Hvar Party Tourism Spreading to Jelsa? How to Grab Island Zecevo When Nobody is Watching

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July 28, 2018 – Are you a foreign investor who thinks Croatian paperwork takes forever? You obviously don’t know the right people. The Croatia foreigners don’t get to see – how Croatia really works. 

It is 11 years since some Norwegians bought some land near Sucuraj with the aim of opening a 270-million-euro luxury Nikki Beach Resort on eastern Hvar, an investment which would be the biggest ever on Croatia’s coast, creating 500 jobs in the process. Eleven years later, the Norwegian investors still do not own the land. 

It is also about 11 years since some investors bought a large piece of land near Stari Grad on Hvar, a plot that today has been announced by Minister of Tourism Gari Cappelli as a 140-million-euro Four Seasons hotel and resort, the first Four Seasons product in Croatia. Construction was due to start by the end of 2017, it was announced in June 2017, with the first guests due in 2019. Some 350 jobs. As 2019 looms large, not only has nothing been built, but no building permit has been issued, and no contract for the access road signed. Some are speculating whether or not the project will happen at all. 

And so the emigration continues.

Hvar, it seems, is a bureaucratic nightmare, where it is impossible to get anything done. 

Unless you know the right people of course… 

And have some willing and compliant local (and beyond) authorities, who are willing to move things along at a pace to suit the speediest investor. 

And so begins a tale in Jelsa and Vrboska which is arousing considerable local anger, as well as the demand for answers. 


(The island of Zecevo, still regarded as a protected important landscape by the agency responsible for protecting it)

An idyllic, almost virgin island, owned by the State and run by Croatian Forests, protected as an important landscape, which has had its paperwork quietly played with in recent months without any public consultation or announcement, where a concession has been quietly granted to an individual who has a business in boat rentals, and where the growing suspicion is that Carpe Diem’s Hvar party combination of main bar in town coupled with party island a short boat ride away is one step closer to being replicated in Jelsa and the islet of Zecevo. Zecevo lies off sleepy Vrboska, close to the Kamp Nudist campsite, whose peaceful location makes it one of the most popular naturist camps in Croatia, and an important revenue source for the island, something that would be killed in an instant by a vibrant Zecevo. 

There are many ways to look at what has happened over the last months regarding Jelsa and Vrboska, and the translation of a public notice of the startling changes to Zecevo, which appeared a couple of days ago, is one way – it is attached with full translation at the end of this article.

I prefer to look at this whole story through the public and private words, as well as actions of one of the most involved players in this whole story, SDP’s Mayor of Jelsa, Niksa Peronja. 

Peronja, a young lawyer from Jelsa, is now in his second term as Mayor of Jelsa. It has been a period of great change for the town, with several major infrastructure projects underway for several years now. He can certainly be credited with some major achievements in this regard, and while there is significant opposition to some of his plans, one thing that struck me looking at Jelsa from the relative distance of Varazdin was how only positive stories about Jelsa seemed to hit the media. With one resident regional journalist writing only positive stories for the national press, it seemed that Jelsa truly was the perfect destination. Either that was the case, or for some reason, the negative stories never made it into the media… It was something I thought about again when I saw the Jelsa Carnival political sketch earlier this year, famous for its biting and often poisonous political satire – the mayor was apparently calling anyone who wrote any criticism of Jelsa on social media to delete the comments. HIs manner of persuasion was such that most did as requested and online negativity receded.

I first heard rumours that Carpe Diem were were taking the islet of Zecevo last summer. I immediately called Mayor Peronja and asked for a meeting. He has always been obliging with his time, and I have greatly enjoyed our chats over the years. There was no truth whatsoever to the rumours, and anyway, even though Zecevo was controlled by Croatian Forests under concession, as mayor, he would control the time any hospitality business could operate. It seemed like a false alarm. It was July, 2017.


