Friday, 5 February 2021

Croatian Business Owners Don't Believe Protest Will Have Desired Effect

February the 5th, 2021 - Croatian business owners have had their say, but many believe it will be ineffective. The recent protest was covered across the country, but what will actually come of it?

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, several thousand protesters, mainly Croatian business owners, gathered on Wednesday at Zagreb's Ban Jelacic Square to attend a rally organised by the Voice of Entrepreneurs Association (UGP) over dissatisfaction with the Croatian Government's measures to stop the spread of the pandemic and properly compensate business owners who have been banned from working, such as gym, sports centre, cafe and restaurant owners.

The main demand of the gathered Croatian business owners, who were mostly from the catering and hospitality sector, as well as gym owners who have been banned from working since November, is fair compensation for the ban on their work, but the protesters are also bothered by discrimination in the imposed measures. Most of them are also asking for the re-opening of cafes, which have not been confirmed as places where the virus has spread more rapidly or more efficiently, but a decent number of those protesters still don't expect the move to bring about the changes they're asking for.

"Our action is not directed against the epidemiological measures, we just wanted to show that we're dissatisfied with the economic measures that aren't sufficient or adequate. Measures to preserve jobs of 4,000 kuna are intended for employees and can't be a measure of assistance for business owners. We aren't living, we're simply surviving. We want quality economic measures and a plan for how the government will help the economy. We're seeking compensation for all Croatian business owners who have had to close their doors.

We believe that it's now high time to think about the activities that are closed almost all year round. The event industry, travel agencies and the occasional transport of passengers are recording huge losses, and there's no help for them,'' said Drazen Orescanin, Executive Director of UGP. He added that Croatian business owners need clear announcements of any new or altered measures in time, and that they don't want to hear about the new measures in the media and wonder what they're going to be as if it's a lottery.

Andrija Klaric, the owner of a Zagreb gym who was arrested on Monday after opening it that morning, also addressed those gathered. Marin Medak stepped in as the former president of the National Association of Caterers, now a member of its supervisory board, saying that the state is treating those in hospitality and catering as if they're mere third-class citizens. At a press conference held almost at the same time, members of the National Civil Protection Headquarters told the protesters that the measures would be eased when the conditions were met, which is something that is being monitored continuously.

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Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Jutarnji List: Croatian Cafes Open on Monday 15 February (and Gyms too)?

February 2, 2021 – The wait is over! In less than two weeks, Croatian cafes and gyms will open, if infection numbers continue on their current downward trajectory

With the spring season just around the corner, people will soon be able to once again enjoy coffee on the sun-filled daytime terraces of Croatian cafes. If Coronavirus infection numbers continue on their current downward trajectory, Croatian cafes and gyms will open on Monday 15 February. All businesses will still have to operate under strict epidemiological measures.


Deputy Prime Minister and the Chief of Staff, Davor Božinović, spoke about the forthcoming concessions on Croatian cafes and gyms, but a fuller picture of how the concessions will actually look was discovered unofficially by Croatian daily Jutarnji List. It was published in the evening of Monday 1st February 2021. The good news soon travelled across Croatia. It will come as a great relief to many independent business owners who have not been allowed to operate.

Business owners have been increasingly on edge over recent weeks, with protest openings of Croatian cafes and gyms threatened to take place in defiance of the current ban on operations (indeed, some did). Owners of Croatian cafes were particularly irked by the seeming inconsistencies in current measures – fast food outlets, gas service stations and bakeries were all permitted to sell coffee to go. People took advantage of this and thereafter congregated on the streets outside such businesses to enjoy their drinks. But, Croatian cafes were still not permitted to service people wishing to drink on outside terraces in almost exactly the same manner.


Monday 15 February has long been announced as the next review date for the imposed Coronavirus measures. But, until now, nobody was certain in which way – if any – measures would be relaxed.

Under unofficial plans, from Monday 15 February Croatian cafes will be able to serve coffee and drinks to be consumed on outside terraces, with strict epidemiological guidelines in place.

Croatian cafes and gyms opening on 15 February will be conditional on a continued downturn in infection numbers and the absence of new Coronavirus strains appearing in Croatia

The re-opening of Croatian cafes and gyms is wholly dependent not only on the continuing downturn in numbers of infected but also on the condition that new strains of Coronavirus - specifically those first detected in the UK and South Africa - do not appear in Croatia between now and then.

