Sunday, 3 February 2019

Slovenia Wants Mercator to Be Freed from Croatia's Agrokor

ZAGREB, February 3, 2019 - Slovenia's government does not plan to get back Mercator, however, it wants to take this retail company from the embrace of the Zagreb-headquartered Agrokor concern, and Slovenian Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek told the local media on Saturday that the Croatian conglomerate proved to be a poor manager.

"We want to make sure that Mercator will have a more stable business future and create conditions for finding a new owner who will overhaul the company. However, the Slovenian government is not going to buy it back, contrary to some speculations which have recently appeared," the minister told the Maribor-based Većer newspaper.

Počivalšek said that in 2014 when it took over Mercator, Agrokor was actually over-indebted and later it became insolvent, however, the Slovenian minister does not believe that the current Agrokor, which has been restructured, can be a good manager of Mercator.

He also believes that now it is the right time to seek a new owner for Mercator which employs about 10,000 in Slovenia and which annually purchases a half billion products from local suppliers.

The minister refuses to speculate whether some Slovenian companies may be interested in purchasing Mercator from Agrokor now when Russia's Sberbank hinted at the possibility that it would sell its stake in the Croatian concern.

More news on Agrokor can be found in the Business section.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Slovenia Protests Croatia’s Ruling in Ljubljanska Banka Case

ZAGREB, January 19, 2019 - Slovenia on Friday protested against a Croatian court's ruling in Zagrebačka Banka's and Privredna Banka Zagreb's suit against Ljubljanska Banka over transferred Croatian savings in Ljubljanska Banka's former Zagreb branch.

The Zagreb County Court recently dismissed an appeal lodged by Ljubljanska Banka and Nova Ljubljanska Banka, upholding a ruling against Ljubljanska Banka, which is a breach of international and European Union law, according to a protest note which the Slovenian government handed over to the Croatian Embassy in Ljubljana today.

In the note, Slovenia says it expects Croatia to refrain from all proceedings that are in contravention with the Mokrice memorandum on succession to the former Yugoslavia whereby, according to Slovenia, the two countries agreed to stop all legal proceedings against Ljubljanska Banka in Croatian courts, Slovenian news agency STA said.

Ljubljana says Slovenia complied with the Mokrice agreement because it enabled Croatia to join the European Union, yet the legal proceedings against the bank have not been stopped.

The two countries interpret the 2013 memorandum differently. Slovenia says it was agreed that Croatia would fully and unconditionally stop the legal proceedings.

Croatia says it was agreed to put the proceedings on hold and that Slovenia has breached the memorandum because, as the then owner of its biggest bank, it has not secured the bank management's consent to the terms of the adjournment until an alternative and mutually acceptable solution has been found.

Slovenia has reimbursed Ljubljanska Banka's Yugoslav-era clients in Croatia after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that they should be reimbursed under the same model clients in Slovenia were after Slovenia gained independence.

However, Slovenia insists it is not accountable for the payments to Ljubljanska Banka's Yugoslav-era clients in Croatia that came from Croatia's public funds through Zagrebačka Banka and Privredna Banka Zagreb. It says this matter should be resolved as part of negotiations on succession to the former Yugoslavia.

More news on the Ljubaljanska Banka case can be found in the Business section.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Slovenia Maintains Position on Border Arbitration with Croatia

ZAGREB, December 29, 2018 - Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec told the Dnevnik daily of Saturday that his government's position on the border arbitration with Croatia could not be different from the position of the previous government led by Miro Cerar, who is now Foreign Minister.

"The arbitration ruling has been made public, Slovenia has its position on it and cannot change it," Šarec said in a pre-New Year interview with the Ljubljana-based newspaper.

Recalling that Slovenia had sued Croatia with the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the EU over its noncompliance with the arbitration ruling, alleging that Croatia was thus violating EU law, Šarec said that Ljubljana was waiting for the court to make a ruling and for Croatia to respond to Slovenia's proposal for the establishment of a joint border demarcation commission to implement the arbitration ruling. "We are still waiting for a response to our proposal," he said.