When I returned to Jelsa earlier this year in the last days of March for Easter, there were more rumours, many more rumours. Not only were Carpe Diem taking Zecevo, but they had also taken one of the prime pieces of real estate in Jelsa, the Gradska Kavana (Town Cafe), which lay directly below his office and behind one of the icons of Jelsa, The Bench. 

So many rumours in fact, that when Mayor Peronja obliged me with a beer once more to discuss the situation, he was the only person in the whole town who had apparently not heard about Carpe Diem coming to town, an apparent lack of knowledge confirmed both verbally and by SMS. 

And then things got rather questionable, as coincidence after coincidence took place. The mayor admitted that he had met one of the owners of Carpe Diem for a coffee last summer, about the time he was denying to me that there was any Carpe Diem involvement in Jelsa or Zecevo, and a full three months AFTER he had granted the concession of the Gradska Kavana to an IT company with no employees – whose directors had direct links to the same Carpe Diem director he had been socialising with three months later. But he still knew nothing about Carpe Diem coming to Jelsa or Zecevo. You can read the initial TCN article about Carpe Diem allegedly coming to Jelsa, wriiten on March 31. A time when the mayor apparently still had no knowledge of any Carpe Diem interest in either Jelsa or Zecevo, but – as we shall see – more than 2 weeks AFTER the fate of the bigger prize, the island of Zecevo was sealed. Again, apparently without his knowledge. 


Something was starting to smell fishier than a month-old sardine, and so I did a little digging, taking a closer look at the original tender for the Gradska Kavana, whereupon I came across not only coincidence after coincidence, but also evidence to show how the tender was written for the pre-determined winner, who has blatantly disregarded the terms of the tender ever since, to such as extent that there is a strong case for the tender to be nullified and reissued. More information from the TCN article in May, 2018 – In the Beautiful Croatia, All Animals are Equal, But Some are More Equal than Others.

And I am sure that it is also a coincidence that the person recently granted a concession on Zecevo is the next door neighbour to the building where the Gradska Kavana company is registered. 

And so to that public notice about Zecevo which went up a couple of days ago (you can see the full text below). Very quietly, and with no public information whatsoever, a rather clever piece of bureaucratic manoeuvring has been taken place. The island is basically forest and was listed as such under one cadastral plot, 2638. There had been some restaurant there many years ago, but these days, Zecevo is a pine forest, frequented by naturists mostly. a tranquil haven. Nothing could be built there, and the island was under the protection of government agencies. 

And then one day a few months ago, someone decided to split the island into two parcels, one central, and one coastal. Who that person was remains to be seen, but presumably in this transparent modern Croatia, it should not be hard to find out who?

The splitting of the land was done in record time (if you are a foreign investor in Croatia, look away now) – just 8 days, which is totally unheard of in this country. Unless, of course… 


The application to split the land and to change its classification, was made on March 5, 2018, just 4 days before a new law came into effect. Whoever was doing the splitting was ahead even of the law, and with the arrival of the new law, the central plot’s new status as agricultural land had positive (for anyone who wanted to build something) impacts for anyone with a concession. Indeed, the ruined buildings became officially inscribed as legal buildings in one of the plots. Quite how an island of pine forest came to be classified as agricultural land is an interesting point, presumably something which can be explained by the person who can explain why the land was split in the first place. 

All this paperwork was concluded 18 days BEFORE I met the mayor for that Easter pint, when he had no idea about anything to do with Carpe Diem. 

And then, would you believe, when nobody knew that there was a concession to be obtained, a Jelsa resident called Mr. S.T. (who, as mentioned is a neighbour of the Gradska Kavana company) incredibly knew that there was a concession on offer. Concessions normally have to go through a tender process, which involves a level of public notice, but Mr. S.T. obtained something a little different, which is called ‘koncesijsko odobrenje’ and not only does not require a tender, but allegedly can only be issued by the local authority – ie Jelsa Municipality which is run by the Mayor of Jelsa. Despite the Mayor allegedly knowing nothing about Zecevo or any plans for his, his office somehow managed to apparently issue a concession.


