Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Biograd na Moru as a (not so) Alternative Destination

August 2, 2022 – Don’t fancy the crowds of Split or Dubrovnik? Finding accommodation on the islands has become a bit complicated? Don’t worry, we’ll sort you out with an underdog, Biograd na Moru.

The national media are beaming with pride reporting record overnight stays, music festivals are back in full force, and the motorways are finally paying off again. Croatian tourism is where we all hoped it would be. In fact, we’re running out of space with the most popular destinations including the famous cities, Istrian villages, and the islands of Dalmatia. It’s time to start looking for alternatives. We tried telling you to go see Lika and Gorski Kotar, Slavonija and Baranja, but we do understand the desire to stay close to the sea. This is why today we will share a little gem that has got it all. Welcome to Biograd na Moru, famous among Croatians and Czechs, but still waiting to be fully discovered.

The little town of some 6000 residents is located only 30 km south of Zadar and about 50 km north of Šibenik, or 130 km from Split. It is nestled between two bays and overlooks the most indented part of the Adriatic coast. Surrounded by national parks and nature parks, it boasts plenty of tourist and recreational facilities but keeps a calm, homely atmosphere even in the height of summer. Get to know this charming little place through our top list of activities in Biograd na Moru. Here are some of our favourites that we suggest you try this summer:

Beach Hop

Whether you are the type to go for an early morning run and swim, like to chill all day or go late night dipping, you will find a spot that suits your needs. With the most famous ones being Bošana, Dražica, and Soline, Biograd offers a variety of terrain and conditions on its beaches. They range from pebbles and rocks, an open swimming pool for training, to a sandy beach perfect for the little ones. There is plenty of space both in the sun and in the shade. For perfect comfort, we suggest renting a lounge and/or an umbrella. As for sustenance and entertainment, you can find pretty much anything there. The little stands include everything from bakeries, fast food and ice cream to fresh fruit and salads. As for the little ones, there are water slides, aqua parks, playgrounds and attractions such as VR.

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Early morning at the beaches of Biograd. Photos by Author

Chase Sunsets

Thanks to the neighbouring islands being so dense and so close to Biograd, a sunset will look different depending on where you stand. If you plan it just right, you could have it so that you can still see the sun nesting between the islands from one point when it’s not visible from another point just a few hundred metres down. Whether you want to see it reflecting in the sea, disappearing behind Pašman, or glistening through the trees, one thing is always true – every sunset is more beautiful than the previous.

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Photos by Author

Count the Islands

The big ones, the one with the lighthouse, the heart-shaped island… Ugljan, Pašman, Dugi Otok, Sv. Katarina, and Galešnjak can all be seen from Biograd or places nearby. Hop on a ferry and visit some of them, or try counting and naming them while having your afternoon swim, we promise it’s fun both ways!

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Galešnjak Island, photo by PIXSELL (Filip Brala)

Eat and Drink

With pubs and restaurants densely populating the entire stretch of the beach, as well as the city centre, we challenge you to stay hungry or thirsty in Biograd! Start with brunch at the beach, have your afternoon iced coffee in the shade of one of the beach bars, go about your evening enjoying some fresh local seafood followed by Italian-inspired gelato, and of course, round it all up with a cocktail or two right by the sea. If you prefer cooking at home, get up early to catch the local fishermen coming back from their nightly catch and buy some of the best fish directly from them, or visit the local market for more fresh produce. As for edible souvenirs, you can never go wrong with some dried figs and olive oil which are produced in something like every other house. If you notice fruit or olives in backyards, try knocking on their doors and finding out if you can buy some to take home. Chances are, it won’t take more than a few knocks to declare mission success.

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Photos by Author

Get Some Movement In

After you’ve eaten and fed your entire family, never go swimming! Embrace the healthy Dalmatian ways and chill in the shade for a bit until it all settles down. Only after a little nap under the pines will you be ready to move. The 4 km stretch by the sea should be enough for recreational joggers, and if you get up early you will be rewarded by the sun rising above the pines in the most charming of ways. If you prefer running long distances or cycling, we suggest heading out of Biograd, and following the Adriatic Highway towards Zadar for some truly breathtaking views. With most of it being covered with cycling paths, it is suitable for all kinds of activity. It will take you through a few charming little villages, but its true beauty lies in the fact that for the most part, it passes right by the sea and provides perfect little private swimming spots.

