While the Migrant Crisis Dominates, Quiet Developments on Adriatic Drilling

Total Croatia News

The TCN network expands to Sweden, here Andrija Ankovic shares his thoughts on some largely unreported developments in the Adriatic drilling saga. 

There is a country in Europe that in the last twenty years developed into much more than just a solid touristic destination. Numbers are clear, from almost zero in the year 1995 up to more than 12 million tourists in 2014. According to official projections, only in the year 2015 this EU land will earn not less than 8 billion Euros from tourism. No wonder, the country in question is just perfect for any tourist, warm and crystal clear sea with a myriad of beaches and thousand of islands to explore, incredibly rich history and archaeology, amazing nature and natural wonders, exquisite gastronomy with delicious ingredients both from the sea and from the countryside and all of that along the beautiful coast that is stretching, islands included, about 6000 km.

Of course, people in that country are generally pretty happy about its development in tourism. It brings work, it fills the good part of the state budget, it pays for many state schools, hospitals and retirement pensions. But, all that seem not to be good enough for its actual government. They seem to have a better, more cunning, more serious and more “down to earth” plan on the direction this country should develop. Even if that plan is directly jeopardising everything mentioned above.

In just a few days from now, Croatian government will sign certain contracts with certain oil industries, conceding more than 90% of Adriatic Sea for very long time to oil and natural gas exploitation. Despite all of the protests from its own voters and from the opposition, despite the record low prices of oil, despite the fact that possible earnings from this “brilliant” plan, even in the most optimistic projections, could never reach more than 5% of the amount that Croatia is already earning from tourism.

Not to mention a real danger of an oil rig going mad, and if that happens in the mostly closed Adriatic Sea, it would inevitably mean a permanent devastation of a good part of it. Surely, it would mean a goodbye to tourists.

Probably the most annoying aspect of this controversial project is the way government communicated with the public about it. Or should we say, mostly avoided to do so. It looks like they were aware of strong arguments against such a venture and decided from the start to keep it hidden as much as possible.

For example, the Minister of Environment, Mr. Zmajlovic, never even mentioned it. In any way. Thinking of it, maybe that is the best possible way to show to people how little his ministry was considered about possible environmental issues inside oil and gas exploration of Adriatic. Minister of Tourism, Mr. Lorencin was following the same example of “stay quiet” policies until very recently, when, faced repeatedly from journalists, he allowed himself to comment that “In my opinion, oil rigs and tourism can coexist without problems”. Is that really all that a person who is responsible for the development of tourism in Croatia have to say on the matter? “No problems at all” even for the main figure in this plan, Minister of Economy Mr. Vrdoljak. According to him “There is no way an oil rig disaster can happen in the Adriatic Sea”. Mr. Vrdoljak must be having some super-powers to be so sure about something that not even the best experts in the merit can be sure about. “Let the experts discuss” was Mr. Vrdoljak message to those who expressed uneasiness about this hazardous venture, but, in reality, experts never really got a chance to discuss it. At least not publicly.

Numerous complaints about violating the democratic procedure in this project were filed by different organisations and individuals. When the government decided to hire a foreign company for preliminary research and mapping of possible spots for exploration, it was done in complete silence. According to many jurists, this was a direct violation of the constitution.

In the April of 2015, at the time when first contracts were supposed to be signed, there still was no any parliamentary or public discussion. It happened that government “forgot” to respect the formal procedure with neighbouring countries, and after the complaints from Italy and Slovenia, the signing of contracts had to be postponed.

Contracts which content, by the way, is still completely unknown to the public. Citizens of Croatia still do not have any clue how much will Croatian state earn from this, and it seems that not even the government knows for sure, since they started with promising 50% of entire earnings, while now they are speaking of only 10%.

Apart few people in the government, nobody in Croatia knows, for example, which measures will be taken if some disaster really happens, who is going to clean possible spills, nobody even knows who is going to take responsibility in a case of such event. What we do know for sure is that, at a present, Croatia certainly do not have any experience, means or infrastructure to deal with such disasters.

On the same line of non-informing was the way the government used the state media when they had to address the public. Most of the relevant news about this project never reached state TV news, or first pages in newspapers, not even second or the third one. Even this latest news, about signing the contracts on the 24th of September was published in only one daily paper, and as a little notice on the 10th page.

All this unanswered questions and undiscussed issues, procedural “mistakes” and ignoring of public opinion, leads only to a general suspicion about seriosity of the entire project. Why the government has been so secretive and so unwilling to discuss such an important issue for its citizens it remains to be understood. In few months from now Croatia is facing elections and probably the change of the government. Mr. Vrdoljak wants to rush now with the signing, it is understandable, according to all the polls, he will not have such a power after elections. A power to push the Adriatic coast and millions of its inhabitants into a very dangerous venture with possibly disastrous consequences, and with just one simple move of a pen.

A power and a responsibility that really should never be given to just one man, while all the public opinion continues to be ignored.


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