Thursday, 12 January 2023

2023 Brings New Challenges for Croatian Electric Car Owners

January the 12th, 2023 - Croatian electric car owners have had somewhat of a financial shock ever since we entered the new year. Just like with almost everything else, there has been a price increase for the use of public car chargers across the country, but there are ways around it if you have your wits about you...

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the previous price of 5/kWh kuna (or 0.66 euros) is no longer that price because one single kWh of electricity from public charging stations across Croatia has jumped to 8.59 kuna or 1.14 euros. The price refers to fast charging with a power of up to 150 kW, but the price is identical at charging stations that offer a power of 50 kW, according to a report from HAK.

Nevertheless, in some locations, Croatian electric car owners can still come across more favourable charging prices of 0.31 euros or 2.44 kuna, also for 50 kW DC charging. Please note that the high prices of 1.14 euros don't apply to chargers on motorways where the prices could be higher than in populated areas. An electric care was charged in the heart of Slavonski Brod the aforementioned price. At some locations here in Zagreb, one kW is charged at 0.53 euros or 4.00 kuna (for AC 22 kW charging). Driving over more recent days on Croatian roads and through various cities, DC 50 kW charging via CCS chargers for 0.44 euros per kWh, or 3.32 kuna, were also found. A kilowatt cost the same at one charger via the CHAdeMo charger.

It is extremely important for Croatian electric car owners/drivers to really check the charging price through several different mobile applications (if they work, that is). Croatian electric car owners also have at least five or six apps available to them on their smartphones, and sometimes using a service provider's app doesn't guarantee you'll get a cheaper charge somewhere. There are apps like Plugsurfing with which you can charge your vehicle at different charging stations.

At the same time, while the price of one kilowatt approaches the price of a litre of fuel, the question of the profitability of charging at public stations arises, that is, of travelling outside the place of your residence with an electric vehicle just to charge it up. If we take into account the average consumption of 15 kWh of electricity and 7 litres for thermal engines, we arrive at the following results:

Driving a section of 100 kilometres using petrol will cost you 9.31 euros or 70.15 kuna, while using a diesel-powered vehicle it will amount to 10.29 euros or 77.53 kuna. If you charge your battery at home, with the price of the night tariff standing at around 0.08 euros (about 0.60 kuna) per kWh, the 100 kilometres travelled will cost a mere 9 kuna or 1.19 euros. Charging your vehicle at a public charging station with a kilowatt price of 4 kuna (0.53 euros) will ultimately cost 60 kuna (7.96 euros). If Croatian electric car owners end up using a charger at a public station costing 8.59 kuna (1.14 euros), they'll pay 128.85 kuna (17.10 euros) for 100 kilometres travelled.

It should be noted that the majority of Croatian electric car owners typically charge their batteries at home or at work and use charging at public chargers only as a rare alternative. This is something that can be fairly clearly seen all over Croatia and has been visible for some time now - public charging stations are usually sitting empty and the current situation with charging prices doesn't suit anyone.

The solution is subscription models such as the Elli application, which for 7.99 euros per month (60.20 kuna) enables charging at a preferential price per kWh of 0.64 euros (on DC chargers) or 0.50 euros on AC chargers, while on Ionity chargers the price is 0.79 euros/kWh. A subscription with a price of 14.99 euros lowers the price of a kilowatt hour even more. Across Croatia, HEP and other electricity operators could offer a combined subscription that includes consumption of electricity at home and at public chargers.

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

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

Lidl Croatia Explain Why the Same Products are Cheaper in Slovenia

January 11, 2023 - Since the euro was introduced as the official currency in Croatia, there has been a series of price comparisons of products in Croatia and other countries, especially Slovenia. Lidl Croatia explained to Večernji why the prices are different. They point out that the formation of prices in a country is influenced by numerous factors, from the amount of the VAT rate, excise duties, and product analysis costs to logistics costs and the like.

Index compared Lidl prices in Slovenia and Croatia in detail.

"In the case of comparing prices in Slovenian and Croatian Lidl, the VAT rate on food in Slovenia is 9.5 percent, while in Croatia, the rate is 5 percent for some products (bread, fresh meat, and fish, eggs, fruits, and vegetables, edible fats and oils, baby food, pads, and tampons, which make up about 10% of our total assortment), and the rest is 25 percent," they state, as reported on Index.

"Regarding the comparative account from both Lidls, which was published in several Croatian media, 8 out of 10 products from the said account from the Slovenian Lidl have a tax rate of 9.5 percent, and in Croatia, 25 percent. This is a difference of 15.5 percentage points. Furthermore, Croatia pays a return fee on PET packaging of 0.07 euros, which is reflected on products such as mineral water and juices," states Lidl.

