The government sent a bill to parliament on Thursday paving the way for the demographic and economic revitalisation of the Adriatic islands and their self-sustainability and self-sufficiency.
“The purpose of the new bill is to manage island policy and sustainable island development, raise living standards, and ensure demographic and economic revitalisation, self-sustainability and self-sufficiency based on the ‘smart islands’ programme,” Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Gabrijela Zalac said at a cabinet meeting in the town of Hvar on the southern Adriatic island of the same name.
The ‘smart islands’ programme provides for the use of appropriate tools and innovative solutions to develop the islands in an environmentally, socially, technologically and economically viable way, building a circular economy and increasing self-sufficiency and resistance to climate change.
The bill envisages the appointment of island coordinators to initiate and coordinate plans and projects important for the sustainable development of the islands. It also proposes subsidies for public maritime and road transport, toll-free passage across bridges, and the same water rates for households and businesses on the mainland and the islands.
Croatia and Finland are the only EU member states to have a law on islands, and given the constitutional designation of islands as areas of special interest, the government co-funds maritime connections between the islands and the mainland and between the islands themselves, as well as water supply and transport infrastructure.
Reporting on the implementation of the existing law on the islands last year, Zalac said that a total of 1.7 billion kuna (€228.7 million) had been invested in the islands by different government departments. From 2004 to 2017, this figure had reached 21.8 billion kuna (€2.9 billion), she added.
Croatia has 1,244 islands, 50 of which are inhabited, constituting 5.8 percent of its land territory. According to a 2011 census, 132,756 people lived on the islands and the southern peninsula of Peljesac.
Four of the islands – Krk, Pag, Vir and Ciovo – are connected to the mainland by bridge, and their population increased by 10.3 percent from 2001 to 42,245 in 2011. All other inhabited islands had a total population of 82,710, down 2.1 percent from 2001.