"If the indicators are good, if the numbers go down, we will certainly not be reluctant to react,” Deputy Prime Minister Davor Božinović said, regarding the 15 February review, “our aim to strike a balance between everything - with an emphasis on health care - has brought us to a position where Croatia has the least stringent measures in the EU."

Coronavirus infection numbers in some other European territories remain at an alarmingly high rate, although a corresponding relaxation in measures for some regions of Italy was similarly announced over recent days. This is the second time since the start of the pandemic that stricter measures imposed by the Croatian government – and a widespread public observance of these measures and other guidelines - have successfully produced the intended results.

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Zagreb Cafes Protest Opening 1st Feb Cancelled, Fines Too Severe

January 31, 2021 – The planned cafes protest in Zagreb and elsewhere, which was due to see 100 facilities open their doors on Monday 1st February in defiance of the current ban on their operations, has been cancelled. Huge fines and the threat of prison are the reason for the climb down. Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Tomislav Coric appealed to caterers for patience.

The proposed Zagreb cafes protest organised for Monday 1st February has been cancelled. The protest was due to see some catering facilities and gyms open their doors to the public in defiance of the current nationwide ban on operations in such facilities. Around 100 businesses were said to be joining the Zagreb cafes protest.

"Although it has been rumoured that more than 100 caterers in Zagreb will open their facilities on February 1, mostly cafes, or at least start issuing coffee and drinks outside, despite the work ban, it does not seem this will (now) happen, as many have withdrawn after seeing all the consequences that could befall them if they do, " Franz Letica, president of the Zagreb Caterers' Association, told Hina by telephone after the meeting.

On Friday 29 January, the Association of Caterers in Zagreb announced the opening of at least 100 bars and Croatian cafes would open on Monday. An informal meeting of caterers, many who were due to take part in the cafes protest, took place on the afternoon of Saturday 30 January. It seems that at the meeting, plans for the cafes protest fell apart. Caterers had faced the possible punishment of fines - from 20 thousand kuna to 70 thousand kuna - and up to three years in prison for defying the law and opening during the cafes protest.

Petra Odobašić, the owner of a catering facility from Zagreb who attended Saturday's informal meeting, also confirmed to Hina there would be no mass opening on Monday, but that only a dozen caterers would continue with the cafes protest. This handful of establishments were described as being situated mostly in the Dubrava area of Zagreb. Around 80 caterers attended Saturday's informal meeting, mostly from Zagreb, but some from other areas such as Karlovac.

Appearing on Croatian television on Saturday 30 January, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Tomislav Coric appealed to caterers for patience.

"We hope there will be (patience)," he said when asked about the proposed act of defiance, "given that we have explained the epidemiological situation we are currently in. We need to think about the season - spring and summer - this will be the time when we can all reap the fruits of responsibility together."

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Warnings of Enormous Fines if Croatian Cafes Open Doors on Monday

January the 31st, 2021 - Croatian cafes are planning to open their doors as a sign of both protest against the extended anti-epidemic measures and of desperation on Monday, but warnings of astronomical fines will likely be enough to put many off the idea.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, after a number of Croatian cafes and the owners of other such establishments who are currently banned from working publicly stated after the government's decision to extend the lockdown measures that they plan to open their facilities on February the 1st, which is openly supported by some of their associations, the National Association of Caterers posted a warning on social media, reminding them that any such move would be breaking the law.

As is now known, on Friday, the Association of Caterers in Zagreb announced the opening of at least 100 bars and Croatian cafes on Monday, announcing a meeting over the weekend at which the details of the action will be polished up. Hrvoje Bujas, the president of the Voice of Entrepreneurs Association (UGP), said on Friday that he would open his own cafe, but noted that he was aware that the association couldn't promote it because it would be a criminal offense. Instead, they're looking for another way to exercise the rights they seek, and they're doing so together with the National Association of Caterers, which had a change of leadership last weekend when Jelena Tabak from Split was elected president after the resignation of Marin Medak.

In last night's announcement, the National Association notes that the Association cannot knowingly encourage Croatian cafes to open their doors and as such violate the Law on Civil Protection and the Law on Protection of the Population from Infectious Diseases.