Fuel price

They further note that gasoline and diesel are cheaper in Slovenia, which makes a difference in the logistics costs for the delivery of goods. At the same time, they note that Croatia is geographically significantly larger than Slovenia. "It is demanding in terms of transportation due to the specific geographical shape, and the logistics also include islands, which is an additional challenge," they state in the press release.

"Some of the factors that led to global disturbances are the prices of raw materials, the availability of goods, the rise in logistics prices, the rise in electricity and gas prices and general costs such as maintenance, the impact of the war in Ukraine and, consequently, high inflation. The retail prices of certain products rose in line with the growth of purchase prices and other factors that influenced movements in global markets, " they state.

"We would like to emphasize here that we did not blindly transfer the increase in the input prices of our suppliers to our customers but corrected the prices with extreme care and concern, precisely so that we would not allow our customers to feel the full weight of the inflationary pressure that appeared," it is further stated in Lidl Croatia's explanation.

They also claim that Lidl Croatia did not increase prices during the switch to the euro.

"Prices of products from Lidl's regular range have been converted from kuna to euros according to the rules of mathematical rounding (without unjustified price increases) in favor of the customer. Also, to confirm a transparent relationship with customers, Lidl has joined the Code of Ethics, which determines how business entities act for a reliable and transparent introduction of the euro to create trust and a safe environment for consumers. Within the scope of the inspections so far, no unjustified price increases have been found in Lidl Croatia," they said.

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

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

How to Beat Croatian Bureaucracy: Proven Method

January 11, 2023 - Is it possible to beat Croatian bureaucracy? An impossible task, but there is an approach which brings the occasional win. 

Croatian bureaucracy is legendary, but can it be beaten? There are various ways to approach it, including the right mindset, as I explained in my recent series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years - read more in 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years: 3. Bureaucracy and Mindset

But there is also one proven method - also available to locals - which can make Croatian bureaucracy a lot easier. And, as is usually the case in this magnificent but flawed country, it is a solution which was born out of necessity and creativity. 

Croats are legendary at finding practical solutions for impossible situations, as they constantly find ways to deal with the absurdity of the bureaucratic jungle which engulfs them. 

As I explain in the video below, it all started back in 2010, when the Internet stopped working at home, and I was told that it would be a week until the engineer could come and take a look - a lifetime for a blogger who relies on connectivity to spam the Internet. 

An appeal on Facebook for a Croatian solution prompted a suggestion by private message, which resulted in a little trick which has great results. And you don't have to be a fat foreigner to try it - local friends have done so with success.

Here's the latest from the Paul Bradbury Croatia Expert YouTube channel - have you subscribed yet? How to Beat Croatian Bureaucracy: Proven Method.

If, like me, you have a mild obsession with Croatian bureaucracy, you might want to check out our series, Croatian Bureaucracy, a Love Story

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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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Wednesday, 11 January 2023

First Time for Everything: Croatian Police Officer Joins Serbian Army

January 11, 2023 - Pursuant to Article 112 of the Law on the Police, the 21-year-old Croatian police officer in question was dismissed from service by decision, and disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him for a serious breach of official duty.

As Poslovni reports, before he returned to Croatia, the Croatian police were aware of the case of a 21-year-old Croatian police officer from the Vukovar-Srijem area who was removed from service on November 7, 2022, because he accepted the call of the Serbian Army without informing his superior.

The Police Administration (PU) of Vukovar-Srijem reminds that a 21-year-old Vukovar-Srijem police officer, who was assigned to the Tovarnik border police station and has dual citizenship, made contact with representatives of the Serbian Army on the territory of the Republic of Serbia by accepting an invitation to enroll in military records of the Republic of Serbia, without notifying his superior.

"The fact that the Ministry of Internal Affairs had this information even before the aforementioned police officer returned to the Republic of Croatia confirms the prompt reaction of the security system in the Republic of Croatia," they state from the PU of Vukovar-Srijem.

Pursuant to Article 112 of the Law on the Police, the 21-year-old was dismissed from service by decision, and disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him for a serious breach of official duty.

The Vukovar-Srijem police also explain that the condition for admission to the police is Croatian citizenship, while nationality is not a legal requirement for admission to the police, nor is it a category that is a decisive factor in the recruitment process.

