Croatian Islands Hope New Law Fixes Old Problems

Total Croatia News

December 13, 2018 — The skepticism ran deep. Croatia’s islanders are used to big promises. Their complaints came fast:

No stable sources of potable water.

Dilapidated or even nonexistent infrastructure.

Aging, unreliable and overpriced ferries.

And in some cases, the wild pigs outnumber residents.

Croatia’s new “Law on Islands” could fix all that. The recently-passed measures are ostensibly meant to give “boduli” (islanders) opportunities for sustainable economic progress on par with mainland residents.

The grander goal? Reversing a demographic slide predating Croatia’s current predicament by a few decades. The law, in short, is meant to make up for decades of neglect.

But it won’t do anything about the pigs.

A collective of representatives from Croatia’s archipelago of islands called the “Island Parliament” (Otočni Sabor) shared hopes, grievances and suggestions for the legislation at a gathering in Zadar on Wednesday.

Overall, the skeptical crowd’s message was: “Good luck.”

“We have to define a new vision for islands’ development,” said the parliament’s president Denis Barić. “We have to return pride among the residents.”

Croatia’s Parliament passed the package of measures on Nov. 21.

The “Law on Islands” creates a new model for categorizing islands, with a special grouping for underdeveloped islands which lack even basic, Second World infrastructure. (It may be hard to believe, but not all of Croatia’s islands resemble Hvar.)

It creates a formal legal definition of “islandness” — a special set of social, economic and historic complexities and unique characteristics created when surrounded by sea.

The law also introduces “Island Coordinators” meant to help prepare and implement projects. The position will end a decades-long game of broken telephone between politicians in Zagreb and the islands they rarely visit outside of summer holidays.

Some expressed worry the position creates another opportunity for “uhljeb”, the distinctly-Croatian term for an incompetent nepotism hires simply taking up space.

The Island Movement’s (Pokret Otoka) Vice President Paula Bolfan welcomed the new law, but suggested islanders avoid solely relying on government help.

“There are other options we need to consider, such as investment from the private sector as well as [European Union] funds,” she said.

The new law on island neglects the growing concern over invasive species, such as wild pigs, which outnumber people on the island of Sestrunj. The government refused to cull the boom in swine and other vermin.

The Croatian government has reportedly invested HRK 21.8 billion in islands from 2004 to 2017. The new law secures another HRK 94 million.

The new “Law on Islands” replaces a existing legislation passed in 1999, which didn’t aged well.

“We don’t want Croatia’s islanders to feel like second-class citizens,” Barić said.


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