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Photo by Adventure Park Biograd

Go on an Adventure

If swimming, running or cycling doesn’t cut it for you, and you need a little bit of adrenaline to spice up your day, try one of the activities at the beach, in the forests, or nearby. Our favourite beach activities include parasailing and jet skiing, followed by renting a SUP and exploring the bays. If you’re looking to entertain the whole family, you can also rent a paddle boat and try sliding down into the open sea. Needless to say, always make sure the weather conditions are right and listen to the advice of experts to stay safe! For those who aren’t afraid of heights, check out Adventure Park Biograd and test your climbing, hanging and ziplining skills, or head out for a day of rides in Fun Park Mirnovec.

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Photo by PIXSELL (Dino Stanin)

Discover Vransko Jezero

Tired of the beach, had too much ice cream, or maybe the sea is too salty? Head out to Lake Vrana, a nature park just a short drive from Biograd, which is also the largest lake in Croatia. With an area of 30.2 km2, it makes up its own ecosystem, with interesting flora and fauna. It is filled with brackish water and is home to many species of fish and birds. The area of the park also encompasses a few localities dating as far back as the 9th century. Even if you’re only out for a day of birdwatching and walking, there is plenty to see. If you’re looking for a more active visit, try renting a bicycle or a kayak, or hike to one of the viewpoints to see the Kornati National Park from above.

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Photos by PIXSELL (Hrvoje Jelavic and Dusko Jaramaz)

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Head of KBC Osijek Gynaecology Clinic Dismissed over Unsuccessful Abortion

ZAGREB, August 2, 2022 - The head of the Gynaecology and Obstetrics Clinic at the KBC Osijek hospital was dismissed after a Health Ministry inspection had found irregularities in the case of an unsuccessful termination of pregnancy in March this year, the hospital's directorate confirmed to Hina on Monday.

The inspection was conducted on the initiative of Health Minister Vili Beroš after a patient had told the media that the Gynaecology Clinic had failed to terminate her pregnancy.

Due to the irregularities observed in the work of the clinic, KBC Osijek director had decided to dismiss the head of the Gynaecology and Obstetrics Clinic as the responsible person.

The KBC Osijek Directorate said they had acted in accordance with the inspection report, stressing that they had carried out internal control before the inspection.

The inspection at the KBC Osijek Gynaecology Clinic was carried out following an unsuccessful termination of pregnancy, after which the patient had again tested pregnant. Unsatisfied with the hospital's statement, Minister Beroš sent inspectors to the hospital.

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Plenković Hopes Schmidt will Take Steps in Favour of Croats in BiH

ZAGREB, August 2, 2022 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković expressed hope on Monday that the international community's High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Christian Schmidt, will take steps to ensure at least minimal equality for Croats after the elections in that country on 2 October.

"We hope that the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, will take steps that will ensure at least minimal equality for Croats after the elections on 2 October," Plenković said during a visit to the southern town of Imotski.

He said that the Croatian government stands "firmly with Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina," but not in a way that insults Schmidt and dissuades him from making a decision in favour of the Croats, as  President Milanović does.

"We are doing that by discussing the substance of the matter with him, to clarify why it would be good for him to do something," Plenković added.

Commenting on the "sabre rattling", he underscored that Croatia "projects stability both as a member of the EU and NATO" and that it is a country that has solved all its national tasks, united its national territory, which will join the euro and Schengen areas this year, and which takes care of Croats outside Croatia, especially Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a constituent people.

He recalled that Bakir Izetbegović has now openly admitted that he negotiated in bad faith, that he conducted the negotiations in such a way as to maintain the status quo.

"That is unacceptable and, in my opinion, it is not very politically smart for him. In fact, it is even disqualifying because it means that you are trying to deceive those with whom you are negotiating, including the international community," the prime minister said.

He pointed to the "huge difference" between the governments in Zagreb and Sarajevo, and noted that the orchestrated pressure from political parties, through the protests in Sarajevo and the threats that Schmidt experienced, certainly did not contribute to making his decision a few days ago, but that he would make a decision after a while.

Plenković is convinced that Bosniak political stakeholders will not change their position. "In my opinion, I don't see how, after key political actors on the Bosniak side have openly said 'we negotiated to pass the time,' how can you expect them to suddenly agree on something at the eleventh hour," Plenković wondered.

Insist on stability, peace and dialogue in Kosovo

Referring to the situation between Kosovo and Serbia, after Priština announced on Sunday that it would regulate number plates as of 1 August, Plenković said that "the issue of number plates has been on the agenda for years."

"As far as I am aware, the Kosovo government has postponed the implementation of their decision for a month. We think it will be resolved by then," said Plenković, calling for "stability, peace and dialogue" to avoid any tensions or even possible conflicts in the north of Kosovo. "That is our general policy and I think we should insist on it."

