Thursday, 21 June 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

“I must be getting old because I really don’t understand what I have just watched,” said my good friend as we left the cinema. I laughed. Although my friend is older than me I was in the same boat as him, “I guess I must be old too,” I replied.
We had just spent, or should I say lost, three hours of my life experiencing the latest superhero blockbuster. It is a movie, and the name is not so important, swimming in superlatives – explosions, more explosions, the most explosions. And to make matters even worse it was in 3D. I am old school. Give me a black and white 2D classic every time.

Of course on the drive home we started to reminisce. “I can’t remember the last time Hollywood delivered a good movie,” my friend commented. “Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Breakfast at Tiffany’s…now they were real movies,” he continued. Strangely enough even though all of these movies were made before I was born I agreed with him. The days that movies actually have plots are behind us. The plot for the movie we had just seen could have been written on the back of a matchbox and you would have room to write the names of all the actors. It’s probably a generational question.

Whereas people used to spend time reading actual newspapers, magazines and books now they only have enough time to read the comment under an Instagram photo.

I am old enough to remember the time when it was predicted that modern technology would mean that we would have more time to enjoy life. Robots will do our household chores, cars will drive automatically, the internet will mean instant communication with the whole world and travel will be quicker and easier than even before, (these have all come true) all of this will mean more time to go fishing, play football or walk the dog. In reality the situation is completely the opposite.

You will bank online or over the phone. Yes, but now we have our banks phoning us and nobody actually working in branches, meaning we wait longer and get harassed more. “Hello it’s the bank but before I can talk to you I just need to ask you some security questions,” said the monotonous voice down the phone to me a few weeks ago. “Security questions!!! You phoned me!!” I answered abruptly. Adding “I didn’t ask you to phone me…you can’t ring me if you don’t think it’s me.” Needless to say my answer fell on deaf ears, quite clearly English sarcasm was lost of this bank clerk. And while I am on the subject of dealing with institutions over the phone I feel the need to mention T-Com. So this is a phone company, a communications company. So how ironic that every time I call I am greeted by the same message, “All of our agents are busy at the moment we are doing all we can to answer your call.” Doing all you can?!? Here is one thing you haven’t tried, picking up the phone? “All of our agents are busy as soon as an agent is free we will answer your call,” bleeps the digital voice down the phone. When you say all of your agents do you really mean both of your agents!

Why is it that when I want to fix a problem with my MAX-TV I have to call a dozen times and wait for what seems like a millennium but when I owe the bank 6 Lipa they find the time to call me. I guess we will be banking over Instagram soon.

The world is slowly going mad. Facebook have opened an online dating agency, a President is only communicating over Twitter and I am measuring how far I walk everyday with an app. I saw a headline the other day that summed it up perfectly “Your smartphone is making you stupid, antisocial and unhealthy. So why can't you put it down⁉️” Its true. If we were being honest with ourselves then we would agree that the smartphone in our pocket is making us dumb and boring, but it is more addictive than heroin. So when I leave a cinema with a friend and he starts to think back to the good old days my mind starts to wander.

Of course we are thinking of our childhoods with rose-tinted glasses but I have to say I’m glad I am not a child today. The pressures today of being online must be immense. Getting just the right selfie, the best profile photo or writing the “wittiest” comment is crucial for this generation. And I, for one, feel sorry for them. “Your story is the greatest legacy that you will leave to your friends. It’s the longest-lasting legacy you will leave to your heirs,” once wrote Steve Saint, (but for the younger generation he wasn’t talking about leaving a story of Instagram).

One of the greatest problems that Croatia faces today is the negative net migration. And according to new statistics from the Central Intelligence Agency Croatia is among the top seven European countries with the highest migration rate.

Compared to even its neighbours Croatia has the unenvious honour of having the highest negative migration rate. Bosnia and Herzegovina with -0.4, Serbia and Macedonia have -0.5 and Croatia is at -1.7. Of course one of the reasons that Croatia has a higher negative trend is the fact that it is a member of the European Union and therefore citizens find it easier to legally find work and move to other members.

Slovenia has a positive migration rate at 0.4 and Hungary at 1.3 along with Austria. However at the other end of the scale Moldova with -9.4 and Lativa with -6.1 have even larger troubles than Croatia.

The level of unemployment in Croatia is at its lowest level since 2003. There was a total of 159,695 unemployed people registered at the end of April this year, which is a decrease of over 10 percent compared to the same month from 2017.

According to details from the Croatian Employment Service there are currently 24,859 job vacancies in the country. In April alone almost 23,000 people found employment through the employment service.

The highest rate of unemployment was recorded in the Split – Dalmatia County, with 26,672 people looking for work.

Even though these new figures look impressive it also has to be taken into account that large numbers of young, professional people are leaving the country. It is estimated that 300,000 have left for other European Union countries over the past few years, with Germany, Sweden and Ireland the most popular destinations.

The Euro could well be the official currency of Croatia in the next five years. This week the government accepted the strategy for the introduction of the Euro, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Martina Dalic, commented that this could happen within the next five to seven years.

“Our euro zone membership is one of the commitments we have taken on under the Treaty of Accession to the EU, but the Treaty does not determine the specific date by which Croatia should introduce the euro as its currency. That was left for the member states to decide,” commented Dalic to the press.

