Yesterday, the German Robert Koch Institute of Health removed four Croatian counties s lists of risk areas. Accordingly, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs lifted the negative warning for travel to these counties, which means that when returning to Germany from these counties, a negative PCR test does not have to be presented and no quarantine is required.
Great news, which reopened one key issue. Why is Croatia still divided into two regions and by counties?
But let's go in order…
Europe is a symbol of synergy, cooperation, a common market and a common presence. But it was precisely in the crisis situation caused by the Covid-19 crisis that this proved to be the weakest link. Unfortunately, the European Commission has proved sluggish, without synergies, and most importantly, it makes decisions late, which is disastrous in any crisis situation. And when there is no order and when decisions are not made quickly, then there is disorder and anarchy. This is exactly what happened last summer with the closing of the borders, where each state played a game for itself and out of its own interest as it saw fit. Uncertainty was at its peak. The same thing happened with the vaccine, and it still happens. Weakness in decisive and concrete decisions has again led to the point of breaking down, and more and more countries are considering or introducing a Russian vaccine on their own, contrary to the EC agreement. All this is the result of slow decision making. Leadership requires more determination.
But let’s get back to the topic of tourism. After the uncertain situation around the opening of the tourist season in the whole of Europe, including Croatia, media skirmishes and dirty games, all eyes were on the EC and there was pressure for concrete answers.
The first real step was only in June last year, when the European Commission launches “Re-open EU” network platform for the safe continuation of travel and tourism in Europe. The platform serves as the main reference point for anyone traveling to the EU because it has centralized updated information. Although the platform was adopted with great delay, some concrete and transparent framework was finally created. Shortly after the launch of the platform, it was found that it had a major drawback, namely that the countries were marked as wholes, not by regions.
Again, there was no quick reaction to the correction, and negative campaigns and media spins of other countries towards Croatia were launched, with the aim of discouraging its citizens from traveling to Croatia, and of keeping them in their country. As one of the negative examples, let us single out the article of the German television RTL, which published old recordings from Zrće, imputing how festivals are allegedly held in Novalja during Covid19.
While in the uncertain and panic situation around the opening of the tourist season, the response of the European Commission was awaited, the reaction of our state was also awaited. Reaction to the media's dirty games, because every negative news blocked new reservations on the same day, as well as the answer that Croatia is being mapped through the regions. While silent diplomacy has partly borne fruit, for example in the case of Slovenia, a more decisive reaction to the European market was expected. Thus, various tourist workers and associations sent denials to their guests and the European media. On the other hand, the reaction of the Croatian Institute of Public Health was expected to map Croatia through regions and counties. Instead, we had a bizarre situation that the Netherlands put us on the red list because it did not receive epidemiological data from Croatia.
What our state should have done, when the EC was already sluggish, it did 27. July 2020. Croatian Tourism Association. HUT thus presented the website Corone Region Tracker with the aim of timely and accurate informing the public about the number of COVID-19 cases in Croatian regions.
On HUT's map, Croatia was divided into four regions: North Coast (Istria and Kvarner), South Coast (Dalmatia), Central Croatia (Zagreb and surroundings) and Eastern Croatia, which was also not correct, because it was initially needed be mapped by counties, not by regions as seen by HUT. However, this year (if I'm not mistaken, maybe before) HUT revised the map and now every county is visible, although the division of Croatia by the already mentioned regions is still at the top.
European Comission September 5, 2020. bringing proposal of recommendations to ensure that all Member States' measures restricting free movement due to the coronavirus pandemic are coordinated and clearly communicated at EU level.
Last summer, a in October 2020 EU member states have managed to align the eye common criteria to mark regions by the number of coronavirus infected. Based on the data submitted by the member states to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, a map of EU countries by different countries has been published colors or zones (green, orange, red, gray) - and by regions, which is crucial.
But… Croatia has since been divided into two regions, not counties. And what is most tragic, even after five months it is still so. And the new tourist season is approaching. The market is waking up. Reservations are slowly accumulating.
Severe autumn and winter are coming, and it was expected that the EC would now have time, regardless of the whole situation and course of events and the second or third wave of the epidemic, to adopt concrete guidelines and standards for travel at the European market level.
Throughout this period, all tourism associations are trying to speed up the European Commission and get answers to key questions and a common framework for a "stable" opening of the tourist season at EU level. Clear criteria and travel standards within the EU are imperative and the first prerequisite for a somewhat stable tourist season, according to the weather.
But we are still waiting and we do not have the answer to key questions such as: covid passports or passes, which are not and should not be a prerequisite for travel, validation of rapid or PCR tests ie a harmonized EU framework for testing regarding travel which should cover all Member States, mutual recognition of tests between Member States. It is also needed validation of antigen use and other rapid tests for tourism purposes, together with a regular assessment of accepted tests to improve their effectiveness, to avoid having 27 different certificates covering examination, vaccination and / or immunity. It is important to emphasize, that Covid passports or certificates are not and should not be the only condition for travel.
While the EU is still deliberating, we are still not responding well or at least not enough, because Croatia is still represented through only two regions, continental and coastal, and not by counties.
HUT is in February 2021. updated the story around adjustments of the map of Croatia in the Re-open EU system in a way that respects the division of Croatia by counties. Today we are already in the month of March, but there is still no progress.
Why are we still divided into two regions? Will someone send a letter to validate the map of Croatia by counties (whatever is required by the official protocol)? Why do we have to emphasize this today, in March, write, lobby… and depend so much on tourism and, according to the statements from the Headquarters, “prepare” for the epidemiological picture to be favorable for the summer?
We have long passed from the dreaming phase, and we are in the phase of researching destinations and first reservations. This is a small but extremely key detail that gives the wrong picture to all tourists who plan to come to Croatia. There is still time until the summer season - some would say. However, tourist companies are already advertising and fighting for literally every guest, CNTB communicates towards the European market, the Safe stay in Croatia campaign has started… and the question is how many guests will we lose in the period until the map of Croatia changes by counties, because potential tourists already book your summer destination.
We do not have to emphasize how otherwise, let alone today, every guest, as well as every negative perception, plays an extremely important role. From the start, the German Robert Koch Institute looked at each county separately within each state and this proved to be efficient and fair, both last year and today as we wrote in the introduction.
Will the Croatian Institute of Public Health finally send a letter to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control?
EU still councils…
Currently, all countries as well as the entire tourism sector are in a race against time to accelerate the dynamics of vaccination of citizens, so that the wider population of citizens comes to the vaccination and to create a positive precondition for opening to tourism. But before that, clear criteria and standards must be set at the level of the entire European Union.
But there has finally been a concrete shift around all the open key issues. That's right 26. February 2021. at the extraordinary EU summit, the focus was finally on the following issues: how to expedite vaccination, travel restrictions and vaccination certificates. Questions that should have been open a long time ago and have a concrete and clear answer.
The European Commission would 17. March 2021. should propose a “digital green pass” as well as give an answer to all questions, and the final decision is expected before the summer.
While awaiting the EC decision, Spain, meanwhile, has threatened to consider a "green corridor with the UK" for vaccinated British tourists if an EU agreement on vaccination passports is not reached. Slovenia, Hungary, Iceland and other countries have already introduced covid passports, Greece and Turkey have strong media campaigns, and agreement between Greece, Cyprus and Israel prompts Royal Caribbean to travel from Israel later this month.
Find out more on the topic of covid passports HERE