"Such violations entail draconian fines - both financial ones and prison sentences, not only for those who do this, but also for those who incite it, aware or unaware of the law - from 20 to 70 thousand kuna and up to three years in prison. This doesn't mean that we don't understand the situation our colleagues who are thinking about it are in, given that there is less and less room for maneuver and more and more accumulated obligations. That doesn’t mean we don’t often think about it ourselves. Despite the news of open catering and hospitality establishments in Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic, the fact is that throughout the European Union, there's a lockdown, except for the working hours of a limited set of establishments in Spain.

Violation of the laws of the Republic of Croatia is something we don't want to encourage, especially if it means we're endangering the lives and health of our colleagues,'' the National Association of Caterers announced on its Facebook page.

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Saturday, 30 January 2021

Croatian Caterers Announce Lawsuits and Disobedience in Face of Measures

January the 30th, 2021 - Croatian caterers and others in the hospitality sector have been met with the extension of their work ban and many are now claiming that enough is enough.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, the government's decision to extend the lockdown for Croatian caterers, others in the hospitality sector and gyms in the new set of epidemiological measures has met with harsh criticism on the ground, and announcements of civil disobedience, ie opening up facilities despite the continuation of the work ban, have already started.

Although they understand that decisions are made to protect public healh, Croatian caterers don't understand why everyone can sell coffee to go and coffee outside except cafes. As such, they feel discriminated against and have warned that they can no longer afford to go on in this way financially, especially not without additional subsidies.

The Croatian Employers' Association says that it will ask the government to extend the existing measures to support Croatian caterers and other business entities to alleviate the pressure caused by the coronavirus crisis even after February, and to do so for as long as the economic consequences of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic remain present. They have also asked that this be so even for those who haven't had their work banned or limited.

As it is now known, the government recently made a decision to relax measures which restrict sport and other such activities, but this goes only for outdoor activities, and a return to school for all primary school children is also happening. For the economy, the situation remains more or less the same until mid-February, when the measures will be revised again.

''We're seeking an urgent meeting!’'

"The National Civil Protection Headquarters made this decision because they believe that it isn't epidemiologically correct to open cafes, because it encourages people gathering together. Furthermore, it was concluded that due to the fact that we failed to create a collective awareness of compliance with the measures, Croatian caterers can't work because their job also involves personal happiness and individual satisfaction, not just selling items.

We believe that the Headquarters doesn't actually have a real picture of the situation on the ground and we've requested an urgent meeting in this regard. We believe that this decision is not particularly wise, but everyone chooses their own path when it comes to fighting the pandemic.

We do respect these decisions, but for as long as we don't have adequately implemented financial assistance, we can't be expected to stop fighting for a fair balance between compliance with epidemiological measures and the financial damage it brings,'' stated the National Association of Caterers.

However, as the new president of the association, Jelena Tabak, revealed, the association doesn't plan to organise or actively encourage any activities which could be classed as civil disobedience, ie opening facilities without the green light from both the Headquarters and the government.

"We aren't for that, but we won't be able to control the situation on the ground if it starts to happen. We've told those who are our members that whoever opens their doors must be held individually responsible for such a decision,'' warned Tabak.

The association is expecting an invitation from the Headquarters and the government, and on the table will be the Croatian caterers' request to be paid a fee of 3 percent of their annual turnover in order to survive until they can open their doors again. This is a total amount of 450 million kuna of support that they asked for a week ago, but so far they haven't received a rejection or support from the Government on this topic.

“We also don't yet have any court decision that the write-off of fixed costs will continue for January and February, and we ask to no have to pay in advance for the services for which we should receive a write-off. We're seeking an urgent meeting with the Headquarters, to whom we want to explain why the Croatian caterers aren't encouraging the spread of the infection,'' said Jelena Tabak. Croatian caterers are ready to wait for answers to these questions, but only until the middle of next week.

Others have announced a form of 'revenge'...

The Voice of Entrepreneurs Association (UGP) is much more direct in their views, their president, Hrvoje Bujas, has announced that they will still consult, but various options for finally taking action are being considered, from lawsuits to civil disobedience. Some Croatian caterers have announced the opening of their respective facilities on February the 1st, and have even called for lawsuits against the state.

