapproval of Milanovic's recent bizarre statements about being ''America's slaves''. The two have had an ongoing issue for a long time now, and never miss an opportunity for the claws to come out.

For more on Croatian politics, make sure to check out our dedicated section and follow our Week in Croatian Politics articles which are published every Friday.

Friday, 20 January 2023

Norwegian Company Statkraft Reveals Scale of Croatian Energy Bill Worries

January the 20th, 2023 - The Norwegian company Statkraft has shed light on the scale of Croatian energy bill worries, among other things, in its research. Statkraft is otherwise Europe's largest producer of renewable energy.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the aforementioned Norwegian company conducted a survey among more than 18,000 respondents across nine countries, including the Republic of Croatia, about what consumers think about climate change and the current soaring energy prices.

Overall, at the level of all the countries included in the research, three quarters of respondents are concerned about the negative consequences of climate change and see one of the solutions lying precisely with renewable energy sources. More than two-thirds (69%) believe that the development of renewable energy sources should be a priority given the problems with climate change and energy supplies. Almost a quarter of those surveyed (23%) said that their perception of renewable energy sources has become more positive over the last six months, while the overall rate of acceptance of wind power plants and solar power plants is now at the level of 80 and 87 percent, respectively.

Croatian energy bill worries are the highest, just like they are for the Irish

Of all the countries surveyed, concern about the potentially higher cost of electricity was highest in Ireland (86%) and Croatia (81%). When asked about electricity prices, 81% of people surveyed here in Croatia are concerned about the possible costs of their electricity bills; 62% of the respondents think that they may not be able to cover the expected increase in energy prices with their savings, while as many as 85% think that more and more serious investments in renewable energy sources across Croatia should have been made a very long time ago.

Despite this pressure of rising energy prices that people feel, 50% of respondents in Croatia say that due to other challenges they're dealing with in life, they don't have time to look for more favourable options for supplying electricity.

Respondents in Croatia also showed the greatest concern among all countries regarding the security of an energy supply – 77% of respondents stated that they were concerned about the issue of security of energy supplies. At the same time, 56% of the respondents from Croatia - again the highest percentage among all the surveyed countries - say that they were primarily motivated by the war in Ukraine to take such a view and attitude; 79% of citizens claim that they began to consider the topic of energy in a more significant way only because of this war.

Croatia also leads the way in terms of awareness of sources of electricity – the vast majority of respondents (87%) claim that they know where their energy comes from; this is again the highest percentage in this survey across all of the involved countries.

Arnaud Bellanger, Statkraft's manager for the Republic of Croatia, commented on the survey results in Croatia with the following words: "These survey results show clear public support for the development of clean energy, with people wanting Croatia to act quickly on this. By increasing the production capacity of renewable energy and reducing dependence on fossil fuels, Croatian consumers can be additionally protected from changes on an unstable market which is facing rising costs.''

Croatian residents are aware of the issue of climate change, but mostly they don't know about the initiatives that are trying to solve this pressing problem

Croatian residents are well aware of the issue of climate change, and 75% of respondents in this survey said they were worried about the direct consequences of climate change on them and their families. They're mostly worried about floods, fires, heat waves and a rise in sea levels (48%), the impact on human health (42%), the negative impact on food prices (40%), the impact on human and animal habitats (39%) and the inability to plan for the future because of these dire uncertainties (23%).

However, in this survey, as many as 93% of Croats said that they weren't aware of any specific goals and activities that the country is undertaking to become carbon neutral. Respondents are divided about who should primarily solve the problem: 36% of people say that they don't feel any pressure or incentive to face the problem themselves, while 31% are very aware of it and feel a need to act.

Public support for significant expansion of renewable energy sources

Croatian residents believe that the government should primarily encourage solving the problem of climate change through more policies and incentives to reduce carbon emissions, including incentives for electric vehicles (56% of respondents), the faster introduction of clean energy for personal and business use (46%), the better education of people about how they can reduce their carbon footprint on their own (49%), more incentives for the use of clean energy in companies and industry (59%) and an easier process for planning initiatives that work to fight climate change (42%).