The Kosovo government announced on Sunday it was ready to postpone the implementation of measures banning entry into Kosovo for people with Serbian ID cards and regulating number plates until 1 September, when the barricades are expected to be removed and freedom of movement fully restored on all roads in the north of Kosovo.

Earlier, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić called on Kosovo and Western countries that support Priština to "come to their senses" in order to avoid possible conflicts after the Kosovo government's administrative decisions, which are disputed by Belgrade, while Priština sees them as an expression of sovereignty.

These are reciprocal measures, because Serbia has not allowed the entry of Kosovo citizens with Kosovo documents for 11 years, but instead issues them with special permits.

'Milanović has caused damage to Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina'

Journalists in Imotski also asked Plenković when the arguments with President Zoran Milanović will end. Milanović said previously that they would end when the Prime Minister "steps into his shoes."

"God forbid anyone in his shoes, let alone me. He is a big pest who has done enormous damage, above all to the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I am telling them this so that they understand and realise what he did was undermining the efforts to help, both the international community and also the high representative and other stakeholders. To step into his shoes would mean doing harm to Croatia or the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina," Plenković said.

He admitted that "some people there think that (Milanović) is doing good." "Here are the results of his policy," Plenković said.

He said that Milanović is fighting with everyone, journalists, commentators, minorities and so on. "So his shoes don't fit me," Plenković concluded.

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

NordLayer: Croatia High Up on Global Digital Nomad List

August the 2nd, 2022 - NordLayer's Global Remote Work Index (GRWI) has produced a global ranking of the best countries for remote work. The American cyber security company has ranked Croatia 22nd out of a total of 66 countries, thanks to its high level of security, openness, quality of life, knowledge of the English language and tourism development.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, on top of all of the above, the Republic of Croatia has numerous advantages compared to first-ranked Germany or indeed the Netherlands, which have a higher cost of living, and in terms of cyber security, Croatia is better than most comparable countries with a warm climate.

The weakest link for Croatia as a desirable country for digital nomads is the infrastructure, from internet speed to the (lack of) digitisation of public services, and it could be better in managing the pandemic.

NordLayer's Global Remote Work Index (GRWI) is otherwise tool for digital professionals used to assess and compare the attractiveness of 66 countries as remote work locations, based on four sets of criteria.

Cyber ​​security, economic and social conditions, digital and physical infrastructure and the response to the global coronavirus pandemic are looked into (covering 10 percent of the total criteria), and only highly reliable and up-to-date data and analyses are used in determining GRWI.

Remote work, which a few years ago seemed to do nothing but raise eyebrows, is now becoming a serious trend in the way people travel and live, partly due to the global pandemic. The results of a Gartner analysis show that hybrid and remote work increased after the outbreak of that unprecedented public health crisis.

Back in pre-pandemic 2019, remote employees accounted for 17 percent of the total number of employees across the world, last year this share stood at 32 percent remote and 51 percent hybrid work, and the findings show that by the end of 2022, more than half of the employees across Europe, as many as 52 percent of them, now work remotely.

Judging by the GRWI index, Europe is the best place for engaging in remote work, with as many as 8 of the 10 leading countries on this ranking, led by Germany, followed by Denmark, the USA, Spain, Lithuania, the Netherlands, then Sweden, Estonia, Singapore and France.

European countries rank highest in cybersecurity thanks in part to GDPR, relative political stability, reasonable local prices, reduced travel restrictions and less need for work visas.

Most of the countries with high English proficiency are also some of the most expensive, such as the US, the UK, Australia, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. The cost of living factor greatly reduces the viability of telecommuting in these countries. NordLayer declared Lithuania a hidden gem for remote work, which was in the top 5 on their list and in 4th place in all of Europe.

Lithuania continues to attract the attention of business investors, making it a fast-growing centre for workers in various fields. This country with probably the fastest internet on the planet ranks second in terms of cyber security, and in terms of internet accessibility, it ranks third in the GRWI ranking.

The best place in the Mediterranean has been occupied by Spain. As an extremely strong tourist destination, it is in 10th place in terms of safety, and the country's attractiveness was not damaged by the shortcomings in terms of internet availability, a very average knowledge of English and the cost of living.

Croatia is even better than Spain in terms of cyber security, which is why it is in a high 6th place out of a total of 66 countries in the entire world. This aspect also includes the legal capacity to protect remote workers, their data, privacy and online work.

