Sunday, 5 January 2020

Isolation as Zirje Has No Internet or Phone Connection for One Month

While life on an isolated Croatian island, away from the hustle and bustle of life on the mainland might look like a dream, the reality is often a stark contrast. These gorgeous islands, of which Croatia has more than 1,000 in total, are dotted along the glorious coastline like rough emerald gems, some are inhabited and some aren't, but the islanders have it far from easy. Zirje is just one example.

As Jurica Gaspar/Morski writes on the 4th of January, 2020, more complaints have come from Sibenik city councillor and environmental activist Anton Dobra after a series of traffic problems affecting the island of Zirje. This time, the complains have been about another, rather pressing problem; there has been no telephone signal and internet connection on Zirje for a month now. And we're now very deeply in the 21st century.

“Greetings from one of Zirje's peaks. What a wonderful view of the Kornati islands. Now, they're all going to say, ah, look at that Dobra guy, how he's taking photos of the sunset again, he's really gone mad.

But it's the morning, the bura has blown, it's freezing, and there's not so much as a seagull to be seen, let alone hear. But, there's a telephone signal and internet connection at the top of this peak. God forbid you slip and fall down this cliff, who would you call when your connection to the world from the island of Zirje has been gone for weeks? So, if you are thinking of falling down and breaking your leg a bit then you have to do it from up at the top of the hill.

For the past three weeks, I've been hunting squid from here, at 100 metres in height, and I must add that I've not managed to catch any, but I do it because at least here I'm sure that if my fuel runs out I can call someone for help. So, if any of you people know anyone from t-com, tell them there's been no mobile network for weeks. I mean... we don't have shops and ships when the bura blows, but for even our phone network disappear in the winter, well, you just can't believe it,'' Dobra wrote on social media.

Nevertheless, Morski were actually able to contact him, but as he says, that was only because he climbed to the top of the hill to grab some phone signal.

''I'm at the top of the hill now, the top of this hill in my car is practically my office now. I come in the morning and evening to browse through my emails. I'm shocked and sad that in the 21st century there's simply no telephone and internet signal on most of the island of Zirje. God forbid something happens...'' then Morski and Dobra were disconnected, and indeed until the conclusion of the original article, they were not able to reach him again.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle page for much more.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

MEP Picula: Rural Areas and Islands Also Included in Green Deal

ZAGREB, December 12, 2019 - Over the next two years the EU will provide an additional 4 million euro to finance the transition of rural areas and islands to clean energy sources, following an initiative by Croatian MEP Tonino Picula. Through the European Green Deal, currently the most important EU document, the European Commission has decided to focus special attention on rural areas and islands, bearing in mind their exposure to climate change and natural disasters as well as the extraordinary potential for a transition to renewable energy sources that they have, Picula's office said in a press release on Thursday.

Seven months ago, Picula put forward two amendments to the EU budget, each worth 2 million euro. One concerned his initiative for the transition of islands to clean energy sources, which he launched four years ago, while the other proposed applying the same model to rural areas.

After an evaluation by the Commission and lengthy negotiations within the European Parliament and with the Council, the amendments have also been adopted through the EU budgets for 2020 and 2021.

As many as ten Croatian Adriatic islands, namely Cres, Ilovik, Lošinj, Male Srakane, Velike Srakane, Susak, Unije, Brač, Hvar and Korčula, are currently implementing preparatory projects for the transition to clean energy.

More island news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

MEP Picula: Two Million Euros for Energy Transition on Croatian Islands

As Morski writes on the 20th of November, 2019, at a recent Clean Energy Forum for EU islands, which was held in Croatia for the first time, Croatian MEP Tonino Picula presented the priorities and long-term initiatives of the European Parliament to finance the EU's energy transition.

''An agreement between the European Council and the European Parliament on the budget for 2020 secured through the action plan a new two million euros for technical assistance to the islands for applications for European renewable energy projects in the next two years,'' the Croatian MEP confirmed, who then delivered a speech in Split at the fourth Clean Energy Forum for EU Islands, which is being held in the presence of senior Croatian officials, as well as officials from other EU member states.