Any other action would be contrary to the provision of Article 9 of the Act on the Suppression of Discrimination, which expressly states that discrimination in all its forms is prohibited, the police state with the conclusion that a person with dual citizenship can be an employee of the Ministry of the Interior, that is, they can pass a security check that is necessary for performing police work, of course, if all other legal requirements are met.

According to the information available to the ministry, this is the only case in which a Croatian police officer responded to a call from the army of another country to be registered in the military records of that country.

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

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

Croatian Doctors Simultaneously Transplant Heart and Liver

January 11, 2023 - Incredible success of Croatian doctors from KBC Zagreb - a few days ago, they transplanted a man's heart and liver simultaneously.

As Index writes, Hrvoje Gašparović, head of the Clinic for Cardiac Surgery at KBC Zagreb, commented on the venture for Nova TV. More than 30 people participated in the operation, and the patient is recovering very well.

"Heart transplantation, liver transplantation, in fact, transplantation of all solid organs, is always a race against time. There is a rigid time frame within which the transplantation procedure must be started and completed. When we disconnect the heart from circulation, we usually disconnect it in another country so that we would re-incorporate it into circulation in the Republic of Croatia. We want to do that within four hours. Sometimes we lose more than two hours just for transportation," explained Gašparović.

A complex operation

He pointed out that it is a complex procedure in which four surgical teams participate, which must be carefully coordinated to perform the transplant in the correct sequence.

"The heart transplant happens first, after which the colleagues from abdominal surgery continued the operation and successfully performed their part of the liver transplant," Gašparović pointed out.

Professor Gašparović's team transplanted lungs to a child for the first time in Croatia. "Lung transplantation is a program that has been stable for the past few years," he said, adding that the child received the lungs of an adult.

106 transplants last year

He pointed out that a total of 106 solid organ transplants were performed last year - 27 heart transplants, 26 liver transplants, 43 kidney transplants, and 10 lung transplants.

"It is a comprehensive transplant program that we can be proud of. Transplantation of solid organs in this country is the backbone of our medicine. Hats off to everyone participating, including our transplant coordinators from the Ministry. It is difficult to count all the people who participate in this process", he concluded.

"Regarding the transplantation of solid organs, especially hearts, we are extremely good at the global level. For example, everyone remembers that in 2018 Croatia beat England 2:1, but not many people know that Croatia beat that same England, and Germany too, 9:3 in the number of transplants we do per million inhabitants. Therefore, we have nothing to be ashamed of," said Gašparović.

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

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

How to Croatia - Croatian LGBTIQ+ Rights, Laws and Organisations

January the 11th, 2023 - In this edition of How to Croatia, I'll take you through the topic of Croatian LGBTIQ+ rights, as well as laws, amendments, and the steps the country has taken as an EU, Eurozone and Schengen member state to align its domestic laws with those of the wider bloc.

Croatian LGBTIQ+ rights have expanded considerably over more recent years, with Gay Pride parades and associated events now generally taking place without much incident, which wasn’t the case at all several years ago. The Croatian Constitution defines marriage as being the union between a man and a woman, and this was determined by a referendum held back in November 2013. While this effectively prohibits same-sex marriage, the status of same-sex relationships in Croatia became formally recognised by the state much earlier (2003) and the introduction of the Life Partnership Act saw same-sex couples entitled to almost all of the rights enjoyed by married heterosexual couples in 2014.

With all this being said and looking half decent on paper, LGBTIQ+ individuals in Croatia still unfortunately have to deal with various challenges that heterosexual individuals don’t, both in a legal and social sense.

A brief history of Croatian LGBTIQ rights

After the Republic of Croatia became recognised as an independent state back during the early 1990s, there wasn’t any advancement in gay rights until the early 2000s when a centre-left coalition took power from the conservative, Christian democratic HDZ party. The coalition passed the aforementioned same-sex union law in 2003, giving full, legal recognition to same-sex relationships. This was an enormous breakthrough by Croatian standards, and it didn’t pass without quite some earthquakes (proverbial ones, of course).

Several laws and directives prohibiting any form of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and self expression have also been introduced over the years. These include a penal code recognising hate crime based on gender identity.

When it comes to the protection of individuals other than gay men and lesbians who also fall under the LGBTIQ+ umbrella, the laws become more difficult to follow, and it does leave one scratching their head quite a lot. Gender transition is absolutely legal in Croatia and the law also allows for a person to change their name and all of the paperwork which would follow such a move. This law includes transgender persons who haven’t undergone gender affirmation surgery yet, or perhaps don’t plan to at all, which is a huge step. The rights of intersex people, however, have not yet been given legal protection in any way.