In 2015 Croatia decided, following a unanimous decision of its parliament to that effect, to walk out of border arbitration proceedings, after secret communication between former Slovene arbiter Jernej Sekolec and Slovenian Foreign Ministry official Simona Drenik was leaked, showing that they had worked on a strategy to exert influence on the arbiters and their decision, thus contaminating and compromising the arbitration process.

Croatia therefore does not consider the subsequent arbitration ruling as binding, and has notified Slovenia of its position, offering bilateral talks on the border dispute, which Ljubljana does not accept.

Asked about his communication with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Šarec said that he respected him and that their discussions at sessions of the European Council were normal but that due to the principled position on the arbitration issue, he had not invited Plenković to visit Slovenia because he was waiting for Croatia to change its position on the arbitration issue, whereas Slovenia could not change its position about the implementation of the arbitration ruling being binding.

Commenting on Cerar's recent visit to Washington, seen as an attempt by Slovenia to establish balance in its relationship with great powers, Šarec described it as good.

"We are being criticised for being pro-Russian but I don't think that's the case. Our relations with the Russian Federation are just as they should be. There was a certain deficit in relations with the United States, but it is also true that those relations are now more problematic also at EU level, due to the new leadership in the White House," he said in the interview, among other things.

More news on the border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia can be found in our Politics section.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Croatian Politics 2018: A Year in Review

Years pass, but some things never change in Croatian politics. The year which is about to end has again been full of drama and scandals, and just occasional good news. Remarkably, many of the same issues which you will read about here have featured prominently in our reviews for 2016 and 2017 as well, which just shows that most problems in Croatia are just swept under the rug and never solved. What follows is Croatian Politics 2018, a review of events which will be remembered from the past year, as reported by TCN.

The year began with tensions in the Bay of Piran, part of the Adriatic Sea which Croatia and Slovenia both claim. In late 2017, Slovenia decided to implement the decision by arbitration tribunal which awarded Slovenia most of the bay. However, Croatia has refused to accept the decision, saying that the arbitration process was compromised by Slovenian government representatives who were in collusion with a supposedly independent arbitrator. The tensions raged for a few weeks, with MEPs proposing military solutions and war veterans talking about organising a rather provocative regatta. Eventually, reason prevailed, and the tensions died down. However, the issue is still unresolved, despite assurances to the opposite, with Croatia calling for negotiations and Slovenia insisting on the implementation of the arbitration decision. You are sure to read about this dispute in our 2019 review as well, particularly given Slovenia’s decision to file a lawsuit against Croatia.

Relations with Serbia are always in the focus of interest, and this year was no exception. In January, the government was surprised to hear that President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović had invited Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić to visit Croatia officially. After a short argument over who is really leading Croatia’s foreign policy, Vučić arrived in Zagreb. While the visit mostly went well, the relations between the two countries deteriorated steadily throughout the year and the debate about whether Vučić should have been invited at all continued. Another turn for the worse took place in April when a Croatian parliamentary delegation’s visit to Belgrade was cut short after an incident in the Serbian parliament caused by a notorious Serbian MP and war criminal Vojislav Šešelj. Tension rose again in August when the anniversary of Operation Storm is traditionally celebrated, marking Croatia’s liberation of previously occupied territories in 1995. Serbian President Vučić gave a series of provocative statements, including comparing Croatia to Hitler.

As for the economy, January brought the first worrying signs about the future of Croatian shipyards, a low number of new orders, and about the government’s apparent unwillingness to continue to cover shipyards’ losses. Later in the year, the crisis in the Uljanik shipyard in Pula and its 3. Maj branch in Rijeka would feature prominently in our reporting. Workers spent months striking due to unpaid wages. As the year ends, the situation is still dire and “strategic partners” which the government hopes to find are nowhere to be seen.

“Reforms” is one of the most popular words of Croatian politicians. Every year in January we can hear officials saying that the year ahead is “the year of reforms” which will make Croatia much more prosperous. Needless to say, these promises are never fulfilled, and 2018 did not disappoint. The issue served the president well since she was able to attack the government for lack of reform efforts whenever it suited her.

