Spain and Serbia must save Croatia

The Croatian government has finally announced its budget revision to combat the consequences of the economic and financial crisis. From the first of April onwards, wages of public sector personnel will be cut by 6 percent. Considering the fact that Croatia's public sector is oversized and terribly inefficient you wonder why this measure wasn't taken a whole lot earlier. I know that cutting wages by 6 percent is unthinkable in Western Europe, but the number of Croats on sick leave and the overall lack of productivity of those that bother to show up at work is unthinkable in Western Europe too.
The budget revision is the first accomplishment (of ten promised) after the government put forward an anti-crisis plan, about a month ago. In a few days, all eyes will be on Damir Bajs, Croatia's minister for tourism. He is supposed to present a plan to draw more tourists to Croatia by the end of this month. Only tourism can save Croatia's ailing economy. (The idea is the Croatia is the nearest Mediterranean country - instead of flying to Greece, Germans will travel to Croatia by car.) But it won't, I am afraid. All indicators predict a mayor downturn in the tourism industry too.
So far we haven't heard much of Bajs plan, except for Croatia's strong presence at Belgrade's tourism fair. Last year 17.000 tourists from Serbia visited Istria, and some 10.000 spent their holidays in Split - negligible numbers compared those from other countries and, also, to the great number of Serbs that go to Montenegro. I would welcome more Serbs to Croatia, but I doubt their willingness to the spend their dinars on the rather expensive Croatian coast.
Another way to boost the Croatian economy is to penetrate foreign markets with Croatian products, something that has not succeeded so far. But there is a first sign of success. A Spanish department store chain, called El Corte Inglés, will put products on the shelves that are world famous in Croatia: Kraš, Gavrilović, Klara Marić, Franck, Zvečevo, Jamnica, and others. If you live in Spain, buy them! You not only help your Croatian brethren but you also show that you are a real gourmand. And please send me a picture of the Croatian product you bought, as many promised success stories of Croatian products abroad turn out to be false after all. As is the case with Croatian trams, that were supposed to be seen on the streets of Beijing and Helsinki, but, in the end, only cruise in Zagreb. More about that in the next post.

Let love live - homosexuals in Croatia

Life is not easy for gays and lesbians in Croatia, as the almighty Catholic church is one of their principle enemies. Croatian bishops recently asked people to sign a petition against rights for homosexuals and against abortion. One signer explained why he put his signature under the petition: "Gays are not only annoying, it goes without saying that they are weird".
The church and minorities (ethnic, sexual or else) in Croatia - an awkward relationship.
Kontra, an organization for lesbians and Iskorak, a center for the promotion of equal rights for sexual minorities, started a campaign for more rights and less discrimination. Posters like the one above will be hung all over Zagreb, Osijek, Split and Dubrovnik. One of their wishes is the possibility of same sex marriages.
I keep my fingers crossed, but I am very pessimistic. If you want to know how tragic things can be in Croatia, please read this article (in English) about a girl who received a mental treatment for five years after she had told her parents she was lesbian.

The paper crisis

Which is the fate of the Croatian press? This question was being debated at yesterday's round table conference on the future of Croatian newspapers, magazines and other periodicals. The media landscape in Croatia is not very diverse anyway, and newspapers are being hard hit by the economic crisis. Newspaper sales went down by 20 to 40 percent and advertising revenue with 30 percent.
One of the participants of the conference was Večernji list. In an article about the meeting it writes: "Although the facts indicate that the sale of newspaper copies is in decline, those present rejected the possibility that the press will disappear."
What I find most interesting is the word "facts". As a matter of truth, we know preciously little about the facts. For example, there are no data available on newspaper circulation and sales. We have no idea how many copies a paper like Jutarnji list or Vjesnik sells on average per day. A public opinion poll, done by Mediapuls, produced incredible statistics about newspapers and their readers in Croatia. Of all Croats 63 percent daily read a newspaper. What is most surprising is that these are not the pensioners that make up a large part of Croatia's population. An amazing 72 percent of young people, age 15 to 19, read a paper every day.
There are no official data to prove this poll wrong. But my gut feeling says it is wrong. I don't believe that more than two million Croats spend a euro per day on newspapers. I hardly see people reading newspapers in the tram and not a single family in my sizable apartment block is subscribed to a paper. Not even the National and Scientific Library in Zagreb is a subscriber! Can you image the British Library or the Library of Congress without a single newspaper?
I would not mind if some papers disappeared. Croatia's biggest paper, 24Sata, writes mostly about fun and sex, gossip, celebrities and "black chronicles" - murder, rape, corruption, you name it.
I am rather pessimistic by nature, but I do think that, also in Croatia, their is a market for a serious, non-aligned, internationally oriented newspaper. Or maybe a regional newspaper, if that would boost sales. That has nothing to do with "jugonostalgija" (Slobodna Dalmacija, for example, has a page on Bosnia). Serbia's Politika issues a regional edition, but unfortunately it is printed in Cyrillic only.
If you have data about newspaper sales and the media landscape in Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia or Montenegro, former Yugoslavia, the Western Balkans, South Eastern Europe, this part of Europe or what ever you want to call this region, please comment below.