Faced with rising energy prices due to the war in Ukraine and the climate crisis, respondents in Croatia overwhelmingly (75%) said that significant expansion of production capacity in the area of renewable energy sources must become a priority throughout Europe. One third of Croatian respondents - 34% of those surveyed - say that they view renewable energy sources, stimulated by these crises during the past months, much more favourably than they did before.

For more, make sure to check out our news section.

Friday, 20 January 2023

Zadar Hayat Hotel Construction Site to Open Next Week

January the 20th, 2023 - If you've been following any investment news over the last few months, you'll know that the very first Hayat hotel in Croatia, a luxury investment by the Turkish Dogus Group worth around 120 million euros, is on the horizon. In addition to the new Zadar Hayat hotel, the construction of a residential complex is planned on the site of the former Maraska factory.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, a mere four months after Turkish President Erdogan's official visit to Croatia, a group of Turkish businessmen have been staying in the heart of Zagreb. They are mainly from the construction sector, as two Turkish companies are participating in the renovation of a major Zagreb hospital and the building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Turkish business owners are also investing in tourism in Croatia, and next week they will open the construction site of a new luxury hotel in Zadar, reports HRT.

"Next week in Zadar we have the opening ceremony of the construction site of the new tourist complex of the Dogus Group, and with that we want to strengthen our tourism cooperation", emphasised the Turkish ambassador to Croatia, Yavuz Selim Kiran, when referencing the new Zadar Hayat hotel.

It isn't just the upcoming Zadar Hayat hotel that has a Turkish signature, as one of the largest Turkish construction companies is also busy renovating Zagren's KBC Sestre Milosrdnice/Sisters of Charity hospital as well.

"Six hospital buildings are now under reconstruction, which we want to restore in 23 months, and we hope for more new jobs on the buildings damaged during the Zagreb earthquake," stated the deputy project manager of Akfen Construction, Mustafa Caner Ulukaya.

The building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also being renovated by the Turks. "We want to be a good partner to Croatia as a member state of the European Union and to get involved in other public projects," said Feka Construction's project manager Tugrul Turgut.

Trade exchange between Croatia and Turkey is currently rather modest, but some domestic companies have stepped into the Turkish market which represents a massive 85 million people.

"Our dominant export is scrap iron, which accounts for almost 50 percent of Croatia's exports to Turkey, we also have oil derivatives and the chemical industry," pointed out Croatian Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Industry and Sustainable Development, Tomislav Rados.

A metal processing company from Rijeka is also looking for a partner in Turkey. "We work according to the wishes of the customers, they send us designs of what they would like and we then export it,'' explained Marin Micetic, the director of Metalobrada from Rijeka.

After the Turkish ownership of Petrokemija from Kutin, their business here in Croatia is expanding, so the idea of opening a representative office of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce in Turkey is getting more and more support as time goes on.

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

Thursday, 19 January 2023

Croatia and Denmark Draw in Dramatic World Handball Championship Second Round (32:32)

January 19, 2023 - Croatia and Denmark played 32:32 in the first match of the World Handball Championship second round. With this result, Croatia still has a shot at making the quarterfinals. 

Croatia opened the second round of the World Handball Championship brilliantly against the world champion Denmark on Thursday.

This was a key match for Hrvoje Horvat's team, who, after losing to Egypt in the first round, ideally needed to win all three matches in the second round. However, even then, their road to the quarterfinals remains uncertain. 

Denmark finished the first round with three victories. They beat Belgium (43:28), Bahrain (36:21), and Tunisia (34:21). In total, they scored 113 goals and conceded only 70. For the sake of comparison, Croatia scored 98 goals and conceded 77 goals in three matches.

Match recap

Denmark scored the first goal of the game, but Cindrić found the goal in the next attack. Cindrić scored for 2:1 Croatia before Hansen equalized for 2:2. Cindrić made it 3:2. 

