Saturday, 21 April 2018
Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas - The editor and big chief of The Dubrovnik Times. Born in the UK he has been living and working in Dubrovnik since 1998, yes he is one of the rare “old hands.” A unique insight into both British and Croatian life and culture, Mark is often known as just “Englez” or Englishman. He is a traveller, a current affairs freak and a huge AFC Wimbledon fan.

Email: mark.thomas@dubrovnik-times.com

Croatia has stood behind the UK and will expel a Russian diplomat. It what is the largest expulsion of diplomats ever, with Trump announcing 60 will be expelled, Croatian Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković, has announced that he will expel one diplomat.

21 countries have announced that they will expel Russian diplomats and diplomat staff, with 16 European Union members, as well as Canada, Norway, Ukraine, Albania and the United States. The UK acted first, sending home 23 diplomatic staff, and now the rest of the world has followed. 

This is all in reaction to Russia's alleged use of a nerve agent to poison a former Russian spy living in the United Kingdom.

Prime Minster Teresa May commented that "President Putin's regime is carrying out acts of aggression against our shared values and interests within our continent and beyond. And as a sovereign European democracy, the United Kingdom will stand shoulder to shoulder with the EU and with NATO to face down these threats together."

TUI UK’s first programme launch after last year’s re-brand reveals ambitious growth plans with an additional aircraft positioned out of Cardiff Airport and new flights to Croatia for 2019.

With a dynamic regional aviation plan focussed on mid and short haul destinations, new holiday opportunities will be opened up for passengers flying from Cardiff Airport with flights and holidays to three new and exciting destinations going on sale, complementing a wealth of existing routes on offer. Cardiff Airport will see a 10% share of TUI’s overall passenger growth for summer 2019.

According to the company’s website they are reacting to the “soaring popularity of Croatia.”

Flights and holidays to Dubrovnik, Hurghada and Naples have all been added to the programme from Cardiff Airport for next summer.

TUI UK’s Commercial Director Richard Sofer said: “Summer 2019 is the most ambitious programme we have ever introduced. We are focusing firmly on expanding access to our amazing range of holidays through an extended regional flying programming concentrated on the core destinations holidaymakers want to travel to, while offering the flexibility of holiday duration they want. We’ve increased our capacity by basing an additional aircraft in Cardiff, adding 100,000 additional seats and three new routes from Cardiff Airport for summer 2019. We are also giving customers even more opportunity when booking their summer holidays with more 10 and 11 night holidays.”

Ambassador Andrew Dalgleish, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Croatia, visited Dubrovnik on a working visit this week. With two full days in the city, from lectures in Dubrovnik University to a meeting with the Mayor of Dubrovnik, he was introduced to the challenges facing the city and the opportunities for the future. Of course Brexit was high on the list on concerns and the Ambassador explained that he sees an even closer future after the UK leaves the European Union. We caught up with the Ambassador during his busy schedule to discover more about the relationship between the UK and Croatia and where he sees the future path.

Over the years Dubrovnik and Great Britain have had very close connections, and no more so than the number of British tourists who arrive every year. By far the largest number of tourists in Dubrovnik in recent years have come from the UK. How could Brexit change this?

My hope and my expectation is that there will be no change at all. The job of my government and the jobs of the governments of the European Union is to serve the people, and I haven’t yet heard people saying that we want to stop people travelling from the UK to Croatia or vice versa. My full expectation is that Brexit will have no effect on the tourism industry, and that people will still be able to move freely on holiday and that we will continue to see a strong positive interest in Croatia from British tourists.

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I believe that investors have an opportunity to use Croatia as an entry point into the rest of south-east Europe - Photo Niksa Duper 

Why do you think that Croatia has been relatively unsuccessful in attracting British investment?

It’s a big question, and let’s be honest it isn’t only British investment but investment from other countries as well. It is certainly a challenge for Croatia. We always have to remember that Croatia is a new democracy that is just 25 years old, so a lot of the things that we take for granted in the UK they are being learned very quickly in Croatia. These include the way the tax system works, the way the land registry works for investors want to be sure that if they buy a piece of land it does belong to them and there are no surprises later down the line and the speed of the judicial system. Investors want to know that if they have a problem it can be treated by the law quickly, not in ten or fifteen years. If all of these factors aren’t in place, then investors start to have doubts. Then they would look at the bureaucracy, and I know that the Croatian government is looking at dealing very strongly with unwanted bureaucracy, and if the layers of bureaucracy are too much then they will be a disincentive. As I said if these factors aren’t in place then investors will look elsewhere. It is a big world with lots of possibilities, so why make life difficult for yourself when you can invest in a country that already has these factors in place. My Embassy has developed several projects that we have presented in Croatia, looking at how we in the UK have overcome those issues. I believe that investors have an opportunity to use Croatia as an entry point into the rest of south-east Europe. 