Before Croatia actually moves from the Kuna to the Euro there are a number of financial measures and regulations that need to be adopted. Criteria including public debt, exchange rate stability and interest rates all need to be brought in line with the EU, however according to Dalic these strict measures have already been achieved. But closing the gap between the average income in Croatia and the rest of the EU could prove a tougher task.

“Croatia is, in economic terms, a very good candidate for the conversion to the euro, and a suitable candidate to participate in the euro area. One of the benefits of the introduction is the elimination of exchange rate risks in the economy,” concluded the Deputy Prime Minister.

Another record tourist year could well be on the cards for Croatia as foreign visitors have flooded into the country at the start of the year. In the first quarter of this year Croatian hotels recorded 870,000 arrivals with Zagreb the most popular destination followed by Dubrovnik.

The figures for the first quarter are considerably higher than the same period from last year and in the first three months’ tourist arrivals were up a massive 19 percent, and overnight stays up 22 percent.

In total 581,000 foreign tourists visited Croatian in January, February and March, with most of the tourists coming from Germany, followed by Austria, Slovenia and Italy. Just in March there were 440,000 tourist arrivals and around one million overnight stays.

The number of taxi drivers has exploded over the past ten years in Croatia. According to new statistics from 2007 to 2016 the number of registered taxi drivers increased by a massive twenty times. In 2007 there were only 44 people employed as taxi drivers, but in 2016 that number jumped to 886. Whilst the number of taxi firms in the country went from only 18 in 2007 to 260 in 2016. And to make these numbers even more incredible they don’t include Uber drivers.

And of course the income of these taxi firms goes hand in hand with the increase of drivers, in 2007 the revenue was 12.1 million Kuna, and then in 2016 these figure had grown to 138.5 million Kuna, or around 18.6 million Euros.

The largest taxi company in Croatia is the Cammeo group, who many operate in Zagreb, who recorded a revenue in 2016 of 28.9 million Kuna.

Michelangelo Buonarroti, a play by the Croatian playwright Miroslav Krleza, will premiere July 27 in a production by the Croatian National Theatre (HNK), and the Dubrovnik Summer Festival.

The play, directed by the Slovenian director Sebastijan Horvat, will premiere July 27 on the Croatian island of Lokrum, near Dubrovnik.

Miroslav Krleza, often proclaimed the greatest Croatian writer of the 20th century, first published Michelangelo Buonarroti in 1919. The one-act expressionist play deals with Buonarroti painting God’s wrath in the Sistine Chapel. Torn between his desire to realise his great ideas, and the miserable poverty of his day-to-day existence, the painter goes from faith to heresy and back, from prayer, to rejection, and finally, to acceptance of his fate. He hallucinates images of taverns, dances, the inquisition and burnings at the stake. The play centres around the relationship between art and money, and the challenges of a genius whose ideals leave him hopelessly isolated from the world around him.

This is one of the most important projects the Rijeka HNK has had lately, and the first co-production with the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, said the theatre’s artistic director, Marin Blazevic.

The Dubrovnik Summer Festival is an annual theatre festival that began in the 50s. It combines the city's renaissance and baroque architecture with the living spirit of drama, drawing upon the long literary and cultural tradition of the city as one of Croatia's intellectual centres.

The Croatian theatre company, along with Giuseppe Nicodemo of the HNK's Italian company, are taking part in the production, as well as the guest actors Rakan Rushaidat (playing the main character) and Jerko Marcic.

After Brexit is Croexit or Croxit or Croatexit a serious possibility, is the youngest member of the European Union already looking for the exit signs. The third most popular political party in Croatia, Živi Zid (Human Wall), is leading calls for Croatia to rethink its foreign policy and its relationship with the European Union.

At their recent convention the party leaders called for Croatia to end its membership with the EU and even NATO and urged the need to take back the country’s sovereignty. Živi Zid is currently riding on a crest of popularity and is gaining support steadily, whilst the two other two main parties, Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) and both suffering in the polls.

The ruling party, HDZ, is reacting to slow to necessary reforms and is struggling to combat the large scale depopulation of the country. Whilst SDP is locked into internal infights without offering a credible opposition to the government. Živi Zid have taken advantage and have lead a campaign against corruption and the reform of public administration. And even though the party was only officially formed in 2014 they have quickly managed to gain favour with voters looking for a fresh approach. In fact, the party was formed out of an activist group that fought against people being evicted from the homes, hence the name Human Wall.

Could their Croexit plan gain popularity in Croatia? In the current state of the nation it is highly unlikely, but then only a select few saw Brexit coming. And even though they are the third most popular political party they are still way behind in terms of members of parliament, having only 3 out of 151 in the current parliament.

However, Croatian MEP, Ivan Jaković, has responded, if somewhat unconvincingly, stating that Europe was not ideal but called for unity. Speaking at Europe Day celebrations held today Jaković commented that “I’m not a Euroidealist, nor am I someone who thinks of the European Union as an ideal creation. Instead, I think it needs to be reformed. But, unlike those who want more discord, I want more unity and a deepening of the European Union.”

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