Glavaš scored a penalty, then Pytlick scored Denmark's third goal of the match. Jacobsen equalized, and Cindrić scored for 5:4 in the 8th minute. 

Šarac scored for 6:4, and Šipić for 8:7 in the 13th minute. Denmark equalized a minute later. 

Croatia went to +2 in the 16th minute and +3 in the 18th minute - 11:8!

A penalty taken by Glavaš made it 12:4 for Croatia a minute later. Jelinić scored for 13:9 in the 22nd minute. 

Denmark almost came back, but Croatia went back to +2 in the 26th minute - 14:12. 

With two minutes to go in the first half, Croatia was only up by 1. Cindrić scored his 5th goal of the game in the last 40 seconds of the half - 16:14.

The first half ended 16:15 for Croatia. 

Croatia made it 18:16 in the first two minutes of the second half. Denmark equalized two minutes later at 18:18. And again in the 38th minute at 20:20.

It was goal for goal. 

Denmark finally retook the lead in the 41st minute - 22:21. 

Hansen scored a penalty for 24:23 in the 43rd minute. And 26:25 for Denmark with 15 minutes left. 

Šunjić was brilliant in Croatia's goal in the next few minutes to keep it 26:26.

Martinović put Croatia back in the lead for 27:26 in the 49th minute! Denmark equalized in the 50th minute. 

Šunjić saved Croatia from another Denmark lead... and Šipić made it 28:27 in the 52nd! But it was 29:29 with 6 minutes to go. And 30:30 with 5 minutes to go.

Denmark retook the lead with 4 minutes to, and Croatia called a timeout.  

Šipić equalized at 31:31 - 3 minutes were left on the clock. 

Denmark was awarded a penalty with two minutes to go. Hansen scored for 32:31. Karačić scored for 32:32 with 30 seconds left! 

The match ended 32:32. This was a key match in the fight for the World Championship quarterfinals. While Horvat's team played a great game against the current World Champions, they fell a little short of victory. 

To follow the latest sports news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 19 January 2023

Hungarians Shopping for Groceries in Croatia at Lower Prices

January 19, 2023 - With Croatia's entry into the Schengen Area on the first day of the year 2023, came a few surprises, a few challenges, and a few benefits. The borders with the neighbouring EU states have been opened, which has made travel easier. Many Croatian people decided to use that and hop over to Slovenia, Italy, or Hungary to see if they could shop for groceries there at somewhat cheaper prices. Now, it seems, the neighbours have started discovering that when it comes to certain things it might be cheaper to shop for groceries in Croatia.

As Poslovni / Večernji List write, Hungarians have started coming to Croatia for groceries, paying almost half the price for some things.

After Hungary lifted the restrictions on prices, many Hungarian citizens living along the border started visiting Croatia to buy groceries at a better price. Inflation there is currently the highest in the EU, and citizens save up to 16 euros by buying fuel in Croatia. Oil currently costs EUR 1.39, sugar EUR 0.60... All these are confirmations that prices are going wild. So the journalists of the Hungarian ATV went to Croatia, where they compared the prices.

"In the supermarket we bought four yellow potatoes for 500 forints per kilogram, so it amounted to 220 forints, two onions for 529 forints per kilogram, which was about a hundred forints, and we bought a hot dog at a relatively reasonable price, with a meat content of 65% ", they reported, and the final bill was 913 forints, or 2.3 euros.

Upon arrival in Croatia, the situation changed significantly, journalists report. In the store, they could choose between five types of potatoes, and their prices were roughly the same - a kilogram for about 260 forints, or 0.65 euros. In addition, they also found hot dogs with 95 percent meat, so they chose that product. For the same products - four potatoes, two onions and hot dogs - they paid 529 forints, i.e. 1.33 euros.

According to journalists who visited Croatian shops, Croatians do not mind Hungarian shopping tourism. They also state that last year the government reduced VAT on basic foodstuffs, and the fact that they can now get to Croatia without border controls makes it even easier for Hungarians.