However, this is not the only piece of good news about European and Croatian islands to come to light, as representatives of the Cres-Lošinj archipelago announced their strategy and transition plan for clean energy within the Forum, with the aim to switch exclusively to renewable energy by 2040, which will be achieved in part by local community-owned solar power plants.

The Cres-Lošinj archipelago is among the six European islands to have recently announced their strategies and transition plans, the others being the Aran Islands (Ireland), Culatra (Portugal), La Palma (Spain), Salina (Italy) and Sifnos (Greece). The Forum will showcase a number of examples of good practice and foster dialogue between the various actors involved in the energy transition process of European islands, and participants will have the opportunity to see different technological solutions.

Picula welcomed the initiative by the Croatian islanders, who from the ten islands involved in the previous call for funding energy transition projects are now the leaders on a European scale.

However, he stressed that the sustainability of the European islands' energy transition requires both long-term and appropriate funding for complex, comprehensive projects and adequate investment in research and innovation to devise workable solutions to facilitate this energy transition, adding that he hoped that talks on the long-term financing of the energy transition of Croatian islands will begin during the Croatian Presidency of the Union in 2020.

''In its interim report on the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021 - 2027, the European Parliament proposed the introduction of a special fund of 4.8 billion euros for a new European Union energy transition. These funds would facilitate and offset the transition to renewable energy for those most affected by the transition. The aim of the Fund would be to address social, socio-economic and environmental impacts on workers and communities during the transition, which also implies many EU islands,'' Picula emphasised in his speech.

Picula has been a focus of action since the start of his first term in the European Parliament. Back in 2016, he and his colleague A. Sant presented an Action Plan and submitted an amendment worth 2 million euros to the European budget, with the aim of securing funding for the energy transition of Croatian (and EU) islands.

The lengthy negotiations within the Parliament itself, as well as discussions with the Commission and the Council, led to the inauguration of the Islands Secretariat - the first working body dedicated solely to the islands. The Secretariat was set up within the European Commission in June 2018 and presented in Brussels. It is the first working body in EU history exclusively available to islanders.

MEP Picula has been working to preserve and improve life on the islands since the beginning of his term.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics page for much more.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Parents of Island Children with Developmental Problems Demand Free Ferry Transport

ZAGREB, July 6, 2019 - Around 300 protesters rallied in Supetar on the southern island of Brač on Saturday demanding free ferry transport for children with developmental problems who live on islands and receive their therapy on the mainland.

The protesters blocked the passage of passengers and vehicles disembarking a ferry that arrived from Split for 120 seconds as a warning that parents from Brač who have children with developmental problems have been fighting for their children's right to free ferry transport for 120 months.

The leader of the local association of parents whose children have developmental problems, Maja Bonačić-Proti, said that they had been given promises many times that the relevant legislation would be amended to secure the right to free ferry transport for their children.

Even if amendments to that effect are put forward in the parliament in October, it will take three to six months to adopt them, she said.

"In the meantime, our costs are growing bigger and bigger. There has been enough of waiting, we want the relevant legal amendment be adopted under fast-track procedure so that we can get not only the right to free ferry transport, but also the possibility to live in dignity," she said.

A member of the association, Mate Mladin, said that there were 83 children with developmental problems on central Dalmatian islands and that around 300 children with developmental problems were estimated to live on all Croatian islands.

He said that a return ferry ticket from Brač to Split cost 200 kuna (approx. 27 euros), including fare car transport, which he said was essential for parents with children with developmental problems.

Since some of the children need to receive therapy several times a week, their ferry costs exceed 3,000 kuna (405.40 euro) a month, he said, adding that the cost of ferry transport was even higher for people who lived on the more remote islands.

A large number of parents whose children have developmental problems barely cover their basic living costs, he said.