Ideological debates and historical revisionism attempts continued in 2018 as well. In February, the government-appointed historical commission published its recommendations on issues related to the authoritarian regimes from Croatia’s past, but the conclusions did not satisfy anyone, except for the prime minister, who likes to pretend that the recommendations have solved the problem.

The year which is about to end has again brought us the problem of censorship, questions about media freedoms, warnings about the rise of the far right, separate commemorations held in Jasenovac, the parliament refusing to sponsor anti-fascism events, people destroying flower beds because they reminded them of communism, historical revisionism on the public television, assaults on journalists, satirists receiving death threats, “suspect” politicians being assaulted, photos of Tito slipping from under Croatia’s coat of arms, former prime ministers being sentenced for corruption, and media regulators receiving death threats.

The Catholic Church is undoubtedly part of the political life in Croatia, so it is no wonder that rumours about changes coming to its leadership draw considerable attention. While nothing has been confirmed, it is expected that the Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanić, could be replaced in the new year. In the meantime, the church has continued to receive vast amounts of money from the state budget, meddle in politics, as well as advise the government on the new abortion law, 

The demographic crisis continued, with high emigration and low birth rates bringing down the number of inhabitants. The president and the government argued about who and what was to blame. The president even presented her measures to solve the problem, which were soon forgotten, and demanded a special session of the government, which never took place. Proposals were presented on how to convince people not to move, as many sectors faced a lack of workers, while many schools started closing down. The extent of the crisis was such that even Serbian President Vučić became "worried." The only “good news” came at the end of the year when reports claimed that the emigration wave was calming down because everybody who wanted and could have left already did.

One of the issues we write regularly in these annual reviews is the construction of Pelješac Bridge, which will connect the Dubrovnik area with the rest of Croatia without the need for travellers to pass through a short stretch of Bosnian territory. After many years of delays, the project has finally moved into the implementation phase. Early in the year, a decision was made to award the tender for the construction to a Chinese consortium, despite protests made by Bosnia and Herzegovina that the bridge could not be constructed before the border between the two countries in the area is defined. The decision to award the contract to a Chinese bidder also brought about a marked change in relations between Croatia and China, which were later further improved by high-level meetings and visits.

Another perennial issue is the future of INA, Croatia’s national oil company, which is owned jointly by the Croatian government and MOL, Hungarian national oil company. In 2016, the prime minister announced that Croatia would buy back MOL’s share of INA. Two years later, nothing has changed. Earlier this year, the government selected financial advisors for the buyback, but the contract with them was never signed. One of the main issues is the future of the INA refinery in Sisak. While in January the relevant minister said he was optimistic about the refinery’s future, by the end of the year he apparently changed his opinion. Another issue is Croatia’s arrest warrant for MOL’s CEO, which Hungary does not want to implement.

Another year has passed, and the supposedly “strategic” project of an LNG terminal on the island of Krk has again gone nowhere. Multi-year delays have continued. The government announced two tenders trying to find out who would be interested in using the terminal once it is built (if that ever happens), but the results were dismal. Just two government-owned companies applied, presumably after receiving a nudge from officials to send their applications and help the government avoid a total disaster. While the project receives verbal support from foreign governments, no one seems to be interested in sending binding offers to use its capacity.

One piece of good business news was the apparently successful conclusion to the worst part of the crisis in Agrokor, one of Croatia’s largest and most important companies. The agreement between creditors was concluded, thanks mostly to Russian banks, although not without an accompanying scandal about high fees paid to consultants, some of whom actually took part in the secretive process of writing the special law which the government adopted to save the company from collapse. The scandal took out Deputy Prime Minister Martina Dalić and government-appointed commissioner Ante Ramljak, who had to resign under pressure. E-mails were published which showed that the prime minister knew more about the dealings than he initially admitted, but he managed to escape more or less unharmed. Agrokor’s former owner Ivica Todorić, who fled earlier to London to avoid arrest, was extradited to Croatia late in the year, after multiple delays and court proceedings. Even Tony Blair’s wife could not help him. He has since been released on bail and is currently awaiting possible indictment. The legal proceedings are expected to last for many years.