There is another very strange aspect to the story, and one which shows that there is also a regional interest in this. The Croatian coast is public, with the zone 6m from the water called Pomorsko Dobro (literally Maritime Good). It is normally between 6m and 12m from the coast, and it is common for hotels and restaurants to take a concession in front of their premises. On Zecevo, the coastal area has been rezoned into Pomorsko Dobro, but with an astonishing 36m distance to the coast, which I certainly have never come across in Croatia. It is highly unusual and begs the question – why? Presumably, in the modern, transparent Croatia, the person who can answer who applied to split the land in the first place is the same person who can explain why was it rezoned to agricultural land and why such a large part of the island is effectively now available as a large beach concession. 

Interestingly, the decision on the size of the Pomorosko Dobro zone, and the decision-makers of who actually gets the concession, are made at the regional level. By the same agency which granted the concession of Bol’s iconic Zlatni Rat beach to a company with no employees last year, which resulted in a change of the Split-Dalmatia regional governor

I contacted Mayor Peronja by SMS, explaining that I would be writing an article about the Zecevo events and requesting a meeting so that I could include his comments and version. He has so far not responded, but I will publish his comments in full should he decide to do so. 

Mayor Peronja did, however, respond to the public notice which broke the news about the changes at Zecevo, by calling a meeting in Vrboska on Tuesday, July 31, to explain more about what is happening at Zecevo. It would appear that after months of knowing nothing about Zecevo, now he has something to share. It will be an interesting meeting. 


There are unconfirmed reports of building materials already on Zecevo in recent days. While I have no confirmation of that, one small wooden structure is a new addition – see above. 

Below, a translation (and the original) of the anonymous poster which brought public attention to the changes on Zecevo.  

Whose is the Island and whose will it be?

Dear people of Vrboska and all those who have Vrboska close to their hearts.

In the last six months, certain processes have been taking place in silence whose goal is to prepare the basis for putting the Zečevo islet, our Island, under a long-term concession. We can easily see this is taking place if we only glance at the Geoportal, Land Registry and Cadastre, which are all publicly available on the internet.

What do we know so far?

According to the decision made by the Assembly of the Municipality of Hvar, no. 01-1201/1, made on 21 October 1968, and the Decision by the Republic Institute for Environmental Protection, UP/I-9/1972, issued on 15 March 1972, it was recorded that the cadastral plot no. 2638 is located in a protected area, under the name Zečevo, registered in the Registry of Protected Natural Valuables kept by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, under the registry no. 657 in the IMPORTANT LANDSCAPE category.

On 5 March 2018, someone filed a request for a change of data for plot no. 2638 in the Vrboska cadastral district and the request was accepted after only eight days ?!?. The plot no. 2638 has been divided into two plots, 2638/1 and 2638/2.

Overview of the case status


Case no: Z-8362/2018

As of 17 July 2018 – 23.11

Received:                    5 March 2018, 10.01

Type of document:

File tag:                       Class: UP/I 932-07/18-02/52

Proposal content:        change to data for cadastral plot no. 2638, Vrboska cadastral district

Note on file movement:

Decision:                    Accepted

Decision date: 13 March 2018

Implementation date:  13 March 2018

Dispatch date: 13 March 2018

Just two months later, publicly available documents show that on 14 May 2018 a proposal was submitted for the establishment of the maritime domain on the newly-formed plot no. 2638/2.

Overview of the case status


Case no: Z-18601/2018

As of 17 July 2018 – 23.11

Received:                    14 May 2018, 08.35

Type of document:

File tag:                       lp-DO-250/18

Proposal content:        maritime domain for plot no. 2638/2, Vrboska cadastral district

Note on file movement:


Decision date:

Implementation date: 

Dispatch date:

Given our administrative system and the speed with which such cases are usually resolved, the suspicion is additionally increased by the fact that the possession form in the cadastre already shows the new division, which declares the plot 2638/1 to be forest and built-up land, and the plot 2638/2 to be a maritime domain.