Croatia also holds a high position in the aspect of social and economic attractiveness, in which the country is in 11th place on the GRWI scale. This means that the country has political stability, affordable local prices and is very accessible. The population of such destinations is open and communicates easily in English. Croatia is also helped by its tourist attractiveness.

Co-working spaces with high-speed internet are essential for remote workers and digital nomads, and good general infrastructure is essential for leading a comfortable life, NordLayer claims. That's where Croatia continues to be the weakest, stuck in an unenviable 43rd place.

The fact that the Republic of Croatia still has a lot of work to do in this segment is shown by the very recently published Economic and Social Digitisation Index for 2022, according to which Croatia is in 21st place among the 27 EU member states.

As pointed out in the report issued by the European Commission (EC), despite the good results in digital skills, there is still a shortage of experts in information and communication technologies across Croatia, which significantly affects the integration of digital technologies in companies. In addition to that, although Croatia has some very good results in terms of open data, this is unfortunately reduced by poor results in the field of digital public services.

For more on working remotely in Croatia, make sure to check out our digital nomads section.

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

People Seeking Construction Land as Croatian Property Prices Soar

August the 2nd, 2022 - More and more would-be buyers are seeking out land on which they can construct something for themselves as Croatian property prices continue to soar to extremely high levels.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Croatian property prices and their constant increases are apparently unstoppable at this moment in time, but despite the wildly overpriced square footage, demand is far from abating. In addition to houses and apartments, in the last two years ,there has been a significant increase in interest in building land, as reported by HRT.

For two years, Stefano Ladavac intensively searched for construction land in the very heart of Istria. The offer is weak, and the prices have never been higher, he claims. He now considers a plot of land in Sveti Petar u Sumi perfect for the construction of two villas that he will rent out when they're completed.

"We're absolutely satisfied with the price we got, we paid 22 euros per square metre, and approximately the initial average price of construction land in Sveti Petar u Sumi is 40 euros per square metre, so we did very well in that regard,'' said investor Stefano Ladavac.

There isn't much choice to pick from in the City of Zagreb either. The seller of land near the capital's Franjo Tudjman International Airport is asking for 65 euros per square metre. The price is dictated by the market, and according to the market as it is at the moment, that price is very realistic. At the same time, it is twice as high as it was when the construction land was purchased six years ago.

Cheap borrowing encourages buying, and with the current inflation rate as it is, money invested in property will not lose value. Building plots are most in demand in the cities of Zagreb, Split and Zadar, and Croatian property prices for all types of building are at record highs.

"I don't see a situation in which Croatian property prices will come down in the foreseeable future. The market is active, so I think it will continue in this way, given the country's imminent entry into the Eurozone," said real estate agent Mia Vucic.

The latest data from Eurostat shows that Croatian property prices increased by thirteen and a half percent in the first three months of this year alone when compared to the same period last year, which is above the European Union (EU) average.

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

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Croatian AD Plastik Contracts 31.2 Million Euro Job with Stellantis

August the 2nd, 2022 - The Croatian AD Plastik company has contracted a job worth a massive 31.2 million euros with the French-Italian enterprise Stellantis, and it isn't the first time it has succeeded in doing so.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Croatian AD Plastik revealed last week that it has contracted new jobs for the European market worth a huge 31.2 million euros in total.

"The AD Plastik Grupa (Group) has contracted new business with the buyer Stellantis for the European market, with expected revenues of 31.2 million euros and an expected duration of the project of seven years," reads the statement according to a short announcement on the Zagreb Stock Exchange.

This is already the third significant deal the Croatian AD Plastik company has managed to contract with the French-Italian automotive group during this year alone. It's worth noting that back in March this year, the Croatian AD Plastik company reported on a deal contracted with Stellantis worth 71.5 million euros, and at the end of June, it did the same with a contract worth an even higher 85.9 million euros.

On Wednesday last week, the Croatian AD Plastik Grupa reported on its business results for the first half of this year, in which a net loss of 59.46 million kuna was recorded. This loss includes value adjustments in the amount of 75 million kuna made on the basis of an assessment of the recoverability of the assets of the Russian companies of the group, which is of course something which required an overhaul following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and all of the sanctions placed on the country as a result.

The Group's operating income amounted to 433.09 million kuna, which is 30.4 percent less, and the normalised EBITDA of 18.58 million kuna is a significant 77.5 percent lower.

In the report from AD Plastik Grupa, they stated that the half-year results of the group's operations were largely characterised by geopolitical events and the consequences of the semiconductor shortage crisis on the market.