How will Brexit change the situation of British nationals living in Croatia and would you advise them to take Croatian citizenship?

In December the British government and the EU made an agreement on the situation of British citizens living the European Union. Of course what matters more than anything for us is what happens to our citizens in the future, whether they are British citizens living in the EU or vice versa. The British government concentrated on the rights of British citizens living in the EU in the early part of the Brexit negotiations. For the vast majority of British citizens living in the EU nothing much is going to change. There is basically an agreement that if you have been living overseas for a period of time then you’ll be able to continue living without any changes to your status. As far as British citizens taking Croatian citizenship that is a question for British citizens to ask the Croatian authorities, and has nothing to do with the British government, however I would say that the worldwide power of the British passport is not to be underestimated.

Prime Minister, Teresa May, has announced that from the 1st of July Croatians will be able to work freely in Great Britain. Do you believe that the UK will be an attractive destination for Croatian workers?

Prime Minister Plenković has made it clear that Croatia wants the same rights for its citizens in the UK as a full member of the EU. The UK simply made use of the rule written in Croatia’s EU Accession Treaty. We understand that the Croatian government was concerned how that would affect Croatians after the UK left the EU. That message has been given very clearly by Prime Minster Plenković and that message has been heard and my government has looked at the situation and decided not to renew work restrictions. I welcome this news at it brings us all equal. To be precise the work restrictions on Croatia workers would have expired anyway at the end of June this year. In order for the UK to re-impose these restrictions, which there was an option to do, the British government would have had to make a case to the European Commission that allowing Croatian workers entry into the UK would severely damage our economy. We have looked at this and have decided not even to make a case, that means the British government will allow the controls to expire thus opening the UK to Croatian workers. As to the question if the UK is an attractive destination for Croatian workers I would say yes it is. Partly because many of the many common talents we have, the innovation, the creativity and attracting Croatian workers will be extremely important to the UK.

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You have been quoted as saying that “Croatia is a land of opportunity”, but are we making the most of these opportunities and wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that Croatia is a land of missed opportunities?

I think it is not important to focus on the negative but to see the positive. Croatia may have missed opportunities in the past, but it is time to move on and concentrate on the good opportunities. The workforce in Croatia is supremely well educated compared to so many of its competitors, with a talent for creativity. I can see plenty of examples of well-taken opportunities here, of small companies who are making a big difference, and in the future these will be large companies. Home-grown, self-started companies that succeed almost in spite of the system are the future. I believe that Croatia is a country with a talented population. What I would like to see, and I know that the Croatian government is working hard on this, is reducing the bureaucracy and creating an environment that these new companies feel that success is a good thing. They don’t need subsidisation they just need the space to show what they can do.

Although Dubrovnik is twinned with numerous cities throughout the world there is as yet no sister city in Great Britain. Do you see this changing in the future?

Twinning has some value symbolically, however the problem with twinning is that it often remains as just a piece of paper that two mayors have signed and that’s it. I am less interested in twinning and more interested in what differences can we make together. At my meeting with the Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Franković, I discussed the opportunities of linking UK cities who share the same projects or interests, for example smart cities. That for me is much more interesting than an administrative twinning. I would prefer to see more concrete work together in solving joint problems.

What are the challenges facing the British Embassy in Croatia? And what feedback do you receive?

I think the biggest challenge is Brexit, because Brexit needs to explained well. If we don’t explain it well it may look like the UK is saying we don’t like you, we don’t care and we want to leave you. A big challenge is correcting that misconception. Brexit is not about our view of the European Union it is about our view of our place in the European Union. I think that the British government has been really clear in saying that they want the European Union to succeed, there is no doubt about that, but we don’t feel that we comfortably belong in the union, and that is why we are leaving. More fundamentally the relationship that the UK has had with Croatia over the years has been difficult at times. There is maybe a perception that the Brits don’t like the Croats, I think that is a totally wrong perception and it is my job to correct that. I can’t do that by explaining what happened in the past but looking forward to a closer future and working together. I am not in a position to change history, no one is, but what I can do is work on the future and ask what our two countries can do together.

