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.
After emerging from the recession in 2015, Croatia's economy is likely to continue rising in 2016, with analysts projecting growth rates between 0.5% and 1.8% as well as a rise in the country's public debt.
In 2016 Croatia's economic growth will pick up to 1.8% on the back of rising exports of goods and services as well as on the back of a continued rise in personal consumption and investments, according to a recent statement issued by the Croatian National Bank (HNB).
Apart from the central bank, other institutions project growth in Croatia's GDP as well.
The European Commission forecasts a rise of 1.4%, while the International Monetary Fund is less optimistic, putting the forecast at 1%. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) projects Croatia's growth at the rate of 0.5%, and the Institute of Economics in Zagreb believes the rise will be around 1%.
Similar projections have been given by analysts in major banks operating in Croatia. For instance, Alen Kovac of Erste Bank believes that the growth rate in 2016 would be similar to 2015, namely between 1% and 1.2%.
The HNB, however, has been warning against a snowball effect on public finances, namely a situation when GDP growth rates are lower than the average interest rate on the country's public debt, thus causing an increase in the public debt.
"In order to halt this effect, it is crucial to ensure a stronger fiscal adjustment," HNB Governor Boris Vujcic said recently. He said that this adjustment should not be dramatic compared to what some EU countries had had to do in that regard during the crisis.
Croatian Employers Association Director-General Davor Majetic expects a feeble growth due to the non-performance of structural reforms and weakening external positive effects.
Analysts of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce say that developments in 2016 will depend on the expertise in pursuing the country's economic and development policies and on regional and global trends.
We are in the middle of the festive season in Dubrovnik and there is no end to the glorious sunshine. Yesterday in Dubrovnik temperatures reached 20 degrees and sunshine bathed down over the historic Old City. Locals and tourists took the opportunity to walk and explore the city and to have a meal and a coffee al fresco.
The weather forecast in Dubrovnik until the New Year is for more mild temperatures and blue skies. It is expected that Dubrovnik will start 2016 in relatively settled weather with the long-term forecast showing a colder chill coming in the middle of January.
Check out our photo gallery by Tonci Plazibat
The renowned British newspaper, The Telegraph, has included Dubrovnik on a list of the top ten European city breaks for 2016. Great Britain is the most important market for the Dubrovnik travel industry, so this article released at a time of the year when the Brits think about booking their summer holidays will help make 2016 another bumper tourism year.
There are some very popular and familiar city break destinations in the top ten: Venice, Paris, Amsterdam, Florence, Barcelona, Berlin, Istanbul and London. The inclusion of Dubrovnik on such a prestigious directory will boost the number of British tourists travelling to the city.
“Dubrovnik is one of the world’s most magnificent walled cities,” opens the article. Adding that “now a UNESCO world heritage site and Croatia’s most up-market destination, it was once the capital of the wealthy sea-faring Republic of Ragusa.”
Read the full article here
The Polish airline LOT will reintroduce direct flights from Warsaw to Zagreb on January 2, the company’s representatives said in Zagreb on Friday.
LOT suspended its Warsaw-Zagreb flight service in early June this year due to so-called compensation measures applied by the Polish airline during the process of its restructuring. Now that the restructuring process has been finished, the company can again re-introduce flight services. As of the beginning of next year, LOT will also reintroduce flights to Belgrade. As of March, its planes will fly to Ljubljana as well, LOT regional manager Jolanta Grala-Bednarcik said at a news conference at the Polish Embassy in Zagreb.
The price of a return ticket from Zagreb to Warsaw will range from EUR 79 to 139, depending on the baggage. By the end of next March, LOT planes will fly to Zagreb four times a week, after which daily flights are planned, notably during the summer season.
LOT is an entirely state-owned company and its privatisation is not planned for now, it was said at the news conference.
Looking for a spot in the sun to retire to why not try Croatia, according to the renowned publication Forbes magazine the Adriatic country should be high on your list.
In an article entitled “20 Best Foreign Retirement Havens For 2015,” the American magazine has included Croatia, as well as France, Australia, Spain and Thailand. The article, which is aimed at Americans, takes several factors into account when judging which the best countries to spend your retirement are.