Their position is that mass opening would not be possible to prevent or sanction, and so they're calling for just that.

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Friday, 29 January 2021

Hercegovac Begs Cro PM 'Open Borders So I Can Send My Wife To Her Mother'

January 29, 2021 – Lockdown is apparently taking a toll on one Hercegovac. The man from Široki Brijeg wrote to Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and begged him to reopen the borders between Croatia and Herzegovina so he could eject his wife from the family home for a month and send her to his mother-in-law's

The message from Hercegovac Ante Zovko (Ante Marinkov) was reposted on the Facebook page Imocki crnjaci where it picked up some 3 thousand likes in less than 6 hours.


The town, Široki Brijeg, where this particular Hercegovac (a man from Herzegovina) lives is just 35 kilometres from the border with Croatia. Lots of Croatians live in this area, including this Hercegovac, his wife and his child. But not, it would seem, his wife's mother, who apparently lives in Croatia.

AnyConv.com__Panorama-široki07419.jpgŠiroki Brijeg in Herzegovina, around 35 kilometres across the border from Croatia © Anto (talk)

The Hercegovac's reason for wishing to eject his wife and child for a month was to change up the atmosphere for a time. One presumes he was not being entirely serious with his request.

The Hercegovac is not the first man to seemingly reach the end of his tether while restricted to staying in the family home. In April 2020, after just one month of being housebound, a man from a village near Osijek in Slavonia left his wife in the family home and went to live nearby in a tent.

Speaking anonymously at the time, the man's neighbour told the local news portal the couple have been happily married for 30 years. But, it seems the pressure of being around each other so closely during the lockdown was too much even for their strong union.

The neighbour was happy to report that since his friend pitched his tent in the nearby locale, relations between the man and his wife had actually returned to their usual levels of warmth and friendliness. The wife even came regularly to visit her husband in his tent.

6081683_f79a9255_originaldoggo.jpg© John Waring

"My neighbour has been in his tent for a few days now,” he told the portal back in April. “He puts up a table and chairs in front. Occasionally our other neighbour comes over to drink some rakija (with him). I visited him too.”

The neighbour said his friend had quit the family home due to boredom more than anything else. Even after being happily married for 30 years, being around each other 24 hours a day was apparently just too much.

Perhaps in this more chivalrous response from the Slavonian man, Hercegovac Ante Marinkov could take some inspiration? After all, it's surely easier if one person departs from his family home in order to change the atmosphere than if two are forced to leave. Ante should find a nice spot in the fields nearby – not too close – and simply pitch up a tent. Problem solved! If he's lucky, his wife might come to visit bringing rakija.

Friday, 29 January 2021

VIDEO: Prohibition-Era Nightclubbing Zagreb, 33 Fined

January 29, 2021 – It has all the ingredients of a movie about Al Capone or Lucky Luciano in 1920s Chicago - illicit, hidden drinking dens, dancing girls, bullets, guns, gangsters and a police raid, only with a neon lighting scheme that remains fashionable strictly in Balkan clubs. Welcome to Prohibition-era nightclubbing Zagreb

It has all the ingredients of a movie about Al Capone (main picture) or Lucky Luciano in 1920s Chicago - illicit, hidden drinking dens, dancing girls, bullets, guns, gangsters and a police raid, only with a neon lighting scheme that remains fashionable strictly in Balkan clubs. Welcome to Prohibition-era nightclubbing Zagreb.

Croatian police have issued a video of a raid they undertook to shut down a Prohibition-era nightclubbing party in Zagreb. Inside the venue, they found 33 persons. None were wearing masks.

One young man at the party was caught with a pistol and bullets. If it weren't for the police's modern helmets with visors and the Balkan-cool neon lighting, you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching Eliot Ness and The Untouchables busting an illegal speakeasy. All cafes, restaurants, bars and nightclubs are supposed to be closed at the moment under measures adopted to counter the spread of Coronavirus.

Screenshot_129.pngThe pistol found by police while conducting a search on a 24-year-old at the club - Youtube screenshot

In the original era of America's Prohibition, under which the production, import, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages was illegal, Al Capone ultimately received an 11-year prison sentence for tax evasion and Lucky Luciano was looking at 30 - 50 years until he struck a deal and agreed to be deported to Italy. Thankfully, there are no mafia murders connected to this tale of Prohibition-era nightclubbing in Zagreb.

