In Istria Regionalization is the Only Plan

Total Croatia News

Should there be greater decentralization in Croatia? A voice from Istria.

As the heat wave is reaching its peak on the largest and richest – as its sometimes stuffy and mostly proud residents would often say – Croatian peninsula of Istria diligently offers many tourists a huge variety of local culinary delights and a clear sea as an already proven successful combined tourism recipe.

But the well-deserved smiles on the faces of Istrian caterers, waiters and other workers that should appear in late September when the figures from accountants are calculated, has disappeared more and more in the recent years, in tandem with the effects of the great economic crisis that has engulfed Croatia already for so many years.

With hard and dedicated work, but also with a happy and favorable geographical location Istria County has been for decades, perhaps centuries, in a significantly better economic position than other counties in Croatia and the wider region, so its people quite reasonably have been waging for years an uphill battle with the rest of country in an attempt to fight for a greater degree of decentralization, which as optimists would believe, would certainly lead to the successful regionalization of the country, and thus to a fuller “takujin” – wallet.

Things become so serious that at the beginning of this year, the usually calm and politically correct president of Istria County Valter Flego made a direct comparison on the theme of the new building of the General Hospital in Pula. He warned: “Istria has paid so much money to the Croatian budget that we could have built 16 hospitals so far.”

It is understandable then that in Pula eyes get smaller at the mention of Zagreb, which is unfairly becoming a symbol of modern tax repression, as people are getting full of a bulky government that has so far created more than 550 local (regional) government units. Most of these units of course are not even sustainable and are financed from the country’s budget based on more successful economic regions. Instead of help for the undeveloped, it now more looks like a story of Hare and Tortoise.

All this discontent that is spilling from the lips of people in shopping malls and under the colorful awnings of many cafes in Pula, rolls over onto the leading Istrian regional party IDS, which no longer hides its dissatisfaction with the unsuccessful regional reforms that has this far failed to ensure a fair distribution of Istrian funding. It is therefore clear that this new (and some may say unexpectedly long) negotiations that are currently underway with the ruling coalition led by the SDP, require as its basis for any future agreements final recognition of Istrian position and the reality of distribution of budget funds. IDS president Boris Miletić confirmed this yesterday in a statement: The only conclusion of the negotiations so far is that they will continue throughout this week. We must secure that Istria keeps a regional status for the future.

The statement was another sign that Istrian politicians now have created much stronger position and will not accept any unrealistic promises and mistakes of the past.

However, political duality in the Croatian campaign and especially across the media that has already started, continues to hamper the necessary regionalization, pushing under the carpet economic issues and fiercely taking out of the closet the old Balkan skeletons. We are left to see whether Croatia will have the strength and wisdom to finally take hold regional and autonomous reforms, or will this same reforms eventually be pushed forcefully on us by larger international organizations in the coming years.


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