More health news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Three Croatian Islands to Take Part in Maritime Heritage Festival in France

ZAGREB, May 25, 2019 - The Croatian islands of Murter, Hvar and Ugljan will be representing Croatia at the European festival of maritime heritage "Morbihan Week 2019", to be held in the French city of Vannes on May 27 - June 2, with an exhibition called "Croatia - Where Masts Write Stories".

The Croatian exhibition will be organised by the Split-based Cronaves association for the promotion of Croatian maritime heritage, and the maritime heritage of the three islands will be presented by the island towns of Betina, Vrboska and Preko.

The Croatian exhibition at the 10th festival of maritime heritage in the Gulf of Morbihan, in the north-western French region of Brittany, will be held as part of the pavilion "Le Grand Comptoir des Fêtes Maritimes d’Europe", said Plamenko Bavčević of Cronaves.

One of the reasons why the festival organisers invited Croatian participants this year is the festival of the sea and seamen in Stari Grad on the island of Hvar, which will be presented at the festival, said Bavčević.

"We want as many French guests as possible to visit Hvar, and since Cronaves promotes the entire Adriatic coast evenly... the programme of this year's presentation also includes the Museum of Wooden Shipbuilding from Betina, the Jelsa Municipal Museum, the Lantina association from Vrboska, and Preko municipality on the island of Ugljan and its "Dom na žalu" institution of higher adult education, which have prepared a very interesting exhibition on small builders of wooden vessels," Bavčević said.

He added that the Gulf of Morbihan Week was visited by around 500,000 people and that around 1200 vessels from several European countries participated in the final parade in the Atlantic, which was why a large number of visitors was expected at the Croatian pavilion.

The head of the Betina Museum of Wooden Shipbuilding, Kate Šikić Čubrić, said that presentation of Croatian maritime heritage at festivals of this type was important for the perception of Croatia as a country that lives with its sea. "Our vessels are unique in many ways and are an important part of the Mediterranean maritime heritage," she said.

The Croatian tourism sector, notably its marinas, will be presented in Vannes as well because Croatia is recognised in France as one of the best sailing destinations.

More news about Croatian islands can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Korčula and Lastovo Protest Lack of Transport Links

Due to the lack of transport links to the western part of the island of Korčula and the island of Lastovo, mayors of municipalities of Vela Luka, Blato, Smokvica and Lastovo have sent an open letter to Jadrolinija's CEO David Sopta, Minister of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure Oleg Butković, Dubrovnik-Neretva County Prefect Nikola Dobroslavić, and Member of Parliament Branko Bačić, reports Dalmacija Danas on April 25, 2019.

“The island of Korčula is one of the most populated Croatian islands without a physical link to the mainland, while the inhabitants of the island of Lastovo and the western part of the island of Korčula are some of the most isolated ones, if we take into consideration time needed for them to reach their county seats. For this reason, most residents gravitate towards the county seat of the neighbouring county, which is connected with the islands by ferry and catamaran lines. For years these lines have been neglected, both qualitatively (types of vessels) and quantitatively (number of lines). Although fast and with excellent manoeuvring capabilities, the Lastovo ferry no longer has enough capacity for this line, and it could surely serve its purpose better on some other island line.

Accordingly, on January 28, 2019, a meeting was held in Dubrovnik on the topic of solving the problems of the (non-)existence of transport links to the islands in Dubrovnik-Neretva County, especially fast-ship and ferry connections to Vela Luka and Lastovo, initiated by Member of Parliament Branko Bačić.

Four significant conclusions were agreed upon at the meeting: It is necessary for Jadrolinija to immediately start the process of purchasing a used ship for the Split-Vela Luka-Lastovo line, and continue towards constructing a new ship for the same line. The participants also fully supported the construction of eight local- and county-level ports in the area of Dubrovnik-Neretva County. It was established that the Jelena catamaran, the only one with the necessary maritime capabilities, should be permanently devoted to the Split-Vela Luka-Lastovo route. There is also the need for the fast-ship Dubrovnik-Lastovo line, for which the government has already given its consent, to be converted into a daily line to improve connections between Lastovo and the county seat, and to make it possible for high school students to attend the secondary school in Korčula, which is the wish of parents from Lastovo.