Cost of living, taxes, climate, security and crime, cultural attractions and hospitality are some of the guidelines which Forbes used to compile the top twenty list. The top of the list is Australia, followed by Belize and Canada in third position. Croatia is placed in eighth position on the list, with the article starting “on the Adriatic Sea, Croatia contains beautiful scenery, a good climate, ancient cultures, a low cost of living and tax breaks for retirees. The country clearly has put behind itself a 1990s civil war.” It goes on to add that Dubrovnik is one of the highlights of the country. This year the number of American tourists in Dubrovnik increased drastically on recent years.
In fact American tourists were the second most numerous, in terms of nationality, in the city in 2015. One of the reasons for this increase is undoubtedly the popular HBO series Game of Thrones, which uses Dubrovnik as a location. Forbes mentions that the lack of direct flights from the US to Croatia was the only negative point.
When it comes to horoscopes I am, to say the least sceptical. As the great Arthur C. Clarke said, who was the same star sign as me, “I don't believe in astrology; I'm a Sagittarius and we're sceptical.” To me they tend to be more horror than scope! The generalisation they use is so wide that you can’t help but find your own answers inside. If you throw enough arrows into the air you are bound to hit someone. Astrology, though discredited for centuries, still remains wildly popular. Scarcely does a day go by when we're not told of how our astrological sign is supposed to govern our behaviour or predetermine the day's events. Yet no explanation has ever been given — nor is one forthcoming — that can adequately explain the mechanism for which the alignment of the planets can influence our psychologies or the unfolding of the universe.
And yet you can’t open any women’s magazine, website or glossy publication without bumping into a menu of your day. “Today you will meet a stranger who will present you with a gift.” Now that could mean that you’ll meet the love of your life or a parking warden who’ll give you a parking ticket. Both are strangers bearing gifts!
So with my mountain of disbelief and mistrust I was asked the other day “what is your date of birth?” Maybe if you were asked by a policeman or doctor this would be a normal question. But when a colleague asks you I started to wonder whether she was just interested in tasting my birthday cake. She followed up with “and the exact time and place of your birth.” Obviously I didn’t have my watch on when I was born, and to be honest was a little distressed at the time to turn on my GPS. Collecting all the info from my mother who added, “you took your time to come out so I can clearly remember when the pain ended,” I passed the data onto my colleague who excitedly punched her keyboard. After a few seconds a scream was heard...”I don’t believe it.” She was using some complicated horoscope predictor online and had entered all my details, something that I definitely wouldn’t have done myself.
“Come and look,” she waved at me. The first line read - He is independent, has a taste for travel and freedom – Again I wasn’t convinced, let’s be honest this could apply to millions. She read on and like an Agatha Christie novel the mystery unfolded. - Likes to throw himself into the unknown and into adventure – Now I was starting to sound like Robinson Crusoe. And then boom! - He likes foreigners or he can find love abroad – The arrows had been thrown into the air but this time they had hit the bull’s-eye. I wasn’t just filtering out the cream from the sea of milk, every line was spot on. I started to become suspicious, maybe my colleague was playing a trick on me, it wouldn’t be the first time. - He looks for affection, love far from the family circle or from the native country – line for line was as if it was written for me.
Enough of the positive points, maybe the negative ones were further from the bull’s-eye. - Unable to stay in one place, is always ready to risk everything to achieve his goal – blimey even the negative points were close to the mark. I was getting the feeling that my great-great-great-great grandfather was Christopher Columbus; I have the blood of a traveller and explorer running through my veins. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that Mr. Polo and I shared the same first name. - Free spirit that likes adventure and will leap into hazardous and risky affairs – Was there more to horoscopes than meets the eye? She then started to get a little bit too technical. “There are twelve houses inside each star sign,” she started drawing a graph. “Twelve houses...there are less houses in Brašina than in my star sign,” I thought. Together with all the data from the twelve houses my Birth Chart was now nine pages long. Agatha Christie would have been proud!
Even the houses were correct - He is gifted for languages and it is even more interesting for him to live abroad – said house number IX. The moon in IX, whatever that means, read - Highly imaginative. Professionally successful abroad, or in import-export or as a diplomat. Contact with foreigners. Long journeys. Ability to learn foreign languages – forget Agatha this was rapidly turning into the Twilight Zone. I wasn’t about to throw myself on the floor and scream “I believe,” but it was getting a little bizarre. - He is a worker and has lots of energy – hmmm, suspicion comes back. Now it could be that she just got lucky with my horoscope, don’t forget even a blind squirrel finds a hazelnut once. Or it could be that Martin Luther King was right when he said “only in the darkness can you see the stars.” This could be a case for Mulder and Scully!