Good economic news brought us the first upgrade in Croatia’s credit rating since 2004. Unemployment numbers were also down, although more due to mass emigration than to economic revival. Good tourism results, especially in the pre-season and post-season, helped Croatia achieve planned economic growth for 2018 (still among the lowest in the EU). Slightly more moderate growth is expected in 2019, with the lack of reforms being the main culprit. The budget recorded another good year, with spending and revenues being more or less balanced, while the public debt has continued to decline. The year ended with another round of tax cuts and pension reform. Croatia has also announced plans that it will adopt the euro as its currency. The process is expected to last many years.

The ratification of the convention on preventing violence against women, the so-called Istanbul Convention, somewhat unexpectedly turned into a crisis for the government in April when a large group of HDZ MPs decided to vote against the proposal, despite prime minister’s insistence that it should be ratified. While the convention was easily adopted thanks to opposition support, it turned into another attempt by HDZ’s right wing to weaken or possibly topple Plenković as party leader and prime minister. Just like several other similar attempts, it did not succeed.

A national security issue which has drawn a lot of media attention throughout the year is the acquisition of military fighter jets. The decision was first delayed for years, then it was supposed to be made in 2017, but again delayed first to early 2018, and then beyond. After much lobbying, the government finally decided to buy 12 F-16s from Israel. The questions about the deal persisted, with many asking why Croatia was “rejuvenating” its air force with ancient aircraft. By the end of the year, the contract for the deal has not yet been signed, amid disputes between the United States and Israel about what equipment Israel can legally sell to Croatia. Grand plans about “strategic cooperation” with Israel also appear to be on hold. Defence Minister Damir Krstičević has invested a great deal of personal effort in the deal, but the acquisition is still in question, and its final fate is yet to be determined.

As expected, the political circus took a break in June due to the World Cup in Russia. While the break was initially expected to last just a couple of weeks, until the Croatian national team is eliminated in the first phase of the competition as usual, its spectacular success extended the political break to a full month and more. Of course, leading politicians did not miss this opportunity to travel to Russia and have their picture taken with footballers and fans. Needless to say, even this occasion, which was supposed to unite the country, brought divisions, primarily due to an appearance by a controversial singer at the homecoming ceremony, which was attended by hundreds of thousands of people.

The Istanbul Convention ratification prompted one of this year’s two referendum initiatives to be launched. The other effort involved proposed changes to the election laws, which would substantially reduce the rights of national minorities to elect their MPs. The government was against the referendums, while the president seemed to be of a different opinion. While both initiatives claimed they had gathered enough signatures for the referendums to be held, the government checked the signatures and conveniently found enough irregularities to lower the number of accepted signatures below the required threshold. This was just one of several attempts to pressure the government from the right.

One of the rare reforms which have begun, at least nominally, is the reform of Croatia’s education system, the so-called “curricular reform.” The issue has caused conflicts between coalition partners, with HNS repeatedly threatening to leave the government if their proposals are not accepted. Their threats were not taken seriously by anyone since it is clear that early parliamentary elections would probably bring about an end for the party.

A scandal broke in September whose consequences are still unclear at this time. A ministerial driver was arrested under suspicion that he had informed a suspect about a police investigation against him. Interestingly, the driver is a close friend of Milijan Brkić, HDZ deputy president and Prime Minister Plenković’s chief intraparty nemesis. While Brkić has denied having any role in the scandal or leaking the information about the investigation, he has been conspicuously absent from public affairs in recent months. Other scandals involving Brkić have also resurfaced, prompting allegations that his opponents were trying to eliminate him politically. On the other hand, some potentially embarrassing documents about him suddenly disappeared. The scandal has even reached the president’s office, with the national security advisor resigning in December under still unclear circumstances.

Relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the connected issue of the status of Croats in the neighbouring country, were at the forefront of Croatia’s foreign policy efforts in 2018. With October elections looming, the year began with Bosnian Croats warning that the election law was unfair and that it could lead to a Croat representative in the Bosnian presidency being elected by more numerous Bosniaks. That is precisely what happened, with candidate Željko Komšić winning the post, although he apparently did not have the support of the majority of Bosnian Croats. This prompted Croatia’s government to launch a campaign within the EU to pressure Bosnia into changing its election law, which then brought accusations about meddling in internal affairs of the neighbouring country.