Given that we have received unofficial information that the purchase of the used vessel Panorama for the Split-Vela Luka- Ubli line has failed, and that the Jelena catamaran will no longer be used for the Split-Hvar-Vela Luka-Ubli route, please let us know as soon as possible whether this information is accurate and what is the plan for the tourist season that has already begun. We also ask you to reconsider the decisions mentioned above, so that in 2019 the inhabitants of the islands of Lastovo and Korčula would no longer be treated as second-class citizens,” states the letter sent by local officials.

Translated from Dalmacija Danas.

More Croatian island news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Croatia to Promote Maritime Heritage at a Festival in France

ZAGREB, April 7, 2019 - A project titled "Croatia – Where Masts Write Stories", which will promote Croatia at a forthcoming European maritime festival in the French coastal town of Morbihan, was presented by Cronaves, an association for the promotion of Croatia's maritime heritage.

Following an invitation from the organisers of the festival "Gulf Week - Gulf of Morbihan", which will take place in the northwestern French region of Brittany from 27 May to 2 June, Croatia will promote its maritime heritage, the Cronaves chairman Plamenko Bavčić said.

He said that the purpose of attending this biennial festival is to increase the recognisability of Croatia as a maritime country.

Over a thousand boats gather in the Ascension week every two years to put on an extraordinary spectacle in one of the most beautiful bays in the world, the organisers say on the festival's website.

Croatia's programme includes the presentation of tradition of small shipbuilding from Betina on the island of Murter and from the islands of Hvar and Ugljan.

More news about Croatian islands can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Islands Products Store to Be Opened in Zagreb

ZAGREB, April 7, 2019 - Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Žalac, who toured the "Croatian Islands Products" fair in Zagreb's Ban Jelačić Square, said that her ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture planned to open a store in Zagreb with domestic island products.

The fair, featuring products from Croatian islands, is being held between March 27 and April 7 with 29 producers exhibiting their products from Vis, Lastovo, Brač, Korcula, Krk, Hvar, Prvić, Rab, Dugi Otok, Pag, Rava, Cres, Ugljan and the Pelješac peninsula.

The aim of the fair is to promote products that carry the "Croatian Island Product" label, which is awarded by the regional development ministry.

So far, 297 island products have been awarded the label which is believed to be able to increase the competitiveness of Croatia's economy, particularly island products.

Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli expressed his satisfaction with the fact that the story of the islands was finally being told, noting that more than 120,000 people lived on them and that they generated 30% of bed nights and tourist arrivals.

More news about Croatian islands can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Croatian Islands Hope New Law Fixes Old Problems

December 13, 2018 — The skepticism ran deep. Croatia’s islanders are used to big promises. Their complaints came fast:

No stable sources of potable water.

Dilapidated or even nonexistent infrastructure.

Aging, unreliable and overpriced ferries.

And in some cases, the wild pigs outnumber residents.

Croatia’s new “Law on Islands” could fix all that. The recently-passed measures are ostensibly meant to give “boduli” (islanders) opportunities for sustainable economic progress on par with mainland residents.

The grander goal? Reversing a demographic slide predating Croatia’s current predicament by a few decades. The law, in short, is meant to make up for decades of neglect.

But it won’t do anything about the pigs.

A collective of representatives from Croatia’s archipelago of islands called the “Island Parliament” (Otočni Sabor) shared hopes, grievances and suggestions for the legislation at a gathering in Zadar on Wednesday.

Overall, the skeptical crowd’s message was: “Good luck.”

“We have to define a new vision for islands’ development,” said the parliament’s president Denis Barić. “We have to return pride among the residents.”