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

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

First Positive Monthly Financial Croatia Airlines Result Recorded in June

August the 2nd, 2022 - The very first positive monthly financial result for the enfeebled national carrier Croatia Airlines was recorded back during the month of June this year.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Darko Bicak writes, the operational loss of the Croatian national carrier Croatia Airlines (CA) during the first half of this year stands at an absolutely enormous 170.3 million kuna, and the net loss is 164.1 million kuna, despite the gradual recovery of demand and mainly due to the increase in fuel prices, Croatia Airlines announced recently.

They pointed out from Croatia Airlines that the company's very first positive monthly financial result since the beginning of the global crisis caused by the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic was achieved back in June this year.

In the period from January to June 2022, a total of 10,054 flights were successfully carried out by Croatia Airlines, which is 85 percent more compared to the same period last year.

558,146 passengers were transported, equal to 2.7 percent more in comparison to the same period back in 2021, but still 42 percent less compared to 960,620 passengers transported in the same period during the pre-pandemic, record year of 2019.

400,887 passengers were transported in international regular traffic, almost three times more than in the same period last year, while 146,428 passengers were transported in domestic regular traffic, twice as many as back during the first half of 2021.

When it comes to charter traffic, 10,831 passengers were transported, which is 77 percent more compared to the same period back in 2021. Cargo transportation was 14 percent higher, and cabins were filled by 56.2 percent, 10.9 percentage points more than back during the first six months of 2021.

The flight structure was adapted to traffic needs and circumstances, and the emphasis was primarily placed on the use of the Q400 fleet in addition to increasing the use of the Airbus fleet.

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

Monday, 1 August 2022

Spaladium Arena in Split Turning into the Largest Indoor Swimming Pool

August 1, 2022 - In the last couple of weeks, the Spaladium arena in Split has been rapidly turning into the largest indoor swimming pool in Croatia.

The European Water Polo Championship will be held there from August 27 to September 10, with of over a thousand participants, at least 300 journalists and an estimated several thousand fans, especially at the end of the competition. 24 national teams will compete in Split - 16 in the men's and eight in the women's competition. For that occasion, the Spaladium arena will have a capacity of nine thousand spectators.

'Everything is going on as planned. We had a lot of modifications in order to find the optimal solution for simultaneously heating the pool and cooling the space, as well as for drainage. The platform around the pool itself, the stage, LED screens and other facilities are being set up, but we expect that seven days before the start of the championship everything will be completely ready,' says Renato Živković, general secretary of the Croatian Water Polo Association, for portal.

The transformation of the sports hall into a swimming pool was planned back in 2010 when the European Championship was held in Zagreb, but it was abandoned 'due to political and technical problems'. In fact, the Spaladium arena was built to be able to host water sports if needed, so there are actually no major problems when converting it. A swimming pool measuring 36 by 25 meters was installed in the large hall, with a volume of two million liters of water, and in the smaller hall, there's one half its size, with a capacity of one million liters.

'It will be very lively in Split at the end of August and at the beginning of September. We are planning a series of accompanying events: the traditional caricature festival has water polo as its theme, so we received a huge number of interesting works from all over the world. The sports museum will exhibit a special exhibition on this topic, a large congress for trainers and doctors will be held in the organization of the Faculty of Kinesiology, and the party will last every day in the city center,' Živković tells us. 

A special attraction will be the installation of a summer pool in the sea on the iconic Bačvice beach, where the first water polo match was played back in 1908. Exhibition matches are planned there, as well as a camp for the youngest water polo players, but 'ordinary' swimmers will also be able to join.

The budget of the European Championship is estimated at around five million euros; apart from the Government, the County and the City of Split, it was strongly supported by several sponsors such as OTP Bank and HEP. The big item was the purchase of two valuable pool shells, which will be dismantled and installed in another location after the championship. As it was agreed that they should belong to Split, we asked Deputy Mayor Antoni Kuzmanić what he would do with them. The two pool shells will be dismantled after the championship, and then installed in another location. 

"We planned to install them at the location of the Mornar swimming pool, where there is already a natural sea pool, but from the technical side it is not the best solution and it is completely unprofitable in the long term. There is no documentation prepared for any of the other locations, and it would be an extreme shame to store the shells because that way they deteriorate very quickly. Therefore, we will call for a tender for their sale, and with that money, we will completely restore the existing Jadran pool in Zvončac,' said Kuzmanić for tportal. Apparently, there are already several cities interested in buying, among others Zadar and Bakar.