One of the potentially most explosive events of this year was a war veterans’ protest held in Vukovar in October. The veterans complained about the lack of prosecution of persons suspected of committing war crimes against Croats in the Vukovar area in 1991, which was a problem which they discussed earlier in the year as well. However, many believed that the protest was actually just a guise for a right-wing attempt to bring down the government led by moderate Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and replace him as HDZ president with a more extremist candidate. Plenković and his team appeared at first worried that the attempt might succeed, but with time they managed to limit its consequences. Once held, the protest passed without incident and has been more or less forgotten, except when occasional arrests in the area do happen, which then draw condemnation from local Serbs who say the police is arresting then just to satisfy the Croat war veterans. In the meantime, tensions in the town continue.

Throughout the year, rumours about impending ruling coalition reshuffle and/or early parliamentary elections continued. However, unlike in 2017, which brought about a change in the ruling coalition composition, with MOST being replaced by HNS, this year the government was more or less stable. One potential candidate for another reshuffle was Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić, whose parliamentary group somehow manages to “convince” previously opposition MPs to switch parties and cross to his side. Numerous legal proceedings against him have not made him any less desirable patron. The substantial Zagreb city budget which he controls probably has something to do with it. In two years, he has managed to increase the number of his MPs from 1 to 12, with additional expansion of his parliamentary group expected early in the new year. The fact that people did not vote for his party did not discourage him at all. There are rumours that Bandić will use the increase in the number of his MPs, who are crucial for the parliamentary majority, to demand several ministerial posts in the new year.

As for the opposition, turmoil in SDP continued, with several attempts being made to topple the party president and “the leader of the opposition” Davor Bernardić. Fortunately for SDP opponents, these attempts have been unsuccessful, so Bernardić remains in his seat while his party’s popularity continues to plummet, with the latest polls showing it dropping to the third position, behind HDZ and Živi Zid. An increasing number of SDP MPs are leaving the party, with some of them joining the government ranks.

The migrant crisis continued, particularly on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the police employing ever harsher measures to control the borders and NGOs publishing increasingly critical reports about the alleged police violence and irregularities. The police have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, despite video evidence to the contrary.

The migration issue also brought us another controversy, this time with the signing of the Global Compact for Migration in December. President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who this year marked three years in office, initially supported the agreement, but then suddenly changed her mind, announcing she would not travel to Marrakesh where the UN conference was held. The government immediately said that Croatia would support the declaration nevertheless, which caused protests from right-wing circles. In the end, the non-binding resolution was supported by Croatia, but no-one really expects it will be implemented.

The final few days of the year brought us another major scandal, whose consequences will become clear in the following months. The president decided to dismiss her domestic policy adviser Mate Radeljić, who many believed had influenced the president to take a more critical position towards the government. After he was dismissed, Radeljić said he was threatened by a Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA) official not to try to damage the president politically after being dismissed. He was allegedly told that the agency was ready to run into him with a car if necessary. The president’s office and the SOA issued statements saying they had acted legally, but interestingly they did not outright deny all of Radeljić’s claims. It is expected that Radeljić’s dismissal will result in better relations between the president on the one side and the government and HDZ leadership on the other, just in time for the presidential elections next year.

Another exciting political year is ahead of us. It will include at least two elections (for European Parliament in May, and for president probably in December), and there is always a possibility the early parliamentary elections might take place. Stay with TCN for all the latest political and business news.


Wednesday, 19 December 2018

ECHR to Rule on Slovenia's Complaint against Croatia

ZAGREB, December 19, 2018 - The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will rule on Slovenia's complaint against Croatia for unpaid receivables of former Ljubljanska Banka's Zagreb branch, Slovenian media said on Wednesday, citing a press release on the ECHR website.

In autumn 2016, Slovenia lodged an application with the ECHR against Croatia, alleging systematic and arbitrary interference by the Croatian government in proceedings which Ljubljanska Banka brought in Croatian courts, and demanding 360 million euro in damages.

