An eventful year in Croatia which saw a new President and almost a new government, with plenty in between. A look at the top 10 events of the year.
Another year in the young life of the democracy that is modern Croatia is coming to a close. It was a difficult year on the economic front, with the added pressure of the refugee crisis and resulting border tensions, as well as an election year. Total Croatia News presents the ten events of the year in Croatia on December 27, 2015, which defined the year 2015.
2015 started and ended with political election drama. The main drama at the beginning of the year was the Presidential election, which started on Decemeber 28, 2014, and was concluded early the next year in a run off between current President Ivo Josipovic and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who beat Josipovic in a tight finish, becoming the fourth President of Croatia, and the first female president. Her margin of victory was just 32,509 votes.
It was a highly controversial year for Croatian football, as resistance to alleged corruption of the Croatian National Football Assocation continued. Croatia was deducted a point and ordered to play the next two games behind closed doors after a swastika appeared cut into the pitch in their game against Italy, a fixture which had also been the subject of controversy in Italy the previously, having been abandoned due to flares from Croatian supporters.
Public dissatisfaction manifested itself online with a Facebook page called Bojkot, calling on fans to boycott the national team while the current regime remained in place. It quickly got 30,000 fans. On the pitch, things looked sketchy, and coach Niko Kovac was fired after drawing with Azerbaijan and losing to Norway. He was replaced by Ante Cacic, who steered them to Euro 2016. Off the pitch Dinamo boss Zdravko Mamic was arrested twice on charges of corruption. The investigation is ongoing.
There was no questioning who were the heroes of 2015 – the brave firefighters of Korcula and Peljesac who battled horrendous forest fires in August, truly heroic efforts which saved lives, property and Dalmatia’s pristine nature. A nation remains grateful. Among the casualties which coud not be saved were some of the famous Grgic vineyards on Peljesac.
It was another bumper tourism season, with revenues and tourist arrivals up sharply on 2014. A scorching hot summer kept people on the beach, but perhaps the most encouraging trend was in the lengthening of the season. Split and Central Dalmatia seemed to lead the way, but spare a thought for Zagreb, which registered over a million tourists, and whose Advent in Zagreb proved to be the winter hit, even being voted Best European Christmas Destination on portal European Best Destinations.
The nation’s prayers and attention were focused on Egypt in August, as Croatian national Tomislav Salopek was kidnapped by Islamic State affiliates, and a $30 million ransom demanded. After days of uncertainty, a grizzly image of his decapitated body was released online by his murderers. His body has never been recovered.
August also saw the 20th anniversary of Operation Storm, the military campaign which led to huge gains in Krajina, and was the catalyst to the end of the Homeland War. Celebrations in Knin were accompanied by a huge military parade in the capital Zagreb.
With a fragile economy and plenty of domestic problems, Croatia was confronted with an external problem, to which it responded magnificently – the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. As Hungary built wire fences to keep out the refugees and migrants, Croatia welcomed them humanely and helped them on their way to Germany and beyond. As long as German borders remained open, and the German government message was welcoming, Croatia took the view that they were just a transit point. More than half a million passed through Croatia from September to December, with only a handful stopping to apply for asylum.
Relations with Slovenia were a constant source of news for 2015. The ongoing border dispute over the bay of Piran became an international story when it emerged that there had been secret communications between Slovenia and the arbitration committee. Piran faded into the background with the migrant crisis, however, as Slovenia objected to Croatia’s policy of sending all migrants through, and they started to impose controls and restricting access. What started as an attempt to control the flow quickly expanded into the erection of wire fences – some of it on Croatian territory, according to the Croatian Foreign Ministry. When the fence expanded to Istria, local opposition on both sides of the border manifested itself in Christmas decorations being added to the fence, and the world’s first volleyball match over a ‘net’ of razor wire took place in two countries simulaneously, with Olympic sportsmen and other dignitaries of both countries taking part.
When it came to the most viral story of the year from Croatia, there was just one applicant – human rights campaigner Ivan Zvonimir Cicak, whose trousers unfortunately fell down as he was receiving an award from the Croatian President. Even more unfortunately for Cicak, the moment was caught on film, and the footage quickly went viral globally.
Apart from a couple of days in Dubrovnik, the Game of Thrones crew bypassed Croatia in 2015, but their absence was more than made up with by the actors in the Croatian parliamentary election campaign. The election took place on November 8, and it was only on December 23 that a Prime Minister designate was announced. With so many twists and turns, and one suspects a couple still to come, it would appear that the next government will be a coalition of HDZ and a new political force called MOST, with a non-partisan Prime Minister from Canada, Tim Oreskovic.
All is still to be confirmed, but it seems this will be the team to lead Croatia into 2016. We will see you there and look forward to reporting on life in this fabulous country next year.