Croatia’s Parliament passed the package of measures on Nov. 21.

The “Law on Islands” creates a new model for categorizing islands, with a special grouping for underdeveloped islands which lack even basic, Second World infrastructure. (It may be hard to believe, but not all of Croatia’s islands resemble Hvar.)

It creates a formal legal definition of “islandness” — a special set of social, economic and historic complexities and unique characteristics created when surrounded by sea.

The law also introduces “Island Coordinators” meant to help prepare and implement projects. The position will end a decades-long game of broken telephone between politicians in Zagreb and the islands they rarely visit outside of summer holidays.

Some expressed worry the position creates another opportunity for “uhljeb”, the distinctly-Croatian term for an incompetent nepotism hires simply taking up space.

The Island Movement’s (Pokret Otoka) Vice President Paula Bolfan welcomed the new law, but suggested islanders avoid solely relying on government help.

“There are other options we need to consider, such as investment from the private sector as well as [European Union] funds,” she said.

The new law on island neglects the growing concern over invasive species, such as wild pigs, which outnumber people on the island of Sestrunj. The government refused to cull the boom in swine and other vermin.

The Croatian government has reportedly invested HRK 21.8 billion in islands from 2004 to 2017. The new law secures another HRK 94 million.

The new “Law on Islands” replaces a existing legislation passed in 1999, which didn’t aged well.

“We don’t want Croatia’s islanders to feel like second-class citizens,” Barić said.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Rab Island Advent Festival Larger Than Ever Before

Last year, the town of Rab recorded the two-millionth overnight stay 12 days earlier than expected. The last year's tourist season was a record-breaking one by the number of tourist arrivals and overnights. In the meantime, Rab has managed to extend the tourist season and brand its tourist attractions, such as the original and popular Rab Fjera festival. This event has now been joined by the Rab Island Advent Festival, which will this year be organized for the fourth year in the row, reports Večernji List on November 26, 2018.

The director of the Rab Town Tourist Board, Ivana Matušan, discussed the island’s tourism development.

The last year’s tourist season was a record-breaking one. Are you satisfied with this year’s results?

We are extremely pleased. In the first nine months, the town of Rab has recorded 1,436,298 overnight stays, while the one-millionth overnight stay in Rab occurred a day earlier than last year. The season was at the last year’s record levels, with 1% more overnight stays, but it is not over yet. I was extremely pleased with the pre-season. In the first five months, Rab achieved a growth of 43% in overnight stays. I believe that an interesting tourist December is ahead of us. For this Advent, we expect to have four hotels open, while last year we had just one, and I am sure that many private rental owners will open their properties for all tourists who want to experience a special island Advent.

How did the Rapska Fjera festival influence the branding of your destination?

Rapska Fjera is part of the town of Rab; it is inseparable from the town as a tourist destination, but also as the cultural center of the island itself. It has historical foundations on which the Rab history is based even today. There is no similar project in Croatia and the region, and I am very proud of the achieved level of quality, as well as of the award for the best tourism event in 2018, which we recently won at this year's Days of Croatian Tourism held on Hvar. With all of our projects, events and ideas, we strive to be unique, innovative and engaging. I believe there is still room for progress, but also that the efforts of all the stakeholders are visible to everybody.

How can you further improve the tourism offer?

We look forward to announced investments in hotel facilities, and the process of repositioning Rab as “the island of happiness" is underway. This is where I see room to further improve our tourism product. For example, in 2019, the town of Rab will carry the prestigious title of the European Island of Sports.

What about this year's Rab Island Advent?

The most beautiful island Advent festival will be even more interesting and larger than ever. We will expand to two town squares and two beautiful parks. The Rab Island Advent is slowly becoming a reason for the arrival of tourists to our destination during the winter months. This year will bring numerous entertainment programmes, ice skating and other programmes for children and somewhat older guests, right next to the sea. The festival will start on December 1.

For more on the island of Rab, click here.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Majda Mikulandra).

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