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Croatia – Bet on Oil or Tourism



Peter Fries has been coming to Croatia for years after falling in love with its pristine coastline, fresh seafood, mellow wine and friendly hosts.

With Croatia announcing it will allow oil drilling in the Adriatic sea, the 60-year-old German businessman is having second thoughts about his loyalty to this Mediterranean tourist haven known for glorious sunsets over sparkling seas and white pebble beaches shadowed by thick pine forests.

That picture-perfect image, he fears, could soon change with the construction of giant offshore oil rigs on the horizon.

“This is a high-risk problem,” Fries said in a warm breeze that stirred the sea’s mirrored surface. “No one wants to swim or dive in a sea with pipelines, oil platforms and tankers.”

Despite surging opposition to pumping crude in the waters of one of Europe’s fastest-growing summer travel destinations, the Croatian government is determined to boost the state’s poor finances by offering several exploration licenses to foreign energy companies.

The decision has deeply split the European Union’s newest member state of some 4.3 million, a country still scarred by the 1990s Balkans wars and where the untouched beauty of the Adriatic is a matter of national pride.

Opponents warn that besides damaging the spectacular scenery, offshore drilling represents a grave environmental hazard, raising the risk of oil spills that could wreck tourism — the country’s main source of income.

Supporters say pumping oil could bring billions of dollars to Croatia’s troubled economy, which has been in recession for years. They add that drilling could ultimately help Europe reduce its reliance on Russian energy imports.

“This is an existential matter that will bring a better life to Croatian citizens,” Economy Minister Ivan Vrdoljak told The Associated Press.

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