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I think that there is sense of understanding between Dubrovnik and the UK - Photo Niksa Duper 

Although there is a strong connection between Dubrovnik and the UK in terms of tourism it would seem that more work could be done on different levels, such as sport, culture and education. How can these fields be improved?

I think that there is sense of understanding between Dubrovnik and the UK. The kind of mentality that I have discovered since I have been in Dubrovnik is very familiar to me. I come from an island and to a certain extent Dubrovnik is an island. Coming from an island I feel I have a certain ability to look after myself and I think that people from Dubrovnik feel that as well. They don’t want to disassociate themselves from the rest of Croatia but it feels like “we’re from Dubrovnik and we know what we are doing, so let us get on with it.” Dubrovnik is attached to the continent but in a positive way, not being an isolationist, feels like an island. Dubrovnik has been self-sustaining for a long time and that resonates with the British mentality. This is a city that had such a massive influence in the Mediterranean for centuries and that has given the city a sense of presence and self-awareness. Therefore, the two have an awful lot in common. There have been links in the past, some of the finest British actors have performed at the Dubrovnik Summer Festival for example. And I would like to encourage more of this cultural connection in the future.

During your working visit to Dubrovnik what opinions will you take back to Zagreb with you?

It has been overwhelming positive. I have a sense of a city that is looking after itself well, that is keen to do business with the UK and that welcomes British tourists. And a desire to make sure that when British tourists visit they have a positive experience. What I am looking for is opportunities for British businesses to co-operate with Dubrovnik businesses. There seems to be a concentration on technology here and I can see a joint interest with UK companies. Dubrovnik doesn’t necessarily need the UK, but instead is saying we are doing this and how can we work together, it is more about building closer co-operation.

A round-up of the top stories in Dubrovnik and Croatia over the past seven days from The Dubrovnik Times.

19.03

Croatian citizenship to go on sale?

Considering the latest figures about the number of births and deaths in Croatia as well as an ever-increasing immigration wave of Croats to other European countries, maybe the country should think about selling Croatian passports to foreigners.

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UK lifts working restrictions on Croatians from the 1st of July

An announcement of the abolition of restrictions on the employment of Croatian citizens in the United Kingdom was sent British Prime Minister, Theresa May, to Croatian Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković today. Plenkovic welcomed this decision from Downing Street, and Croatia will respond reciprocally to British citizens, and they will also be able to work freely in Croatia from the 1st of July.

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20.03

Dubrovnik dealing with cruise ship crush

"In the end, our guests don't want to go to a place that's overcrowded," Donald said. "If the sites that everybody wants to see are being abused, our guests won't go. It's in our self-interest, but it's also in the interest of the places we go,” commented the CEO of Carnival Cruises, Arnold Donald, about Dubrovnik at the recent Seatrade Cruise Global convention. This year Dubrovnik will start to tackle the problem of overcrowding, a subject that is extremely important to the Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Franković, and one way is to regulate the arrival times of cruise ships.

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21.03

Dubrovnik to go dark for an hour in Earth Hour

Dubrovnik will join in the global incentive of turning off lights throughout the city to mark Earth Hour on the Saturday the 24th of March. The lighting on the northern and western parts of the Dubrovnik City Walls, on the façade of the City Hall and the Rector’s Palace will all be turned off for one hour to mark this special day.

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22.03

Croatian photographer shoots one of the best photos in the world

The Croatian photographer Petar Sabol has won the National Award for Croatia at the Sony World Photography Awards 2018. Sabol’s winning photo titled ‘’Mating of honey birds’’ was declared the best by the jury among 129,338 applied photos from all around the world. This is the third consecutive award of the Croatian photographer, also known as ‘’Sharp Eye’’, at the Sony World Photography Awards.

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23.03

Snow falls in Konavle region as winter returns to Dubrovnik

It might be the third day of spring today but the weather certainly feels more like the depths of winter. Gale force northerly winds have been blowing for two days, bringing down trees and forcing the Dubrovnik Bridge to close, and overnight snow came back to the county.

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24.03

Dubrovnik listed as one of the cheapest destinations in Europe

Dubrovnik has once again featured in the international media, but some may be surprised that the city has found itself on a list of the cheapest destinations in Europe. The UK newspaper, The Independent, has released an article entitled “The 19 Cheapest Holiday Destinations in Europe.”

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Could Dubrovnik and Split be connected with direct flights this summer, maybe. The Dubrovnik Times received an anonymous tip that a new airline, Split Air, had started and was offering flights to various destinations along the Adriatic coastline.