I knew it, I just knew it. I had had the same conversation countless times before. I was just waiting to jump in to his speech, stop him, and tell him I knew where he was going. We were sitting in the sunshine of a warm summer’s afternoon in Cavtat. An idyllic scene, the sea whispering its song, the crickets forming the percussion, it felt like all was right with the world. And then the conversation started. “We bought this property and few years ago and we have had one or two problems,” said the Englishman sitting opposite me. I gave a wry smile.
I would have been more surprised if he had said, “we bought this property a few years ago and have had absolutely no problems.” I wanted to stop him in midflight, but he was keen to expand on his misfortune. “It turns out that the estate agent misled me when he quite firmly claimed that there was only one owner of the property,” his face became sterner. Oh what a surprise, I thought to myself, trying to look as if this was new to me. “And now we are having problems convincing all the owners to sign off the property to us,” he looked in despair.
It turned out, as if often the case, that this particular case had been going on for years and years. He continued to explain the nightmare of being screwed by every person he had come across, it was a miserable journey. This was a familiar story for me. I had already guessed that the property was probably owned by 16 people, 4 of which now lived in Canada, another 4 had died and the remaining 4 didn’t speak to each other. Trying to match all the pieces of the puzzle, well it would be easier to refloat the Titanic. Lawyers make a good living from this; you could argue that lawyers always win at some point.
A local once told me that you’ll meet your extended families in Dubrovnik three times in your lifetime, once at your birth, once at your wedding and the last time in court. Of course this last time in court means to fight over real estate that has been handed down through generations. And then the circle of life starts all over again. “I really don’t know what to do, it seems so unfair,” he continued swigging his coffee, “and I paid in cash.” Ah, another mistake. If you owe the bank 100 Euros, that's your problem. If you owe the bank 300,000 Euros, that's the bank's problem.
Sometimes in this area of Europe diplomacy isn’t the answer. There is a time to talk and there is a time to bare your teeth and growl like a wolf. It is just the law of the land. If you don’t stand up, puff out your chest and slam your fist on the table you will be treated as a doormat, with everyone wiping their dirty feet on you. These were roughly the words I explained to him but in a kinder way.
“You need to realise where you are and that sometimes actions speak louder than words,” was roughly what I said. This was not a world that he was used to, alien in every way. Everything looks picture perfect when you are here on holiday. And many people get sucked into the Mediterranean lifestyle, it is a sunshine drug, and it is extremely addictive. But entering the murky world of real estate here can chew you up and spit you out.
To be fair things have got better, let’s be honest they couldn’t get any worse. When Dubrovnik was a boom destination for foreign buyers, before the whole world collapsed financially, most “so called” estate agents, had a car and a mobile phone...that was it. Those darker days are gone but the scars, as I could see from the man in front of me, are still evident.
“What would be your advice now,” he said desperately. It was too late for him to run away as fast as he could, so the only answer was to stand and fight. “You will probably need to take another large loan from the bank,” I answered. “What for,” he said with a look of puzzlement. “To pay your lawyer, or maybe I should say lawyers,” was the answer he didn’t want to hear. “What a mess, if I had only known I wouldn’t have started,” was his conclusion.
Buying property in Dubrovnik has a similarity with getting married. If you marry someone you do not know well, or decide to marry someone without first carefully considering what you are doing, you will probably regret it for a long time. Or as the English say, “marry in haste, repent at leisure.” My coffee partner will now have the rest of his life to repent.
Dubrovnik will be connected with another low-cost airline in 2016. The budget airline Niki will operate seasonal flights from Vienna to Split and Dubrovnik next summer according to a report on the specialised website ex-yu aviation. Niki will start with flights to Dubrovnik Airport on a weekly basis from the 14th of May 2016. And then after the 29th of June they will introduce another flight to both Split and Dubrovnik.
Niki is owned by the German airline Air Berlin, and the parent company has recently announced flights for next year from Berlin and Dusseldorf to Split and Dubrovnik. Now it is time for the budget airline to follow suit.