Constitutional amendments

With considerable help from the Catholic Church, a controversial lobby group called ‘U ime obitelji’ (In the name of the family) ran a very visible campaign against same-sex marriage during the year Croatia joined the EU (2013) in which, among other things, they called for a referendum to introduce changes to the national constitution. The changes they proposed would constitutionally define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, which I touched on above.

The outcome of that referendum was 65.87% of voters supporting the change to the constitution, and 33.51% opposing it. It is worth noting, however, that voter turnout was less than 40%, leading many civil rights groups, particularly those very focused on LGBTIQ+ issues, to point to the issue of the turnout threshold.

Croatia’s Life Partnership Act

Regardless of the aforementioned (and very fraught) campaign by U ime obitelji and its results, the following year, the Croatian Government went ahead and introduced the Life Partnership Act. This established registered civil partnerships, which saw same-sex couples granted equal rights to those of married heterosexual couples. One notable exception was that they wouldn't be given the same adoption rights heterosexual couples enjoy, which may have seemed a bridge too far to the powers that be and has been a burning topic on a regular basis, especially over more recent years.

It has, all in all, been a mixed back indeed. But to say there hasn’t been a very marked shift since Croatia’s European Union membership would be a lie. A left-green coalition entered the Croatian Parliament for the first time in 2020, a great number of its members were from various different civil rights groups, and the coalition very openly supports Croatian LGBTIQ+ rights.

Pride events

The first Pride march happened in the City of Zagreb way back in 2002, taking a very profound place in modern Croatian history as the first high-profile LGBTIQ event ever in what was then a relatively new country. It had just 300 participants, and despite clear government support, they were met with verbal abuse and attempts at violence from homophobic crowds who had gathered on the streets solely to taunt and threaten those taking part. It is an enormous understatement to say that this, the first of many Pride events to hit Zagreb’s streets, did not go well. Despite the atmosphere, Pride continued every June in the Croatian capital, getting more and more public support and reporting less and less incidents with each and every passing year.

2011 rolled around, just two years before Croatia joined the EU, and Pride took to Croatia’s second biggest city - Split. Pride in Dalmatia’s largest city unfortunately ended in physical violence, with attackers significantly outnumbering the event’s actual attendees. The media and general public condemned the Croatian Government and the police for failing to adequately protect those marching from the homophobic crowds. A march of support was held in Rijeka, known as a very progressive city, that very same year.

The terrible events in Split marked a turning point for LGBTIQ+ activism across Croatia. While what happened never should have, it didn’t occur in vain as it prompted more public discussions on this issue which was deemed taboo in Croatia for a very long time than ever before. Shocked by the homophobic attacks on attendees, people who had once been passive bystanders at such events became active allies, determined to never be lumped in with people who would seek to harm others for simply wanting acceptance and to live their own lives how they so wish. More and more well known faces began attending Pride marches and speaking up for the LGBTIQ+ community.

Held just one week after Split Pride, Zagreb Pride in 2011 became the biggest Pride march up until that point. The event had grown considerably from its initial 300 marchers, it was promoted and backed by the media, as well as by some celebrities and Croatian politicians, and remarkably, it took place without any violence.

Then came 2013, the year Croatia joined the EU, and just before it, that year’s Zagreb Pride event. Many people who would otherwise have been passive bystanders grateful to not be affected by this issue readily joined it to express their opposition to the outcome of the referendum of November 2013 regarding the definition of marriage. With 15,000 participants marching and showing public support for LGBTIQ+ rights, it continues to be the biggest Pride event ever held in Croatia.

Croatian LGBTIQ+ organisations

There are a number of organisations dedicated to protecting and promoting the rights of various members of the LGBTIQ+ community all across Croatia. LGBTIQ+ centres exist in the large cities of Zagreb, Split and Rijeka. 

The City of Zagreb is home to initiatives such as Zagreb Pride, Iskorak, Kontra, LGBTIQ Initiative AUT, qSPORT and the recently initiated Ponosni Zagreb (Proud Zagreb). Trans Aid protects the rights of trans, intersex and gender-variant persons. Dugine obitelji (Rainbow families) is primarily made up of LGBTIQ parents and those who wish to become parents.

Split Pride is known for their original approach to activism which includes amusing and sarcasm-filled videos uncovering, for example, the absurdity of mainstream reactions to the pride events. QueerANarchive works on developing the queer discourse in and around Split. 

Rijeka is, as I mentioned, known for its progressive stances surrounding a whole host of social issues, and it is no coincidence that one of Croatia’s oldest LGBTIQ+ organisations, LORI, comes from here.