Depiction of an illicit nightclub - a speakeasy - in Prohibition-era America from the classic 1976 Alan Parker-directed children's movie and musical 'Bugsy Malone'

In addition to the video, the police released a statement about the prohibition-era nightclubbing raid:

"During the operation, a total of 33 people were found, identified and checked in said facility. No coercive measures were used during the actions of the police officers. 33 people were found not wearing protective masks, which is why the police officers issued them three Notices of Misdemeanor and 30 fines were collected for violations of Article 47, paragraph 2, item 9 of the Law on the Protection of the Population from Infectious Diseases.

Furthermore, for one of the caught persons, a 24-year-old was searched and a gas pistol was found in his possession, for which he was issued a Mandatory Misdemeanor Order for the offence under Article 27, paragraph 2 of the Law on procurement and possession of weapons by citizens.

Screenshot_139.pngBullets found by the police at the prohibition-era nightclubbing scene in Zagreb

Also, officials of the Directorate of Civil Protection found violations of epidemiological measures contrary to the Decision on necessary epidemiological measures restricting gatherings and introducing other necessary epidemiological measures and recommendations to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 through gatherings. Due to performing catering activities contrary to the decisions of the Civil Protection Headquarters, officials of the State Inspectorate, Tourist Inspection, Zagreb Regional Office found a violation of Article 9A of the Catering Act and issued an oral decision banning the work, and the facility was sealed for at least 30 days. Misdemeanor proceedings will be initiated against the legal and responsible person.

As part of the criminal investigation, the 45-year-old owner of a catering facility was taken to the official premises of the Zagreb Police Administration for a criminal investigation on suspicion of having committed the criminal offence of "Spreading and Transmitting an Infectious Disease" under Article 180. He will be handed over to the custody supervisor after the criminal investigation is completed”

Prohibition in the United States took place in a 13 year period between 1920 and 1933. It is highly unlikely that the bars and cafes of Zagreb will be asked to remain closed for such a length of time. This is not the first instance of Prohibition-era nightclubbing taking place irrespective of epidemiological guidelines in Zagreb. In late November 2020, Croatian media (including Juarnji List) widely reported on police raids that took place at two Zagreb venues, even though measures adopted in the fight against the pandemic were at that time more relaxed.

Thursday, 28 January 2021

Bernard Tkalcec: Zlatni Klas and Other Restaurants Plan to Open on 1 February

Bernard Tkalcec, the owner of the Zlatni Klas restaurant, is set to open his doors on the 1st of February in a sign of both protest and pure desperation in the face of ongoing coronavirus restrictions which continue to place enormous pressure on the catering and hospitality sector.

As ePodravina/Kristina Kos writes on the 28th of January, 2021, although there were certain announcements, the National Civil Protection Headquarters and the Government made a decision today that cafes will not be able to sell coffee outside or coffee to go, let alone work normally, until restaurants are permitted to open their doors.

Local portal ePodravina talked to numerous local establishment owners about how they're planning to survive when they can now sadly barely even make ends meet. The most clear of all of them was Bernard Tkalcic, the owner of the Zlatni Klas rural tourism establishment in Otrovanac near Pitomaca, which includes a restaurant and accommodation facilities.

''I'm part of an initiative of caterers called Let us work/Dajte nam da radimo in which a lot of entities are involved. We're currently in negotiations and I can tell you that a good part of us will open our doors on the 1st of February in protest, following the example of the Czech Republic and Italy. I believe that there will be about five thousand of us, and I will certainly be one of them,'' he announced. Bernard Tkalcec says that Croatia's caterers are now on their knees in desperation and that the state has well and truly turned its back on them.

''We saved people's jobs, but the subsidies don't even arrive on our accounts on time, and where are the other costs? We do make food for delivery, but those are the little things. Our traffic has dropped by 70 percent, this is no longer sustainable,'' Bernard Tkalcec warned.

He noted that he will open his doors out of desperation and explained that even serving coffee to go or coffee for cafe terraces makes no sense.