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

Thursday, 19 January 2023

HBOR Subsidies to Support Green and Digital Transition Projects

January 19, 2023 - The Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development (HBOR) is bringing more favourable investment financing conditions for everyone, but green and digital transition projects will benefit the most.

As Poslovni writes, more favourable financing conditions based on subsidized interest are available to a large number of entrepreneurs, with the condition that their projects do not produce harmful effects on the environment, which will be evaluated in HBOR. All small, medium, and large entrepreneurs, as well as the public sector, are acceptable candidates.

Up to one million euros

After the HBOR signed agreements with the 15 largest banks in the Republic of Croatia on cooperation in subsidizing interest from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NPOO) funds, all potential beneficiaries were invited to contact them as soon as possible. In cooperation with the Government, 80 million euros have been set aside for the program from the NPOO funds. According to the head of the Board of HBOR, Hrvoje Čuvalo, with the amount of 80 million euros, investments of 400 million euros can be encouraged.

"I invite all entrepreneurs to report to HBOR or commercial banks as soon as possible to gather all the necessary information and start implementing it as soon as possible. All projects planned for EU financing must meet the criterion of environmental acceptability, and this evaluation will be done centrally from one place, in the HBOR, which enables uniform evaluation criteria for entrepreneurs and less administrative work for commercial banks," said Čuvalo.

The most significant benefit of HBOR's program are reduced interest rates in the range of 50 to 75% compared to the initial market interest rates, depending on the type and purpose of the investment, but it is significant that all the big commercial banks are gathered because they responded to HBOR's initiative. This "proves a common willingness to contribute to the growth and development of the economy."

At the Government's instigation, HBOR designed a product that can bring entrepreneurs the creation of their investments with the most favourable interest rates. At the EC's request, the environmental acceptability of the projects was also included in the formula as a kind of ultimate goal of both the Republic of Croatia and the EU, and the Commission accepted such a program.

The subsidies can be granted through loans for investments in fixed assets - from business start-ups to modernization and capacity expansion; the amount per individual loan is limited to half a million euros for small and medium-sized entrepreneurs and one million euros for other entities.

In a situation of continuous growth of interest rates, the mentioned program presents concrete support in the realization of investment projects with credit funds, so it is expected that the planned amount of subsidies will be fully realized during 2023 and 2024. Subsidies of up to 65% can be realized for investments in particular areas of the Republic of Croatia, as well as in research, development, and innovation, and for public sector investments to mitigate the consequences of earthquakes.

For other investments in competitiveness and resilience, the subsidy is up to 50%. The advantage of the program is the environmental acceptability of the investment, so due to the new Regulation on EU taxonomy, everyone will follow suit on this plan because economic activities must significantly contribute to one of the six environmental protection goals and not considerably harm any of the others.

Risk assessment

Interest rates are becoming the most interesting issue. According to PBZ Management Board member Vedrana Jelušić Kašić, each bank will decide independently, depending on the risk rates of the projects.

"There is competition for the client to choose which bank is the most competitive, and the client receives a subsidy of up to 75% of interest or up to a maximum of 3% points. Depending on the risk rate of the project, the interest will also vary, and we believe that as many clients as possible will come forward and that everyone will be able to receive the highest level of subsidies", said Jelušić Kašić.

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

10 Things I Learned from my SLAPP Lawsuits in Croatia

January 19. 2023 -  SLAPP lawsuits in Croatia (Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation) are a well-established tool to dissuade criticism. Having just emerged from a 2.5-year SLAPP experience, here are some thoughts and observations.

It all starts with the blue letter. 

The postman knocks, requiring a signature. There is rarely good news inside the official blue envelopes. 

"It is from the Municipal Court in Zagreb," said my wife. 

I wonder what they want, I thought to myself. I haven't done anything wrong, to the best of my knowledge. Nevertheless, my heart started beating a little heavier. I had no dead relatives in Croatia to inherit property from, so in all probability, there was bad news inside.