Kuzmanić announces that the Split government will soon announce a unique tender for several sports zones in the city - Poljud, Brodarica, Stari plac and the 'Istok project' - and will thereby define the overall sports facilities in the city and meet the needs of all sports. In any case, the new swimming pool complex is planned in the east of the city.

The Croatian Water Polo Association did not make any specific statement about the fate of pool shells: 'It is important that they remain in Croatia and be at the service of athletes and citizens,' says HVS Secretary General Živković. The accountd of the Spaladium arena, part of the never-completed sports and business complex, which is the subject of a number of court cases, was recently blocked by the City of Split due to debt for communal fees in the amount of HRK 23 million. The block was temporarily lifted mostly so that the water polo championship can happen as planned, but the operation of the sports hall after that is very uncertain. The company that manages it is in bankruptcy anyway, and the regular income is not enough to pay all expenses such as energy, employee wages and the mentioned utility fee. It's almost inevitable that the sports hall will have to be sold.

Monday, 1 August 2022

20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years: 17. Getting Sued by a State Institution

August 1, 2022 - Twenty years a foreigner in Croatia. Part 17 of 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years. An introduction to Croatian justice and a hobby that will take up a lifetime in this beautiful land - getting sued by a State institution.

"Finally you became a local. What took you so long?"

"Now you can get citizenship. You finally became a Croat after 18 years."

I used to think that the British had the best sense of humour in the world. To be fair, our humour is pretty good. And, as an aside, below is a quick guide into what the British say, what you think the British say, and what the British ACTUALLY mean. And this table is incredibly accurate. Listen in next time you are talking to a Brit. 

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But the longer I live here, the more I get to appreciate Croat humour. It is dark, for sure (as is all the best humour), and as a foreigner, it almost feels that there is a rite of passage in one's Croatian journey. That when you get to a level of understanding about the way Croatia really functions, it feels as though you are entering a secret kingdom, where the humour is a darker shade of black. 

I felt it first when I came across the word 'uhljeb' (of which much more in Chapter 19 of this series, but for those a little unclear - A Tale of Two Croatias: Before and After the Uhljeb Discovery) - and my relationship with some Croatian friends changed that day. I had become a little more like one of them, and less a foreigner living in his perfect Croatian bubble. 

And so too when I received my first lawsuits at the tender age of 51. It was almost as if you were not really Croatian if you hadn't been sued. It was almost part of the path to citizenship.

While I was terrified at being sued for 100,000 kuna in two separate lawsuits, I was struck that not one single friend expressed sorrow at my news. Shock yes, outrage, to an extent, good humour for sure. But not sorrow.

"I wouldn't worry," said more than one. "It will go on for years, and you will be dead before they find you guilty. For if you are being sued by the Croatian State in a Croatian court..."

I am sure they meant well, but they only terrified me even more. How would I even respond, and where to find a good lawyer to defend me at a price I could afford?

I hadn't done anything wrong either, of that I was pretty confident, but I found myself in the rather bizarre situation after a decade promoting Croatia and its tourism, of being sued twice by the Croatian National Tourist Board, once for defamation for an article I did not write on a portal that I don't own which quoted me. Neither the journalist nor portal were sued, there was no request for a retraction, and the article is still live today in its original format

The second was for a meme, playing around with the national tourist board logo with a bit of satire, ironically including that word 'uhljeb'. It was the cover photo on my private Facebook page for 3 days, got 316 likes, 20 comments, and 9 shares. It was entirely forgotten a day later. 

Until the lawsuit brought it back to life and onto the national evening news and all over most of the national media when news broke of the lawsuits. 

I really had no idea what to do. Friends gleefully (did I mention the lack of sorrow expressed?) explained that the cases would be delayed and adjourned for years, then the judgment would probably go against me in Croatia, and I would probably win in Strasbourg in 2063 in the European courts.

Oh, and there was the small matter of the 8% interest on the amount per year. So if the case was adjourned and delayed for years as my friends predicted, I might have to sell both the kids, not just my first-born.

"And of course, you know that they are not actually paying for any of it, so they probably don't care how long it takes. This is public money of course, paid from your taxes. So, in a way, you are paying for the privilege of suing yourself. Ah, Hrvatska. Welcome to the mad house. Cheers!"

I didn't really know any good Croatian lawyers, apart from a brief association with Vanja Juric, a leading media laywer who represented Index.hr, whose summons to the courts were a lot more frequent than mine. Index had kindly asked Vanja to give me some advice a couple of years ago when the Mayor of Jelsa announced he was suing me in a public meeting (see above), but strangely never followed through on his promise. 