''People have already adapted to going and having coffee at petrol stations and at kiosks, and the points where they gather aren't controlled by anyone anyway. In the meantime, over 1000 caterers have already gone bankrupt, and the number of unemployed people is increasing every single day,'' said a concerned Bernard Tkalcec. He is of the opinion that the measures are too harsh and counterproductive.

''I'm disappointed that after 43 years of business I have to think about my very survival. These are measures that look like watching someone eat peanuts and cake when you're hungry,'' he concluded.

Goran Kvakaric, the owner of three cafes in Koprivnica, says that the situation is hopeless and that they can't just keep waiting and waiting for the moment they're told they can open.

''This is all an expensive joke, especially the announcement of the opening of the terraces and coffee outside. I don’t know how we could settle anything that way, and we pay 28 percent VAT!,'' he said, adding that Mayor Jaksic made it easier for them not to have to pay an rent for terraces and reduced the consumption tax. Vladimir Rus, a fellow owner and he president of the Koprivnica Caterers' Guild, agrees with him, saying that he wouldn't even bother opening his facility just to serve coffee outside or coffee to go.

Zeljko Evacic, the owner of the Latino bar in Krizevci, which is also a nightclub, complained that their traffic had dropped by 70 percent, even though they provide food and beverages outside anyway.

''The 500-square-metre restaurant can't survive by serving a few coffees outside or through the window, and our traffic has dropped drastically in the last few months before closing. It all depended on the number of infected people on any given day,'' he stated.

Hrvoje Bujas from the Voice of Entrepreneurs Association also spoke about the planned non-compliance with the measures, saying that this decision was catastrophic, and he made it known that he would not sit still when it comes to this.

''We waited and waited for the decision of the government to relax the measures, the hills shook, and then one big nothing was born! The decision itself is catastrophic and discriminatory, so some can sell coffee (bakeries, for example), and others who have MTU, and the necessary permits - can't! We're going to consult with all independent associations that support our work, independent initiatives, as well as with all of you, our members, we also have plenty of options from lawsuits to civil disobedience, and all options are open. #I want to work,'' Bujas wrote.

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Thursday, 28 January 2021

Final Draft Being Honed: Some Easing of Croatian Measures Coming

January the 28th, 2021 - The very gradual easing up of Croatian measures against the spread of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, is set to begin. The final draft of what we can expect after the expiration of the current measures, due on the 31st of this month, is now being polished up.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the brushing up of the package of the slight easing of Croatian measures that are set to replace the current ones on February the 1st isn't over yet. Discussions are still going on, two days ago the matter was discussed at a coalition meeting in the Government, and epidemiologists held meetings with various ministers who represent domains of currently banned economic activity on Monday, reports Jutarnji list.

The government will most likely present the package at a session on Thursday, explaining how those whose operations have been suspended or restricted due to epidemiological measures will continue to be financially supported.

Meetings of epidemiologists of the Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ) with representatives of the Ministries of Economy, Tourism and Sport, Science and Education and the Interior were held on Monday, and epidemiologists gave their final suggestions on the easing of Croatian measures.

Some interlocutors of Jutarnji list claim that in this new wave of concessions, caterers would be exempt, ie that cafes will not be allowed to sell coffee outside or to go because that would mean the partial opening of cafes, which increases the overall epidemiological risk, while others say that this matter hasn't yet been agreed upon.

The president of the National Association of Caterers, Jelena Tabak, says that they have no information about a possible concession, and they have the impression that cafes will be allowed to at least issue coffee outside/coffee to go, but they ask that support measures remain in place for restaurants.

When it comes to re-opening schools, at the coalition meeting, everyone agreed that the decision to open them back up again should be left to individual counties, depending on the epidemiological situation, Jutarnji list writes.

"There will certainly be some concessions. At the national level, children from the 5th to the 8th grade will be allowed to return to school, talks are being held intensively to allow sport and outdoor recreation to take place. For everything else, we'll just have to see, at this moment we don't have any definitive information on what will be allowed and what won't,'' said the head of the CNIPH, Krunoslav Capak, on Tuesday.

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Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Will Croatian Establishment Owners Take to Streets in Protest?

January the 26th, 2021 - Will Croatian establishment owners end up taking to the streets to protest the ongoing measures banning their work, or will they opt for a situation in which everyone opens and begins working again despite what the National Civil Protection Headquarters say?