A lawsuit from the Croatian National Tourist Board seeking 50,000 kuna in compensation for defamation. Now my heart really started to beat. Plus costs. And interest. For an article that I did not write, on a portal that I do not own, which quoted me. 

My mouth went dry. 

Two weeks later, it was Groundhog Day. ANOTHER blue letter, another lawsuit, and another 50,000 kuna demanded, this time for a meme I posted on my private Facebook page, where I changed the official tourism slogan from Croatia, Full of Life to Croatia, Full of Uhljebs. 

 (The lawsuits made the national news)

1. Self-Doubt

What the hell to do? I was panicking. I didn't have that kind of money spare, and what did this mean for my future writing? I was comfortable that I had done nothing wrong, but how to prove that in the Croatian legal jungle and where to turn for help? Perhaps I should stop writing anything critical and just concentrate on saying how beautiful Croatia was. 

In my panic, I failed to analyse the message being sent, turning this into a major situation instead:

The plaintiff points out that in the case of a public apology made by the defendant, done so in a manner that fully corresponds to the manner of publishing the disputed statements, i.e. in the same or equivalent place, it is ready to accept without the further continuation of this litigation.

I. The defendant is ordered to pay the plaintiff the amount of HRK 50,000.00 together with the corresponding statutory default interest rate from 04.08.2020 as the date of filing the lawsuit until payment at the rate of the average interest rate on loans granted for a period longer than one year to non-financial companies calculated for the reference period preceding the current half-year, increased by three percentage points, within 15 days under threat of enforcement. 

With a little more detachment, the message was clear. Publicly apologise and lose credibility among your readership, be silent in the future, and all this goes away. Otherwise, the lawsuits will take their course. I had 15 days to respond.  

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2. Costs include 8% interest

As I was weighing up my limited options, the route to a public apology looked the most likely, especially when I learned that there would be 8% annual interest fee, I believe, from the moment the lawsuit was issued, until the verdict. I had heard that these cases could go on for years. It had somehow taken 2 months for the issuance of the lawsuit from the court to be delivered to my home. Some 8% divided by 6 of 100,000 kuna. The clock was ticking. Should I just apologise and move on?

The only person I could think to ask for advice was a smart young lawyer called Vanja Juric, regarded as the best in the region for media law, and a very successful defender of Croatia's biggest and most controversial news portal, Index.hr. Index owner Matija Babic, a personal friend, had kindly made Vanja's advice available to me a couple of years earlier when the Mayor of Jelsa, Niksa Peronja, announced in a public meeting that he was suing me over my reporting of a questionable tender - you can read more in Mayor Niksa Peronja: If Carpe Diem Really is Coming to Jelsa and Zecevo, Then...

Here is Mayor Peronja publicly announcing the lawsuit against me. He never actually followed though, and 4 years later, I await the lawsuit he promised. 

But the announcement of the lawsuit shook me up, and Vanja gave me some great advice. And so I knew that she would be the person to turn to with the case of the Croatian National Tourist Board. The first thing she told me was to relax, there was no way I would lose. 

And from that moment, I started to relax, and I decided that I would document the whole experience in a mini-blog on TCN called Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit

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3. Delays

And yet, despite Vanja's considerable reassurance and calming influence, that 8% would not leave me, especially when I learned that the first hearing of the first case would not be until the following April, and the second one in May, 8 and 9 months respectively after the lawsuits were issued. Around 6,000 kuna in interest, and we had not even started!

And then when I went to my first hearing, only to have the prosecution lawyer present an additional motion one minute before the hearing started, which necessitated an adjournment of 3 months (1,000 kuna more), and then their lawyer double booked not once, but twice, necessitating a delay in the other case from May to November (2,000 kuna), I began to have my doubts. It was almost 18 months from the lawsuit to the first hearing that actually took place. 