Data on cadastre plots

Cadastre plot no.         Plot address, how is it used    Area m2          Special legal regimes

2638/1                         ZEČEVO                                 61409              ZK

                                    FOREST                                 61136

                                    BUILT-UP LAND                        16

                                    COURTYARD                             172

                                    BUILT-UP LAND                         85

2638/2                         ZEČEVO                                 50726              PD

                                    ROCKY COAST                    17011

                                    PASTURE                               33715

                                    The total area of plots 112135


How is this possible?

Since 2007, the Zečevo islet has had the status of the protected landscape with a ban on abalienation and burdening of plot no. 2638. Since the whole islet was one plot, a way has been found to solve the problem. Allegedly, the Municipality of Jelsa sent a letter to relevant institutions claiming that the islet of Zečevo is agricultural land and then, based on the letter, a part of the land which was subsequently proclaimed as the maritime domain was extracted from Zečevo. While the whole islet was forest land, that was not possible.

Now, when the agricultural production is blossoming on Zečevo (cabbage, tomato, onion…) the Municipality of Jelsa allegedly used the Article 3 Paragraph 4 of the Law on Agricultural Land (which came into force on 9 March 2018!!!), which reads: “A request for the extraction of agricultural land from the Paragraph 2 of this Article from forest land can be submitted by a local authority unit or the City of Zagreb and sent to the ministry dealing with forestry issues.”

Once again, note the date when the request was submitted, the date when the Law on Agricultural Land came into force, and the date when the request for the data change on plot no. 2638 was approved.

Why is the Law on Agricultural Land important?

Article 14

In case of privately-owned agricultural land which is not being maintained as suitable for agricultural production in accordance with Article 4 Paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Law, and the owners are either unknown or their residence is unknown, the Ministry can, to protect the soil, the environment or the people, lease that land to a physical or a legal person for the period of up to ten years, with the compensation equal to the amount of the initial lease from the Article 37 of this Law.

Article 77

(1) The right to build on the agricultural land owned by the state is established when, on the agricultural land outside the boundaries of the construction zone, by an act for the implementation of spatial plans, a construction plot or the scope of intervention in space is established and when the purpose of the agricultural land is changed.

(2) The right to build from the Paragraph 1 of this Article can be established for the period no longer than 99 years.

Who received a concession grant to perform hospitality services on Zečevo and how?

According to available information for the islet of Zečevo, the Council for Awarding of Concession Approvals of the Municipality of Jelsa has issued a concession for the execution of hospitality services to Mr. S.T. from Jelsa. A reasonable question at this moment is how did Mr. S.T. know about the possibility that he could get a concession, what public competition did he apply to, and where was the public competition published so that other people could also apply?

Even more intriguing question is the issue of the real intentions and who, if anyone, is standing behind Mr. S.T., and what are the ultimate intentions of these “players.” Is there any truth to rumours that the leaser of Gradska Kavana in Jelsa is closely connected to the “Carpe Diem” in Hvar and that this is a way for them to try to get hold of the attractive area of Zečevo and slowly expand their business from the town of Hvar, together with everything which that would bring with it?

What awaits us in the future and what can we do?

Even if just half of this is true, do we have the right to be worried?

Do we have the right to watch quietly what will happen on Zečevo?

Do we have the right to gamble with the future of our children?

Can we allow Zečevo, which helped feed many families of Vrboska in the past, to be turned into an exclusive destination which we will be able to enter only after paying for it?

Who among us will be in a few years as angry as Gego is today?

Gego is mad as hell: The island of Hvar is ruled by sex and narco-tourism, everything is full of cocaine! I told the police where the drug dealers are, but they did not react (Editor explanation – Gego is a well-known singer from Hvar)








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