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Croatian establishment owners who are banned from working have stated that they are very much ready to start working again as soon as possible, claiming that people are now running out of energy, bars are having to permanently close every single day and that as a sector they are thinking about the possibility of taking to the streets in protest or all simply re-opening in groups on the same day.

Marija Bubas, Assistant Director of the Croatian Institute of Public Health, Dino Kozlevac, Chief of Staff of the Istria County, Ivan Vestic, President of the Athletics Federation, and Drazen Biljan, a Croatian establishment owner, all said their piece recently for an HRT programme.

The topics included easing the current strict anti-epidemic measures and Croatia's now favourable epidemiological situation.

In the introductory part of the show, Bubas said that the Croatian epidemiological situation is only getting better, but it isn't what you'd call great yet. She believes that just as measures should be introduced gradually, they should also be gradually relaxed in the same manner, and she doesn't know what the first thing to be eased up will be because it is still being very carefully considered.

As for the measures, she said it's difficult to satisfy everyone, but that public health always comes first. She added that economic activities, education, and also the public health interest in not putting pressure on the healthcare system must be preserved as much as possible and that healthcare services must be provided to all those who need it, when they need it.

Asked in which segment the anti-epidemic measures will be eased first, she said it's difficult to choose. She believes that a new set of measures will be introduced, but she has stated that she doesn't know which sector will be the first to breathe a sigh of relief.

Biljan believes that all sectors in the hospitality industry should be equalised, but that ''serving coffee to go is a mere few crumbs in terms of their survival". They asked for the possibility of deliveries, but that makes up less than 3 percent of the income of such facilities, which will not help them in almost anything. He talked about the consequences of lockdown, saying that Croatian establishment owners are now on the floor and have no one to pick them up and help them at all.

It was announced that children could go to sport training again and that gyms would be re-opened, Vestic said that these measures leave long-term consequences - sport clubs have been losing children for months now. After the first lockdown, it took six months for his club to have the same number of members and for the children to actually return. He believes that some sportsclubs shouldn't have been closed - especially those which take place outdoors and where children aren't in direct physical contact.

Many clubs are complaining about unequal treatment. Vestic said the measures were selective, accusing them of even involving lobbying. The head of Istria's Civil Protection Headquarters also demanded that gyms and sport clubs be opened.

Kozlevac asked for the work of gyms and sport clubs to be allowed, he is satisfied with the announcement that this will happen, but he says that they are being very careful and monitoring the epidemiological situation. He said that the number of patients in Istria County had been falling for five entire weeks and that they could now start easing the measures. They estimated, he added, that sport centres and individual sports can now be allowed. He expects the profession to find a solution and that the measure will be adopted from February the 1st, when the review is due.

Students in Istria County are still taking their classes online and this decision is also valid until the end of January. They're assessing the situation and will decide how to proceed in the coming days. They don't want to jeopardise the good epidemiological situation and believe that the measures must be gradually relaxed.

A Croatian establishment owner: We're now considering a group opening

When asked how long the Croatian establishment owners and their businesses such as cafes can last in these harsh and restrictive times, Biljan says that they're now finished and that they want to start working as soon as possible. According to official data, 1,098 Croatian cafes have been closed down since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. A long return of guests awaits them, he said. They are skeptical and think that it will take a long time for them to return to anywhere close to normal. All Croatian establishment owners should, Biljan said, be permitted to open their doors again at the same time, it isn't good to divide them up.

"We're not an island within Europe, we have to monitor the situation in the area," said Bubas. She added that the experiences of other countries should also be looked at.

"Sport has suffered more than you think," said Vestic. He warned of illogicalities regarding the measures in force.

Protests by Croatian establishment owners under the slogan "I will open" have been going on for days in nearby Italy, and Biljan says that here in Croatia, business owners are also very close to that because they have had enough and are now more than ready to work.

"We've fully respected the measures agreed with the Civil Protection Headquarters. I think the vast majority of restaurants are a safe place for guests. We're here to respect the measures to the maximum, in agreement with the Headquarters. We're ready to start working as soon as possible, people are running out of energy, tills are empty, bars are closing down every day and we're thinking about the possibility of going out onto the streets or organising a group opening, where we all open again on the same day,'' warned Biljan.

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