We were distant Facebook friends, and I decided to send her a message, saying that I knew she was the best and probably very expensive, but could she at least tell me how much trouble I was in, and how many children I would have to sell to engage her services. 

I will never forget the first thing she said when we met in her office:

"Paul, the first thing I want to tell you is don't worry. This will be fine. I will be happy to represent you."

And from that moment, my attitude to these lawsuits has moved from one of blind panic to a curious fascination and window into the wonderful Croatian legal system. Vanja is so calm, and so majestic in the courtroom that if she says everything will be ok in the end, then I know it will be. As nobody seems to write about the realities of the lawsuit process in Croatia, at least in English, I decided that I would, starting a mini-blog to document my journey to Strasbourg some 40 years hence. If you want to follow the blow-by-blow account, check out Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit

My last hearing was in early May, and the next hearings for both are in November - remember that 8%?

And the following January, both lawsuits will be entering their fourth calendar year. 

The lawsuits arrived in blue envelopes from the municipal court in Zagreb in October 2020, after the case had been opened in August 2020. The first hearings for each were set for April 10 and May 3 the following year. Did I mention something about 8% interest?

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A week before the first hearing, I asked Vanja if it would be ok to announce that I was being sued on social media, which she confirmed. I guess I was expecting a little reaction from posting the summons as my cover photo, but what happened next was really quite incredible.

Within an hour, my phone rang - a journalist from the national media, RTL Direkt, asking where I was currently. At home in Varazdin, I replied why? Be at Hotel Park in 2 hours for an interview on the lawsuit. And so there I was that evening, on the national news, story number  2.

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The press had a field day. What had been a 3-day Facebook cover long forgotten by all had turned into one of the biggest stories of the day. 

There was even a poll on Index.hr, asking which side readers were on. Almost 17,000 people took part in the poll.

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Offers of money for my legal defence came in from SO many kind strangers; it was truly humbling. I thanked but refused them all. 

Meanwhile, in the Croatian Parliament... 

... my case was raised by Centar MP Marijana Puljak, calling for the dismissal of the Croatian National Tourist Board director, the quashing of the case, and the introduction of anti-SLAPP legistlation into Parliament. 

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The Minister of Tourism was apparently not very happy with the lawsuit and allegedly summoned the director to demand an explanation.

Meanwhile the media invitations kept on coming. 

Good Morning Croatia,  the main breakfast show on national television.

N1 television. And several more. An awful lot of publicity, which one journalist referred to as the biggest PR own goal in the history of the Croatian National Tourist Board. I couldn't comment on that, but it was fab PR for me and TCN. Although I am forever known as 'the blogger the tourist board sued' if I meet people at parties who have never heard of me.

Instant recognition.

Even though I had the soothing voice of Vanja by my side, I was very nervous before my first court appearance. For some reason, I felt that there was a stigma about being sued (obviously I was not Croatian, for here it is a national sport - years ago, I was told that in a population of 4 million, there are about 3 million ongoing lawsuits, most of them property related. If they all took years to conclude, no wonder the country was in such trouble). What would my day in court look like?

"It will be over in 3 minutes," predicted Vanja, "and then a new date will be set in a few months. And so it will go on. But we can go and have a beer after and catch up."

And - as always - she was right. The prosecution produced a last-minute motion which they did not have time to share with Vanja in advance, and the case was adjourned by several months. The first hearing of the other lawsuit was postponed for 3 weeks as the prosecution lawyer had double booked, then it was postponed by 6 months when he had double booked again. When I learned that their lawyer was one of six partners in a firm with 50 lawyers, I marvelled at the fact that he perhaps could not afford a secretary to manage his diary or find a colleague to cover for him.

Remember that 8% interest?

Somewhere into Calendar Year 3 of the meme case, both the director of the national tourist board and myself were called to give evidence about the meme. I was fascinated; what kind of evidence can you give about a meme? It was a meme, satire, posted without comment. What more is there to say? And yet I found myself on the witness stand for about an hour, having to answer questions on what jobs I was doing before I moved to Croatia in 2002, how many Facebook fans I had, and how would I define an 'uhljeb'. It was extraordinary. My proudest moment was learning how many journalists and bloggers had been sued by the national tourist board in the calendar year of 2020. 

Just one.

Me. 

Twice. 

The director almost didn't come to give evidence. The hearing was set for Thursday the 20th, at midday. After busines hours on Friday the 14th, Vanja got an email from her colleague from the prosecution, informing me that the director had to go to a tourism fair in Madrid. As proof, he sent a copy of the ticket, from Tuesday the 18th to Friday the 21st. Even though both our hearing and the fair had been announced 6 months ago (remember that 8%?), we were informed going into the weekend just a few days before. 