The Court said in the press release the decision on the application was relinquished to the Grand Chamber, which means that it will be final, without possibility to appeal.

When Slovenia lodged the application on 15 September 2016, its then Prime Minister Miro Cerar said Slovenia had the legitimate right to demand from the ECHR a decision which would enable Ljubljanska Banka to collect its receivables from Croatian companies given that, under another ECHR decision, the bank was reimbursing its Yugoslav-era clients in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Cerar said that since 1991 Croatian authorities had prevented the bank from collecting those receivables and that they had interfered in the court proceedings brought by the bank.

Last spring, before the end of its term, the Cerar cabinet announced another similar suit against Croatia before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, but it has not been lodged yet.

The announcement was made after a number of decisions by Croatian courts in favour of Croatia's Privredna Banka Zagreb and Zagrebačka Banka in suits they brought against Ljubljanska Banka and its successor Nova Ljubljanska Banka over the repayment of their debts, which were transferred to the two Croatian banks and repaid from public funds.

In its dispute with Croatia over Ljubljanska Banka's transferred Yugoslav-era foreign currency savings, Slovenia claims it has no obligation to repay that money, that it is an issue of succession to the former Yugoslavia and that Croatia confirmed this with the Mokrice Memorandum, signed by the two countries' prime ministers ahead of Croatia's European Union accession.

Slovenia claims it was agreed on that occasion that the proceedings against Ljubljanska Banka in Croatia would be suspended and that a comprehensive solution would be sought regarding inherited debts and receivables, but that Croatia has not complied.

Croatia claims that when the memorandum was signed in 2013, it was agreed the proceedings would be suspended for a maximum two years, until a comprehensive solution was found. Given that no solution was found, the proceedings were resumed.

More news on the relations between Croatia and Slovenia can be found in our Politics section.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Border Dispute Obstructing Croatia-Slovenia Relations

ZAGREB, December 18, 2018 - Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said on Monday that the question if and when Croatia would enter the Schengen area should be directed at the European evaluation commission for meeting the Schengen criteria and not at Slovenia, adding that with regards to the border dispute with Croatia, his government maintained the same position of the previous Slovenian government led by Miro Cerar, who is also the foreign ministry in the incumbent cabinet, and that the border dispute was preventing an improvement in Croatia-Slovenia relations.

Šarec said the Slovenian police were doing a good job of monitoring the external Schengen border towards Croatia, but that his government advocated a stronger Frontex role at the EU external border, namely Croatia's border towards Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, where there is a large number of potential illegal migrants who want to enter the Schengen area through Slovenia.

According to him, the number of illegal migrants caught in Slovenia this year had quadrupled.

Asked to comment on bilateral relations with Croatia, Šarec said that the problem regarding the implementation of the arbitration decision, according to which Slovenia would gain most of Savudrija Bay and a corridor to open seas, obstructed the improvement of relations with Croatia.

Slovenia sent a proposal to Croatia to set up a demarcation commission which would implement the arbitration decision, but Croatia has not responded, Šarec said.

More news on the Croatia-Slovenia border dispute can be found in our Politics section.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Slovenia: No Renegotiations on Border Dispute with Croatia

ZAGREB, December 15, 2018 - New negotiations on the border dispute with Croatia would not be productive, so Slovenia insists on the implementation of the arbitration ruling, Slovenian Foreign Minister Miro Cerar told reporters during a visit to Washington on Friday.

"Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was grateful that I clearly explained our position. A return to negotiations with Croatia would not be productive," Cerar said after meeting with Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton at the State Department.

Refusal to implement the arbitration ruling means "ignoring international law", which is bad for the whole Western Balkans region, Cerar said.

His former government had sued Croatia to the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg, arguing that Croatia's refusal to implement the arbitration ruling was in violation of EU law.

"We hear ministers and prime ministers in the region say they are surprised that they are required to honour the rule of law while Croatia doesn't do that in the case of the arbitration ruling," Cerar said, adding that Pompeo had promised to consider the matter thoroughly.