LGBTIQ+ tourism in Croatia

A bit of research placed Croatia as 39th on the list of 150 world's most popular countries for LGBTIQ+ travel. While Croatia may not have a particular strategy for attracting LGBTIQ+ tourists as such, some 200,000 of them visit the country for touristic purposes each and every year.

Given the fact the country heavily relies on tourism as its source of income, with tourism being the strongest economic branch by far, the sentiment of the general public towards LGBTIQ+ individuals is a little more relaxed when it comes to tourists than it is when it comes to the locals. This isn’t necessarily to say that busy tourist destinations full of various nationalities and accommodation providers are more LGBTIQ+-friendly, they’re simply less concerned about who they provide their services to than they are about making their profit.

Renting out accommodation as a same-sex couple should generally not be a problem at all. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression is 100% illegal in Croatia. There were unfortunate cases of private landlords refusing to rent their properties to same-sex couples, and they got ripped apart for it by the media and nearly sank their only flow of income into the ground. Being homophobic and caring what others do in their bedrooms isn’t really the best business move in 21st century Europe.

Which destinations are the most welcoming to LGBTIQ+ tourists?

Rijeka is hailed as the most open city in Croatia and has been for a very long time. It is home to a very diverse range of people, and many more progressive people from other places across the country move to live there precisely because it appears, at least in some aspects, to be a step or two ahead of other cities. One of Croatia’s key port cities, the home of the torpedo (no, really) has always had a reputation of being a vibrant and diverse place despite its largely industrial past. The city’s slogan for the Rijeka – European Capital of Culture 2020 project was ‘Port of Diversity’ for a very good reason. Kvarner, the region in which Rijeka is located, and nearby Istria are both traditionally known as the most tolerant parts of Croatia, with most parts of Dalmatia still lagging behind.

The island of Rab, which markets itself as the ‘island of happy people’, lies in the very north of Dalmatia and is considered to be one of the first openly gay-friendly destinations in Croatia, holding the title since the 1980s, when it certainly wasn’t a popular thing to proclaim, however quietly. In 2011, this island which is known for its beaches officially became the first place in all of the Republic of Croatia to very openly promote itself as a gay-friendly tourist destination.

I mentioned that Dalmatia is still lagging in this area, and while that is true if you were to compare it with the likes of Rijeka and Kvarner, the City of Split is becoming increasingly open to different types of visitors. Dubrovnik is also among the most accepting destinations. Back in 2020, the first gay music festival was to be held at the world-famous Zrće beach on the island of Pag. It wasn’t homophobes who threw a spanner in the works in this case, but a global pandemic.

Public displays of affection and things to note

Gay is very much OK in Croatia on paper, and as time goes on, this is the case more and more in reality, too, but it is always best to exercise your judgement and pay attention to your surroundings. Major cities, especially the Zagreb, Kvarner and Istria areas, are generally more open, as is Dubrovnik in the extreme south. However, public displays of affection are still not common – even among the local LGBTIQ+ population, who are usually discreet when it comes to this. There are homophobes and hostile, ignorant people all over the world, and Croatia is unfortunately no exception.

If you’re planning to see some selos (villages), travel to more rural areas or head off the beaten path to some less frequented locations, have your wits about you and don’t engage in PDA too much. 

If you do end up being faced with any sort of homophobic abuse, be it verbal or otherwise, do not hesitate to contact the local police. You’ll more than likely find more of an alliance than you might expect. This is especially the case if it comes from an accommodation provider. Report them.

To sum this article up, I've watched Croatian LGBTIQ+ rights over the last few years absolutely blossom. The vast majority of people in Croatia have no issue with what other people do. It wouldn’t be true to say that Croatia is at the level of certain other European countries such as the UK or Germany when it comes to acceptance levels, after all, this is a Catholic country with many people still identifying as religious, but it has certainly come on leaps and bounds, and that is likely to continue to be the trajectory.

For more on living in and moving to Croatia, as well as tips and tricks to avoid the crowds and save a kuna euro or two when it comes to things like renting cars, driving and hopping on the ferry during summer, make sure to check out our lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 10 January 2023

How Much Cash Did WRC Croatia Rally 2022 Bring to the Country?

January the 10th, 2023 - When looking at Croatian tourism, we're constantly focused on three months during the summer season and very little else. What about more niche events? The WRC Croatia Rally 2022 gave the country a considerable sum of cash.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, the WRC Croatia Rally 2022 brought over 105 million euros to Croatian tourism, with more than 310,000 spectators following the speed tests carried out on Croatian roads, 170,000 overnight stays were generated, and a third of the spectators came from abroad, according to an expert study of the impact of this event created by the Faculty of Economics at the University of Zagreb.