I cancelled my court interpreter, and it was agreed that I would appear but not give evidence alone.

Tuesday came and the director was presumably en route to Madrid, representing Croatian tourism on Wednesday too, and not due back until Friday. Imagine Vanja's surprise then when she got an email on Thursday morning, just 3 hours before the hearing, that the director would in fact appear, as he was not in Madrid. Quite why could not have informed us on the Tuesday is anyone's guess. A last-minute scramble to find an interpreter was one more unnecessary stress. 

Both cases rumble on, and they are attracting some interesting and high-profile participants. Next up in November, for example, is the head of legal for the national tourist board, as well as the former Communications Director for Prime Minister Plenkovic giving evidence on my behalf.

The last hearing was perhaps the most surreal. I was co-organiser of a digital nomad conference in Dubrovnik in early May, and the national tourist board kindly sponsored the first evening event. The next hearing in court was in Zagreb the following day. I had the rather unusual experience of greeting the head of global PR at the conference, as she was hosting the evening, then both of us due to fly to Zagreb the next morning for the hearing so that she could give evidence against me. In the end, Vanja told me to stay and enjoy Dubrovnik, but how to go from conference partner to the accused in the courtroom in under 16 hours. Ah, Hrvatska. 

How do I feel about being sued as it drags on for years? I actually don't mind. As I wrote in an earlier chapter, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years: 3. Bureaucracy and Mindset, dealing with Croatia is all about mindset. Go in with a positive attitude and a little humour, and all will appear totally different. It has been a fascinating journey to document, and I am sure there are many more twists and turns to come. 

And the prospect of a visit to Strasbourg when I am 94 is rather appealing... 

One does wonder if the public time and money could be put to better use, however. 

Away from the courtroom, it has been fascinating to see how the whole thing plays out in the media. To see which portals are truly independent in Croatia, and those who do not report on it at all. My favourite moment was a big sponsored article in a major national newspaper and portal (I will not say which) which covered a conference I co-organised. There were 5 speakers at the opening, and the article was comprehensive, including photos of 4 of the 5 speakers in the text. And the text was considerable but managed to omit mention or photo of both me and TCN, the co-organiser. 

Quite impressive. 

There are a lot of other things I could write, but I should probably stop before I get myself into trouble. Being sued has made me see things a little differently, and it has definitely made me feel more Croatian and the realities of the authentic Croatian day-to-day reality.  

And while I am not looking to get sued again, the experience has definitely enriched my time here, and whatever the outcome, I am sure there will be quite a story. 

And quite possibly that 8%...

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And I would be very interested to see what - if anything - happens with this social media post of one of the biggest names in the Croatian media - the twist of the slogan Croatia Full of Life to Croatia Full of Deception. Perhaps we will end up in the dock together. Or not.

****

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.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners will be out by Christmas. If you would like to reserve a copy, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject 20 Years Book

 

Monday, 1 August 2022

Plenković Talks Šemper: He's Not an Official, He's been Dismissed

ZAGREB, 1 August, 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday that the dismissed chief of staff in Deputy Prime Minister Anja Šimpraga's office, Dalibor Šemper, who has been remanded in pretrial detention after causing a hit-and-run accident and injuring a child, is not a state official and is not connected with the HDZ.

"He is not an office holder. He is a civil servant, a man who is not a member of any party, so he has nothing to do with the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union) or the SDSS (Independent Democratic Serb Party). He was employed in the government through a regular job advertisement, I don't know how many years ago. That's not a political function," Plenković told reporters after attending a formal session of the Imotski City Council.

During a conference-call meeting of the government on Monday, Šemper was dismissed from his post following a hit-and-run accident on Friday, in which he seriously injured a child while driving under the influence of alcohol. He has been remanded in one-month pre-trial detention, ordered due to the danger of interfering with witnesses and repeating the crime.

Plenković said it was unbelievable and unacceptable that Šemper did not stop to help the injured child, and the government reacted immediately.

"It is his personal responsibility and it has absolutely nothing to do with politics, let alone some ridiculous theories that politics would try and protect him and cover up the incident," underscored Plenković.

When asked about Vukovar-Srijem County Prefect Damir Dekanić, who caused a traffic accident in an official car around Easter, Plenković said it was not the same because in that incident only material damage was caused.

Speaking about the death of a firefighter near Dubrovnik, Plenković expressed his condolences to the family and Dubrovnik firefighters and said that it was a great tragedy and the death of one of the best firefighters.

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