More news on the border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia and the relations between the two countries in general can be found in our Politics section.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Search Operation Launched for Surfer Who Disappeared During Storm

One of the two surfers who went missing yesterday afternoon in the sea in front of Umag in Istria has managed to reach the shore on his own. Due to storm and weather conditions at sea, the search operation for the other one was not possible late last night. According to media reports, the surfer who was rescued is a Croatian citizen, while the missing surfer is a Slovenian, reports on October 30, 2018.

With storm calming down, major search and rescue operation was launched this morning

According to Port Authority sources, a major search operation for the missing Slovenian surfer started this morning. “All the services are there: Umag Port Authority, fire-fighters, maritime police and mountain rescue service. We are now in discussions for a large police boat to go to the sea and we will try to arrange with the local fishermen to get them involved in the search operation, depending on the sea conditions. The wind is still strong and there are high waves,” said the Pula Port Authority.

“We are looking for the Slovenian surfer in the area from the port of Umag to the Savudrija lighthouse. We are currently searching for him close to the shore since the waves are still too high on the open sea,” said the source.

The age and identity of the surfer are still not known. Officials of the National Centre for Search and Rescue at the Sea (MRCC) received a report at 5.02 pm on Monday that two surfers were seen in the seas near Umag deaspite the warnings about the storm. The wind was carrying them towards the open sea. Both surfers fell into the sea, after which a rescue operation was launched in coordination with the Pula Port Authority.

At around 6 pm, it was announced that one of the two surfers had managed to reach the shore near Umag, where the staff of the emergency medicine department from Pula provided him with medical treatment.

Due to weather conditions at sea, it was not possible to undertake a maritime search. Officials organised a coastal search by deploying person to positions on the coast where the missing surfer was anticipated to appear in accordance with sea currents and wind direction.

All participants in the maritime traffic were notified of the incident via coastal radio stations.

Yesterday’s storm was so strong that waves at the island of Palagruža further south were the highest recorded there in recent years.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Slovenian Company Conquers Croatia’s Rent-a-Car Market

This is the first year that Anticus Group from Ljubljana has appeared in the Top 101 Slovenian companies as selected by the Manager magazine. And it immediately took a position in the middle of the rankings. The reason for this is that the Sixt rent-a-car franchise holder for Slovenia and Croatia has significantly increased revenue in recent years, which they mostly attribute to a growing number of tourists in the region, reports on October 29, 2018.

Twenty branches in Croatia

Last year, revenue increased by 47% to about 71 million euro, almost twice as much as in 2015. Net profit increased by 40 percent to more than two million euro. The group whose business activities include both the short-term and long-term rental of vehicles, business leases and sale of vehicles from its fleet, has six Sixt branches in Slovenia and 20 in Croatia.

Sixt is the leading European car rental company with more than 6,000 outlets in 125 countries. The Slovenian company was initially awarded a Sixt franchise for Slovenia. In 2010, the company expanded to Croatia by purchasing the Sixth franchise company from the Croatian tourist agency Atlas.

“Croatia and Slovenia fully follow the high demands required by the German franchise,” said Klemen Pur, managing director of Anticus, which makes about 25 percent of its revenue in Slovenia and about 75 percent in Croatia. The fleet includes 7,000 vehicles at the peak of the tourist season, and about a thousand in less busy parts of the year.

Electric vehicles soon to be offered

The significant business growth of Anticus is the result of tourism development in Slovenia and Croatia. “Tourism has grown considerably in this region, and vehicle rentals and our business have consequently increased as well,” said Pur. “Business users' turnover has also increased, both for short-term and long-term rentals, as well as revenue from the sale of our vehicles,” he added.

This year, Anticus plans to realize 85 million euro in revenue and 2.4 million euro in profit. They recently opened a branch office in Ljubljana which will soon offer electric vehicles for lease.

For more on Croatia’s car industry news, click here.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Lessons from Slovenia: Are Croatian Officials Serious About Foreign Investment?

The 2nd Adriatic Health Tourism Investment Forum concluded in Zagreb on October 12, 2018 - a thought-provoking event on many levels for this long-term resident of Croatia.

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