The WRC Croatia Rally 2022 as such confirmed its status as a rather unique regional event, given that a third of the visitors came from Central, Western and Southeastern European countries, Oliver Kesar, professor from the Department of Tourism at the University of Zagreb's Faculty of Economics, pointed out at today's presentation of the study.

"First of all, we're talking about a mega sports spectacle, the effects of which the Republic of Croatia has not had before with any sporting, cultural or any other form of event. The results of the 2022 study showed that this project is both economically and socially sustainable and that Croatia should continue to host the WRC," said Kesar.

The WRC Croatia Rally 2022 also resulted in a great level of media interest, 400 media representatives arrived in Croatia, and the average consumption per spectator of the Croatia Rally is higher than the average, amounting to 263 euros, while total budget revenues exceed 12 million euros. The majority of visitors from outside Croatia came from neighbouring Slovenia and Hungary, as well as from other European countries such as the Czech Republic, Romania, the UK, Finland, Norway, Belgium and others, and they benefited local service providers in Varazdin, Krapina-Zagorje, Zagreb, Karlovac and Primorje-Gorski Kotar counties, as well as those located here in the City of Zagreb.

The Croatian Government has supported and continues to support the race with three million euros for the years 2022, 2023 and 2024. The World Rally Championship is set return to Croatia for the third time this year and will be held from April the 20th to the 23rd.

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

Tuesday, 10 January 2023

Slavonia 365: Meet Zoran Simunovic, Osijek Artist of International Fame

January 10, 2023 - His career took off on the international scene, and he started producing artsy rugs to encourage local production in Vukovar. Zoran Simunovic is an up-and-coming artist from Osijek, a curator of the Vukovar Municipal Museum, and an all-round awesome tattooed human.

As Vecernji writes, those who appreciate the painting of gestural abstraction of high modernism of European provenance and the works of Pierre Soulages, Hans Hartung, or Edo Murtić will recognise, said Branko Franceschi at one time, the basic performance principles that build the solid core of the composition of the painter Zoran Simunovic. The derived characters were inspired by real life and create spaces of memory and nostalgia based on the transparent display of recognisable objects, almost fetishes, such as motifs of toys: teddy bears, trains, or bananas that his son Oskar loves. Every corner of his work of art is personalised and bears a mark that conveys memories and passion for home. Seemingly unimportant figurines, plants, and fruits become important because they are recorded on the canvases as artifacts of his becoming. They seem to almost float in the composition, concentrating in the centre of the painting, letting the colours completely occupy the edges of the canvas. His paintings, thus, halfway between figuration and abstraction, take on a strong narrative character and tell stories with a small dose of humour and a lot of poetry.

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"My home is full of details. In essence, the observer is directly involved in the creation of the work through fragments of their growing up and their most beautiful memories, precisely their childhood. It is sometimes difficult for artists to expose their intimacy and show it to the world, but I have no problem with that", said the artist himself, who is well known on the local cultural scene. A native of Osijek, curator of the Vukovar Municipal Museum, and a true Slavonian addicted to tattoos. An eternal optimist who, as he says himself, does not see the world through rose-tinted glasses but through rose-tinted eyes. This can be seen in his paintings and the optimism they radiate, and there are currently additional reasons for a rosy mood, as his career has been on an upward international trajectory for some time, and his paintings have just been exhibited in the Vienna gallery District 4 Art.

"District 4 Art is one of the foreign galleries representing me as an author, and as part of its activities, it also prepares exhibitions. Negotiations with them began at the suggestion of my friend, collector Milan Krivda, and after a quick agreement, they resulted in successful and pleasant cooperation. Basically, many people are interested in my works, among them are some celebrities, but discretion is highly valued in this business, so I would rather not go into details", Zoran Simunovic answered somewhat self-deprecatingly when asked about stars from the world of art who became interested in his playful oils on canvas, primarily in large formats, which fetch up to 20,000 euros on the European market.

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What is the profile of the people who are the majority of Zoran's customers? "Their profile is quite diverse. Moreover, today it is extremely difficult to assess who a potential customer is. You'd have clients who simply want to treat themselves to one of my works, while on the other hand, there are clients who are serious collectors and invest in the future. What pleases me the most is that all my clients, regardless of which group they come from, buy my paintings primarily because they enjoy them. In this context, I have to be proud that all my paintings they bought are on their walls and exposed to the view, and not waiting in some dark warehouse for a higher market price", says the artist.

