By Natasa Radic – Zagreb
The slow process of the development of civil society in Croatia reached its full swing on March 27th: on that day, namely, the Ministry of Administration approved a referendum in Dubrovnik with the question “Are you for the adoption of urban development plan, which, along with the construction of the golf course, allows the construction of accommodations with beds (villa hotels and apartments) on the plateau of the hill Srdj. ” This is the first referendum in Croatia initiated by the signatures of the citizens.
The issue that the citizens in Dubrovnik, the most famous Croatian tourist attraction, want to vote about is wheather to build a golf resort in Dubrovnik Srdj hill or not. This project dates back more than a decade ago and it was initially the sport center project turned into golf courses one with accompanying villas and apartments, spread over 310 hectares (instead of the initial 100 acres) without synchronizing with the urban plan of the city of Dubrovnik. But it was a suspicious element for the citizens initiative “Srdj je nas – Srdj is Ours”, that started the debate in Croatia.
-From the first day, and especially since 2006. this project has been a painful spot in the relations between the political powers and the citizens. Adoption procedure of the urban plan, two public hearings and political support from all parties have led to the conclusion that this issue should really be in the hands of citizens. Countless laws have been violated, and after seven years people of Dubrovnik have shown that they do not hesitate to put their signature to support this referendum – says Djuro Capor from “Srdj is ours” initiative and stresses out that the overall project of golf courses represents only five per cent of the entire project while the vast majority actually disguises luxury villas and apartments as the part of the sports center of Dubrovnik built in the public space.
Dubrovnik is attractive for millions of tourists each year, but is does not have a golf course. Different investors wanted to start this project, but so far, the citizens opposed. The most serious project, 1.2 billion euro worth one, is the golf course project of the Israeli investor Aron Frenkel whose wife Maja Brinar is a Croatian and before her marriage worked as the assistant Minister of the Economy in 2000.
On the day when the Ministry of Administration decided to accept the referendum – the authorities of the City of Dubrovnik have to fomalize the decision in the next 30 days – the mayor of Dubrovnik Andro Vlahusic said he expects a big turnout on the referendum day.
However, “Srdj is ours” intiative thinks that this referendum readiness of the Dubrovnik major is just a spin.
-The mayor first claimed that the referendum question is not legitimate, now he welcomes it, but the city authorities still avoided a referendum to be held on the same day as the local elections in May, and that is something we asked for from the beginning. But we believed in miracles from the start and hope that half of registered voters, will turnout and vote on the referendum – concluded Djuro Capor.