Delay, delay, delay. Perhaps it was all accidental (this was the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism after all), but it felt a little more coordinated. After all, the lawyer who had double-booked twice was from a firm with 50 lawyers. This was hardly a complicated case, and yet no other lawyer was able to take his place. 

On not one, but two occasions, their lawyer submitted last-minute motions to my lawyer literally one minute before the hearing started on each occasion. The apologetic excuse was that he had had health issues. There was no mention of the other 49 lawyers in his office who could have helped out. Perhaps these were all genuine reasons, but I slowly began to form the opinion that all this seemed to be a deliberate tactic. This feeling was solidified for the hearing where I was supposed to give evidence on the meme, Croatia, Full of Uhljebs, as was Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, Kristjan Stanicic. 

The hearing was announced in July 2021, to take place on Thursday, January 20, 2022, so 6 months to prepare. Although I speak Croatian quite well, Vanja advised that I hire a court interpreter, which I did. Six days before the hearing, late on a Friday evening after office hours, Vanja received an email stating that Director Stanicic could not attend the hearing the following Thursday as he had to go on urgent business to a tourism fair in Madrid, attaching the director's flight details (Tuesday to Friday). The Madrid fair had been announced 6 months before, about the same time as this hearing, but for some reason, this trip had been put in the calendar at the last minute. I cancelled the interpreter, and Vanja advised me to attend the hearing, but not to give evidence in his absence. 

And so the following Tuesday came, with the director presumably off to Madrid. And Wednesday. The hearing was scheduled for midday on Thursday. At around 09:00, Vanja received an email to say that, in fact, the director was not in Madrid after all and would be attending court and giving evidence. He had presumably known this on Tuesday when he was supposed to fly, but for some reason waited until the last minute to tell us. Trying to find an available court translator with less than three hours notice was an almost impossible task. Almost. 

If I had been a cynic, I would have questioned the additional motives behind some of these delays and double bookings, as hearings which were scheduled before elections managed to get delayed until after elections, thereby avoiding any negative publicity. But obviously, I am not a cynic... 

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4. Filming 

One of the most interesting aspects of the whole process was learning that I had the right to apply to photograph and film proceedings if I applied to the court more than 48 hours in advance. The chance to put the absurdity of what I was subjected to on YouTube was very appealing. It would have greatly added to showcasing my story. I applied as advised and was stunned at the speed of the reply, an email just one hour later. My request was denied, as filming was only applicable to cases deemed to be in the public interest, which mine was not (despite being all over television and the national media when the story broke). A second email to Vanja at the same time gave another reason why I would not be filming any time soon - the case suddenly got delayed 6 months (lawyer double-booking) - another 2,000 kuna in interest.  

5. Intimidation

I can only imagine going through this process without the expertise and calming support of Vanja. Once she told me to relax, I knew I was going to be ok. But without her, this would be a terrifying ordeal, as I am sure it is for the many others who are subjected to SLAPP lawsuits here and elsewhere. Indeed the support of certain sections of the media (big shout out to Index, Telegram, Morski, RTL and N1) was a huge boost, as was MP Marijana Puljak calling for the dismissal of Director Stanicic, the withdrawal of the lawsuit, and the introduction of anti-SLAPP legislation (see video below).

We are shocked by the bizarre news about the lawsuits of the Croatian National Tourist Board against Paul Bradbury, journalist and owner of the Total Croatia News portal. It is a classic way of intimidating and stifling freedom of speech, in order to silence criticism of the dysfunctional system of the Croatian Tourist Board, which spends a lot of taxpayers' money. We demand the immediate withdrawal of the lawsuits and the removal of director Kristjan Staničić.

The CNTB should see a partner in Paul Bradbury. He is a man who has undoubtedly indebted Croatian tourism with his actions, and instead they are trying to intimidate and destroy him. This is just another proof of the justification of our request for the introduction of voluntary membership in the CNTB. If taxpayers were given the opportunity to choose who to finance, many would certainly prefer to invest money in tourism promotion in the knowledge and work of experts like Bradbury, rather than in any of the 300 or so directors of tourist boards.