He also exhibited a novelty in Vienna - the rugs he makes in Vukovar, and on which he copies the motifs of his paintings. It turned out to be an excellent decision, he says, because the reactions were more than positive. The story of his breakthrough into art is well known, but since repetition is the mother of wisdom: He was born in 1984 in Nuštar as the son of a farmer and grew up on a large farm where wheat, barley, corn, and rapeseed are grown. He spent his childhood, he recalls, in a tractor and forklift, helping his family in the fields. His parents wanted him to run the family business, so he enrolled at the Faculty of Agriculture, but he soon realised it was not the right path for him and left it after only one year. His wife Ivana played a key role, and after seeing some of his drawings, she persuaded him to enroll in the Academy of Fine Arts. That decision changed his life forever; he discovered his passion for art and creation, which he says is his greatest blessing.

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In 2008, he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Široki Brijeg, graduated in 2013 in the class of Professor Antun Boris Svaljek, and then got a job as a curator at the Vukovar Municipal Museum, where he develops a playful cultural program aimed at a younger audience. "My job as curator of the Vukovar museum is the best job in the world. I cooperate with many artists, institutions, museums, and embassies, which helped me a lot and influenced the development of my artistic career. The artist and the museum need each other, and I achieved a perfect synthesis of both. I try to work professionally in both fields; both of my jobs are extremely creative; they connect and complement each other perfectly", says Zoran Simunovic.

In private life, he defines himself as a hedonist – he loves beautiful things and lives life with pleasure. He pays special attention to his image, it is part of the whole package, and he has a special passion for tattoos. His body is an extension of the painter's canvas, he tattoos himself, and each tattoo is a piece in the creation of a unique work, a project that, he says, will never be finished and will grow with him.

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As for Osijek's art scene, he is satisfied and does not complain about Zagreb's centralisation, which many point out as a problem. "There are different profiles of artists as well as their art worlds. I believe that every region offers several good authors, including the east of Croatia. Osijek, as the centre of Slavonia and Baranja, offers both authors and audiences a wide choice. I am convinced that there is enough space for all high-quality artists from all artistic fields to find their place under the sun, wherever it may be", he said. Asked about a potential business offer that might one day prompt him to move from Slavonia, he continued: "I love Slavonia. It is my home. As a city, Osijek offers absolutely everything you need for a pleasant and quality life. Never say never, though. For now, I have no intention of leaving my home, but life may have other plans for me.

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Rugs have become an extension of his painting canvas. The quirky design of rugs with a crazy character is an absolute trend in interior design. Zoran Simunovic recognised this and translated his pictures into unique artsy rugs. "The rugs are something new that I made. After ten years of activity, I felt the need to express myself artistically in a different way. Rugs are perfect for me because it is widely known that I am a big fan of product design and that, among other things, I show interiors in my paintings. So I transferred my paintings to a piece of furniture because these rugs are segments of my paintings. Also, it was important to me that all production work be carried out at the local level to encourage each other to grow. I was also very surprised when I discovered that in Vukovar, it was possible to make a personalised carpet from high-quality wool that meets all aesthetic and quality standards", said Simunovic.

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

Tuesday, 10 January 2023

Euro Croatia Price Increase: Politician Kreso Beljak Shopping Across Border

January the 10th, 2023 - Croatian politician Kreso Beljak, who has been the President of the Croatian Peasant Party since back in 2016, has openly admitted to crossing the Slovenian border to do his shopping since the euro Croatia price increase issue has become so apparent.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, while appearing as a recent guest of N1 studio, the President of the Croatian Peasant Party, Kreso Beljak, commented on the situation that is currently on everyone's lips - the very obvious euro Croatia price increase. Beljak says that he isn't surprised by any of these price increases: "Prices of items are determined by the market, and I'm not surprised that prices have risen. Obviously, the demand is like that. It's a simple rule of the market economy - the higher the demand for something is, the higher the price for it will be,"

That said, he made no effort to hide the fact that he thinks that the difference in prices between Croatia and neighbouring Slovenia is no less than shameful: "Personally, it doesn't matter to me or the people in Samobor if we go to Zagreb or Slovenia to do our shopping. In Slovenia, instead of 100 euros, I spent 70. My wife was on the phone to be back in Samobor comparing the prices. It's shameful,'' Beljak stated.

However, and rather surprisingly, Beljak doesn't really blame Plenkovic for this situation. "This situation is unsustainable, but to blame politics for it in the 21st century in a market economy, well... that's what we wanted in the 90s. We wanted the market to determine the price, not for the state to conduct it all. I do blame Plenković for another situation, though, he tries to get involved with things that politics shouldn't be involving itself with. The political spectrum should be dealing with the growth of salaries, pensions, tax relief, the reduction of levies and so forth. Plenkovic and HDZ do none of this. And that's another reason why our purchasing power is weak."

