Will Croatian Establishment Owners Take to Streets in Protest?

Lauren Simmonds

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As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Croatian establishment owners who are banned from working have stated that they are very much ready to start working again as soon as possible, claiming that people are now running out of energy, bars are having to permanently close every single day and that as a sector they are thinking about the possibility of taking to the streets in protest or all simply re-opening in groups on the same day.

Marija Bubas, Assistant Director of the Croatian Institute of Public Health, Dino Kozlevac, Chief of Staff of the Istria County, Ivan Vestic, President of the Athletics Federation, and Drazen Biljan, a Croatian establishment owner, all said their piece recently for an HRT programme.

The topics included easing the current strict anti-epidemic measures and Croatia’s now favourable epidemiological situation.

In the introductory part of the show, Bubas said that the Croatian epidemiological situation is only getting better, but it isn’t what you’d call great yet. She believes that just as measures should be introduced gradually, they should also be gradually relaxed in the same manner, and she doesn’t know what the first thing to be eased up will be because it is still being very carefully considered.

As for the measures, she said it’s difficult to satisfy everyone, but that public health always comes first. She added that economic activities, education, and also the public health interest in not putting pressure on the healthcare system must be preserved as much as possible and that healthcare services must be provided to all those who need it, when they need it.

Asked in which segment the anti-epidemic measures will be eased first, she said it’s difficult to choose. She believes that a new set of measures will be introduced, but she has stated that she doesn’t know which sector will be the first to breathe a sigh of relief.

Biljan believes that all sectors in the hospitality industry should be equalised, but that ”serving coffee to go is a mere few crumbs in terms of their survival”. They asked for the possibility of deliveries, but that makes up less than 3 percent of the income of such facilities, which will not help them in almost anything. He talked about the consequences of lockdown, saying that Croatian establishment owners are now on the floor and have no one to pick them up and help them at all.

It was announced that children could go to sport training again and that gyms would be re-opened, Vestic said that these measures leave long-term consequences – sport clubs have been losing children for months now. After the first lockdown, it took six months for his club to have the same number of members and for the children to actually return. He believes that some sportsclubs shouldn’t have been closed – especially those which take place outdoors and where children aren’t in direct physical contact.

Many clubs are complaining about unequal treatment. Vestic said the measures were selective, accusing them of even involving lobbying. The head of Istria’s Civil Protection Headquarters also demanded that gyms and sport clubs be opened.

Kozlevac asked for the work of gyms and sport clubs to be allowed, he is satisfied with the announcement that this will happen, but he says that they are being very careful and monitoring the epidemiological situation. He said that the number of patients in Istria County had been falling for five entire weeks and that they could now start easing the measures. They estimated, he added, that sport centres and individual sports can now be allowed. He expects the profession to find a solution and that the measure will be adopted from February the 1st, when the review is due.

Students in Istria County are still taking their classes online and this decision is also valid until the end of January. They’re assessing the situation and will decide how to proceed in the coming days. They don’t want to jeopardise the good epidemiological situation and believe that the measures must be gradually relaxed.

A Croatian establishment owner: We’re now considering a group opening

When asked how long the Croatian establishment owners and their businesses such as cafes can last in these harsh and restrictive times, Biljan says that they’re now finished and that they want to start working as soon as possible. According to official data, 1,098 Croatian cafes have been closed down since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. A long return of guests awaits them, he said. They are skeptical and think that it will take a long time for them to return to anywhere close to normal. All Croatian establishment owners should, Biljan said, be permitted to open their doors again at the same time, it isn’t good to divide them up.

“We’re not an island within Europe, we have to monitor the situation in the area,” said Bubas. She added that the experiences of other countries should also be looked at.

“Sport has suffered more than you think,” said Vestic. He warned of illogicalities regarding the measures in force.

Protests by Croatian establishment owners under the slogan “I will open” have been going on for days in nearby Italy, and Biljan says that here in Croatia, business owners are also very close to that because they have had enough and are now more than ready to work.

“We’ve fully respected the measures agreed with the Civil Protection Headquarters. I think the vast majority of restaurants are a safe place for guests. We’re here to respect the measures to the maximum, in agreement with the Headquarters. We’re ready to start working as soon as possible, people are running out of energy, tills are empty, bars are closing down every day and we’re thinking about the possibility of going out onto the streets or organising a group opening, where we all open again on the same day,” warned Biljan.

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