The Center Party will always vehemently oppose any form of intimidation and attacks on journalists, activists and citizens. Any attempt to restrict freedom of speech, and we witness them in Croatia almost every day, we consider unacceptable, so we will send to the procedure legal changes that would prevent such lawsuits from occurring at all.

Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of any democratic society and the first line of defense of all other freedoms. In addition to believing that an open public debate on any topic has no alternative, history teaches us that persecuting and silencing dissidents throughout

it makes society intellectually but also economically poorer. Only an open exchange of ideas, but also criticism, is the guarantor of intellectual and economic progress.

I was grateful for all the support and fully aware that many others facing SLAPP lawsuits do not have such exposure. I felt the whole process to be quite intimidating. As I stated in a previous article, I get the impression that the CNTB lawyer is a pretty cool guy that I would enjoy having a drink with (he was always very friendly outside court, making a point to shake my hand each time), but his questioning and tactics in the courtroom were very intimidating. I spent an hour on the witness stand being cross-examined about the meme on topics such as how many Facebook fans did I have, what was I doing before I moved to Croatia in 2002, how many employees did I have, and did I speak French. 

My favourite moment in the second hearing was seeing a HUGE file with so many papers inside that a whole forest must have been sacrificed. On the front of the file, two words - Paul Bradbury.

If that file was full of documents about me, just how big was my legal bill going to be on top of the interest and claim? Intimidating. Or at least it would have been without Vanja. An intern who watched proceedings asked me after if I also thought that a lot of the pieces of paper in the folder were blank. 

As I could see that this was an intimidating process, I decided to document my case from start to finish. Knowing that the cases would take years to resolve, I started a mini-blog called Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit on TCN. Apart from being extraordinary free PR for me (thanks, CNTB!), keeping the case in the public arena could only help my cause, especially if I detailed all the absurdities. But I also wanted to show others going through the same process that they were not alone. And that it was possible to win. 

But had I had to face that alone... And then there was the option to publicly apologise and it all goes away...  

When talking about intimidation, I thought back to the Mayor of Jelsa, Niksa Peronja, who publicly announced he was suing me, but never did as mentioned above. Just the threat of a lawsuit - it does focus the mind on writing about less controversial topics in the future.  There is not much net reward for writing a great article and then having to pay thousands in court for the privilege. There is a reason why these lawsuits are called Strategic Lawsuits against Public Prosecution. 

6. Doors close and the stigma

I am currently in the search for a new identity. For the last two years, I have been known as the 'guy getting sued by CNTB.' That's it. My epitaph on my tombstone. I have lost count of the number of people I have met who have only heard about me for that one reason. It is something that I guess will be with me forever. it is not something I would have chosen to be remembered by, but I have tried to turn that into a positive and approach this reality with humour. 

What has been a quite extraordinary lesson, however, has been how people and institutions in Croatia reacted to being sued by a state institution. It was the same with the threatened lawsuit from Peronja and the national tourist board. Certain people unfriended me on Facebook, looked the other way when I walked down the street, and generally distanced themselves from me. To be seen to be with me (and this was especially true in Jelsa 5 years ago) meant that there were in the enemy camp. Why risk a cafe concession of an extra two tables as a cafe owner by being friends with the pariah?

The reaction of the Croatian media was very instructive, and it was then that I could see clearly who were the most independent media (named above) and those who were not. Not only was my case not covered, but in one famous example, I was completely erased from history on a big media report from the opening of a conference I co-oganised, as well as being told I would not be allowed to speak at the opening of my own conference, as I would be sharing the platform with the Deputy Minister of Tourism. 

Paid contracts dried up. Sorry, Paul, we hope you understand, but you are being sued by CNTB...

The lawsuits became the big elephant in the room, particularly in topics where I was very active (digital nomads being a prime example) where the national tourist board was starting to get involved (and with a budget to spend). Sorry Paul, the national tourist board are funding this so... 