"If someone wants to buy something - that's a matter of the market. The market forms the prices, not the state. The state is there to ensure a higher salary, to make so people are able to buy more in such cases. The state needs to reduce the taxes and levies so that net wages rise, and as such, peoples' purchasing power."

When asked about blacklists for companies taking advantage of the euro Croatia price increase trend, Beljak explained: "Now it can be seen that certain omissions have been made. I think the intention was good in regard to giving people a period of two weeks, which now turns out to have complicated the situation even more. The euro should have been introduced on January the 1st, 2023, and kuna should have immediately been made so it exchanged for euros in banks for a period of one year."

"In general, I'm talking about a system that doesn't work, about an HDZ that doesn't work. It's hard to expect that such a party that simply doesn't care about people in the slightest would even think of doing anything to help or protect them. Plenkovic is now busy rubbing his hands together, and so is his finance minister, because every euro Croatia price increase is an increase in VAT and a bigger payment into the state budget,'' Beljak concluded, noting that HDZ wants more money for ''uhljebs''.

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

Tuesday, 10 January 2023

Karlovac Among First Cities in Europe With Low-Carbon District

January the 10th, 2023 - The Croatian city of Karlovac (close to Zagreb) has become one of the very first cities in all of Europe to boast an impressive low-carbon district of its own.

As Darko Bicak/Poslovni Dnevnik writes, to be more specific, the Regional Energy Agency of Northwest Croatia (REGEA) was one of the partners in the Interreg Europe LC DISTRICTS project, which gave life to Karlovac becoming one of the first cities in Europe of this kind.

The goal of the project was to intervene in the selected strategic document in order to take a step towards the decarbonisation of city districts as we move towards a greener future. As was pointed out, in partnership with the City of Karlovac, the aforementioned agency managed to tale a significant step forward in the overall decarbonisation process by dealing with energy and climate elements in spatial plans.

A brave political decision

"In cooperation with the cities of Northwestern Croatia, with the City of Karlovac as a leader, we recognised spatial plans as one of the key policy documents that can be a trigger or a brake on the decarbonisation of neighbourhoods and cities. Spatial plans are in firmly the hands of local and regional authorities and can be considered as a tool to encourage this transition. Together with the city officials, we decided to develop a plan for a district that will be sustainable, energy efficient and resistant to climate change," they stated from REGEA, headed by director Julije Domac, adding that choosing to head down this particular path was a brave political decision because it meant a sharp change in the current practice. REGEA made all the necessary analyses and suggested how the measures that already existed in the action plans for energy sustainable development and adaptation to climate change (SECAP) of the City of Karlovac should be implemented in the overall spatial plan.

The pilot project itself was designed for the area of the Luscic Urban Development Plan zone. After the initial analyses, REGEA proposed a series of measures to ensure the low-carbon development of the district and its resistance to the effects of climate change to the local powers that be in Karlovac. A process of change followed, in which all city offices, city-owned companies, the academic and business community, non-governmental organisations and individuals were involved.

The result of the process was a spatial plan that was approved by the City Council and which, as the first in all of Croatia, and probably among the first in Europe, paves the way for the sustainability and resistance of a neighbourhood to the constant threat of climate change.

Some of the key features of the wider Karlovac plan are a complete ban on fossil fuels for heating purposes - no natural gas network is foreseen, energy for heating will only come from district heating or heat pumps (which is currently above the national standard in the use of renewable energy sources), and nature-based solutions regarding adaptation to climate change will be encouraged. All of this was done by REGEA in cooperation with the City of Karlovac as part of the wider European LC District project.

Cooperation with ministries

Participation in the LC Districts project enabled the REGEA team to gain insight into good practices from Sweden, Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic. Karlovac, led by Mayor Damir Mandic, therefore represents a pioneering venture here in the Republic of Croatia and will serve as an example of decarbonisation for other city districts throughout the country.

REGEA is now working with the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development and the Ministry of Spatial Planning and Construction to help them implement the steps learned during this process into strategic documents with the aim of facilitating the energy transition, adapting to the effects of climate change and increasing the resilience of local or regional self-government units.

"Even though this may only be a small step at the level of the overall work which lies ahead of us, it's certainly a big one, as it represents the first successful implementation of decarbonisation in a spatial plan", they concluded from REGEA.

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

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