[Embassy voice]Croatia thrives amid natural beauty

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[Embassy voice]Croatia thrives amid natural beauty

On June 25, the Republic of Croatia celebrates the 17th anniversary of its Statehood Day. On this auspicious occasion I wish to extend our highest regards to President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea and to the Korean people.

In November last year, we celebrated the 15th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Croatia and South Korea, two geographically far away but emotionally close and friendly countries.

Croatia has great interest in strengthening bilateral relations with Korea. Croatian dignitaries have frequently visited this country. Among these were official visits made in April 2006 by President Stjepan Mesic of the Republic of Croatia, and last year in May, by Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, then-Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration. These high-level visits gave a fresh impetus for the enhancement of overall cooperation between our two countries.

Strengthening bilateral relations between Croatia and Korea is evident in the establishment of the Korean Embassy in Croatia this year, which is active in promoting political, economic and cultural relations between our countries.

Also, last year, Yang In-mo, senior executive adviser and former vice chairman of Samsung Engineering, was appointed as Croatia’s honorary consul to Korea. He has been supporting our activities in promoting business relations and Croatian culture in many ways.

A program on the Croatian language and the country’s cultural heritage has run at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul for the past 18 years, supported by Croatian professors coming from the University of Rijeka.

I have given a lecture on Croatia to students and professors at Hankuk University and was happy to hand over 150 books to the Croatian Studies Department, a necessity for students and researchers to intensify and deepen their knowledge about Croatia.

I would also like to mention the exhibition entitled “World Heritage Sites in Croatia,” our latest project, which was displayed in Gangneung, Gangwon, during the world-renowned festival Danoje.

Nowadays, Croatia is integral to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. On April 3 at the NATO Bucharest Summit, Croatia joined as a full member.

In fact, because of its reforms, Croatia is regarded as a leading country in Southeastern Europe and a model state for other countries from the region that wish to join NATO and the EU.

In terms of economic policy priorities, special attention is given to foreign investment. In this context, the Croatian government has been making a great effort to improve the business and investment environment.

In 2005, the government set up the HITRO.HR service within the Financial Agency in order to quicken the procedure of setting up a company in Croatia. In 2003, this process took about 40 days, but with the establishment of the HITRO.HR service, it only takes between three days to a week.

In order to increase Croatia’s competitiveness as a business and tourist destination and to affirm its position as the logistics gateway to Central and Southeastern Europe, the Government of Croatia has been revamping its roads, railways and port infrastructure. The motorways Rijeka-Zagreb and Zagreb-Split have been completed and a new wharf and container terminal at Rijeka is underway. The construction and modernization of Rijeka-Zagreb-Botovo on the border with Hungary is scheduled to start in the near future.

In view of this, sea transportation is one of the fields in which Korean companies, mainly those that have production facilities located in Central and Southeastern Europe, could have great interest.

In comparison to Northern European ports, the deep sea port Rijeka offers swifter sea transportation from Asia via the Suez Canal to the markets of Central and Southeast Europe. Needless to say, the favorable geographical position of Croatia’s ports could also be used for the establishment of logistics and sales headquarters for Korean exporters to the whole of Europe. After all, Korea is planning to conclude a free trade agreement with the EU by the end of this year.

Naturally, Croatia is looking toward investment from Korean companies. One of our most promising sectors is the shipbuilding industry, which is recognized worldwide for its high quality. Korean companies might be interested in participating in the current privatization process of Croatian shipyards, which are still state-owned.

Several Korean shipbuilding and other companies have already expressed an interest in investing in Croatian shipyards. The realization of these projects would mean a major upturn in our economic relations.

Croatia lays claim to highly qualified, innovative and creative people. Two years ago, we celebrated the 150th birthday of our great son, scientist and innovator Nikola Tesla, the genius who invented, among other things, the alternating electric current.

Tesla also set the foundations for wireless communication and energy transmission. More and more, he is regarded as the Leonardo da Vinci of the New Age, with 750 patents in the field of electricity and magnetism.

Tesla’s successor, a young Croatian physicist called Marin Soljacic, has recently succeeded in transmitting energy through space. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology team led by Soljacic generated an electric current between two induction coils that were set two meters apart ? the light bulb lit up. Also, the southern island of Korcula is the birthplace of Marco Polo, one of the greatest travelers in history.

More than 13,000 Korean tourists visited Croatia in 2007. We are home to six Unesco heritage sites, eight national parks and 11 country parks as well as Dubrovnik, the Pearl of the Adriatic Sea. The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said of the historic city: “Those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik.” The oceanographer Jacques Cousteau referred to the shores of the Croatian Adriatic as the world’s most beautiful sea.

Croatia is a Mediterranean and Central European country. It is both mountainous and flat, coastal and continental. It possesses a diverse natural environment, and within a relatively small area you can find landscapes that you would otherwise have to seek in the widely spaced parts of the rest of Europe.

This is why Croatia ranks as one of the top five European countries in biodiversity, with some areas reckoned to be among the world’s richest.

Besides Dubrovnik, which is certainly the most popular destination in Croatia, and other picturesque coastal towns, we also have the Plitvice Lakes, which are by far the most precious jewels within Croatia’s natural heritage. The main attraction of this park, which is unique in the world, comprises 16 small lakes mutually connected by waterfalls created by sediment from travertine, a special type of limestone.

Lastly, let me invite you all to visit and experience our beautiful nature, rich cultural and historical heritage and varied Croatian gastronomy ? a land where culture, art and beauty are entwined as described in our national anthem, “Our Beautiful One.”

*The writer is the Republic of Croatia’s ambassador to Korea.

by Drago Stambuk
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