It was a lesson, and one I am glad I had, for it forced me to diversify, which I have done. And now I am in a much better space. So thanks to all for that. 

7. Winning is not the aim

As time went on, I began to realise that finding me guilty and actually winning the case was not the main aim of these lawsuits. It was intimidation and an invitation to silence. Zoran Pejovic, a respected tourism expert and defence witness in my case, who had also been quoted in the article that got me sued, reflected on his day in court as a witness in the case on LinkedIn (you can read Zoran's full post here):

Ever since I learned of the case against Paul I have reduced my Croatian media appearances. Several times I was asked to comment on some of the ongoing challenges of Croatian tourism and I politely declined. It only today dawned on me that I chose the path of lesser exposure to stay out of the limelight and avoid similar litigations, regardless of how pointless and ultimately unsuccessful they tend to be.

Perhaps they never aimed for victory in court.

The verdict in the first case was set for January 13, 2023. After the fabulous testimony in the hearing last November of both Zoran and Kresimir Macan, as well as Vanja's magic, there was no way in a normal country that I could lose. There simply was no case. Recognition of that fact came (again at the last minute - delay, delay, delay) when Vanja receive a request to withdraw the first case, giving us 8 days to agree. Just enough time to inform the court the day before the verdict. If they withdrew, they would not lose, I suppose was the logic. Their justifications for withdrawing the lawsuit were quite special, an explanation of which I may save for another time. 

What started 2.5 years ago as a demand for a public apology or 50,000 kuna plus costs ended with a polite request to forget about the whole thing. If I accepted, the case went away and my costs would be paid. If I refused, the court would deliver its verdict, an expected victory for me, and another PR own goal for the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism. I decided to try and put an end to the whole farce by suggesting that if they dropped both lawsuits and paid my costs, then I would agree. If they only wanted to drop one, then I would refuse. Their counter-offer was quite special (but let's leave that for another time), and we agreed that they would withdraw both.   

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8. Accountability 

And so here we are, 2.5 years later. A public institution sues someone using public money, demanding either a public apology or compensation of 100,000 kuna plus costs. Two and a half years later, having wasted an enormous amount of time, energy and public money, they withdraw the cases and are required to pay all the costs - with public money, of course. 

And accountability? 

Absolutely zero, and nothing to stop this happening again to someone else, someone who might be a little more intimidated than I was (post-Vanja reassurance).  

9. Legacy 

And the legacy? 

I will be known as the guy who got sued by the Croatian National Tourist Board, and apart from that?

Plus ca change. 

At least by highlighting my case on TCN (and soon on my YouTube channel with a very detailed look at it), we have raised a little awareness of the realities of SLAPP lawsuits in Croatia. I have been very encouraged by the number of European lawyers who have been following my case on LinkedIn, and their messages of support have been very welcome.

10. Remarkable individuals are building a better Croatia

 And where to end but with my fabulous laywer. 

Over the years, I have met several people who are passionate about their niche, and whose determination and dedication have brought positive change. Marko Rakar is one of my all-time heroes, and his efforts to hold the government accountable and to improve the system are truly admirable. One of his biggest achievements was effecting the removal of 800,000 fake names from the electoral register - this in a country of 4.2 million people at the time. 

In the media space, you may love him or hate him, but Matija Babic, the owner of Index.hr has made a considerable contribution over the last 20 years with his portal's reporting and exposing of corruption. 

And Vanja, as a bastion of protection of free media speech, is right up there in her own niche. As Vice President of GONG, she was also appointed expert group member of a European task force on SLAPP lawsuits. And only last week, she held the first GONG workshop on SLAPP lawsuits. I feel honoured that my case is one that is highlighted.

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Vanja is also using the case in her education of the next generation of lawyers. Perhaps this will be the best legacy of all for Croatia, Full of Uhljebs...

You can follow the whole story, including the publication of both lawsuits in English, in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit.

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What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Subscribe to the Paul Bradbury Croatia & Balkan Expert YouTube channel.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

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