This could well be the re-emergence of the airline European Coastal Airlines, which operated seaplanes along the Adriatic but was forced out of business. The website of Split Air reports that the airline will commence with flights from the 28th of June this year and that tickets will go on sale from the 1st of May. They are offering flights to Venice, Mostar, Dubrovnik, Losinj and Sarajevo, presumably all from Split.

Apart from the new website it is relatively difficult to find any other information out about the new airline, here is what there “About” section states - Split Air is a flight operator based in Split, connecting cities and islands along the Croatian coast as well as neighbouring tourist destinations. Our vision is to offer passengers to fly to popular destinations in this region where the only choice of transport is bus or ferry which is a waste of time for people with a limited holiday. We will also offer services with seaplanes to remote and exclusive islands in the Adriatic which don’t have any airports.

Sunday in Dubrovnik ended the weekend without rain but yet a day of constant overcast skies. As the city overslept, yes the clocks went forward last night, the day had a lethargic feel with not even a gust of wind. It might be the fourth day of spring but it felt more like the fourth day of winter as the sun hid all day.

The weather forecast for this week is a mixture of rain and sunshine. The week should start wet and then the mid-week looks like being relatively stable before the rain comes back again. Spring is still waiting in the wings.

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Dubrovnik has once again featured in the international media, but some may be surprised that the city has found itself on a list of the cheapest destinations in Europe. The UK newspaper, The Independent, has released an article entitled “The 19 Cheapest Holiday Destinations in Europe.”

“From Majorca to Dubrovnik, the cities have an array of enjoyments including galleries, museums and restaurants, while all for a reasonable price,” writes The Independent.

The list is compiled using data from the Great Britain Post Office and ranks cities according to a certain set of prices, including accommodation, coffee, travel and a meal for two. In total 36 cities across Europe were surveyed in the Post Office City Costs Barometer 2018 and Dubrovnik came is as the twelfth cheapest destination in Europe. According to the data collected a two-night stay in Dubrovnik will set you back £224.74 and that includes a three-course meal with a bottle of wine, two nights in a three-star hotel and travel to and from the airport.

The cheapest destination is the Post Office survey was Krakow in Poland were a two-night break will dent your pocket to the tune of a mere £164.80. The Polish city was followed by Vilnius in Lithuania with £165.53 and Riga in Latvia at £172.17.

Here are the top 19 cheapest destinations in Europe is ascending order

Palma, Majorca – £283.45

Berlin, Germany – £282.22

Rome, Italy – £281.86

Munich, Germany – £274.11

Tallinn, Estonia – £252.19

Nice, France – £245.57

Strasbourg, France – £234.97

Dubrovnik, Croatia – £224.74

Cup of coffee: £1.39
Bottle of beer: £2.15
Three-course meal for two with a bottle of house wine: £63.38
Return bus or train transfer from airport to city centre: £11.41
Forty-eight hour travel card: £7.61
Two nights' three-star weekend accommodation for two: £81.00

Valletta, Malta – £212.39

Lille, France – £208.95

Lisbon, Portugal – £208.85

Athens, Greece – £200.42

Prague, Czech Republic – £199.86

Moscow, Russia – £199.64

Budapest, Hungary – £183.51

Warsaw, Poland – £180.53

Riga, Latvia – £172.17

Vilnius, Lithuania – £165.53

Krakow, Poland – £164.80

Ukraine International Airlines is planning to launch flights between the Croatian capital and the Ukrainian capital in 2021. There aren’t any direct connections between Zagreb and Kiev and the news, which was announced at a press conference in Kiev, means that Croatia will have another tourism market in the future.

The airline was established on the 1st of October 1992 and started operations on 25 November 1992 with a Kiev to London flight. It was one of the first "joint ventures with foreign capital" in Ukraine and the first airline in the former Soviet Union to use new Boeing 737-400 aircraft. The founding shareholders were the Ukrainian Association of Civil Aviation and Guinness Peat Aviation (GPA), an Irish aircraft-leasing company. In 1996, Austrian Airlines and Swissair became shareholders, investing $9 million USD in new equity.

Croatia Airlines had planned, back in 2009, to open direct flights from Zagreb to Kiev but later decided that the route wasn’t financially viable.

Mostly sunny

20°C

Dubrovnik

Mostly sunny
Humidity: 62%
Wind: SSW at 11.27 km/h
Sunday
Sunny
16°C / 20°C
Monday
Sunny
14°C / 21°C
Tuesday
Partly cloudy
16°C / 21°C
Wednesday
Sunny
17°C / 22°C

The Voice of Dubrovnik

THE VOICE OF DUBROVNIK


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