Dalmatian Riviera becomingthe new Cote d'Azure
Wealthy foreigners encouraged by talk of the Dalmatian Riviera becoming
the new Cote d'Azure look for holiday homes on the Adriatic archipelago
By Goran Vezic in Split
Cash-rich foreigners are rushing to buy property on the beautiful Croatian
islands, which could soon become some of the most fashionable holiday
destinations in the region.
Since Croatia's property market was opened to foreign investors, interest
has been rising in all the coastal towns and cities - but the islands are
attracting the keenest interest.
The country was shunned in the early Nineties while war raged through the
former Yugoslavia, but since peace returned in 1995 the coastline has
attracted increasingly high-profile summer guests. These include European
royals, fabulously rich American businessmen such as Bill Gates and screen
stars Sharon Stone and Clint Eastwood.
In socialist Yugoslavia, overseas visitors were not allowed to own or buy
property without special dispensation, such as when the late President
Tito permitted his British friend Sir Fitzroy MacLean to purchase a house
on the island of Korcula.
Croatia's independence led to most of these barriers being removed and
foreigners are now free to buy land - including entire islands if they so
wish. "Interest is quite considerable," said Ivica Vulic, owner of the
Split-based estate agency Broker. "However, there are a number of
problems, especially over planning permission."
Any would-be landowner will need a lot of money in the bank. Daksa, which
lies close to Dubrovnik, is being marketed for almost four million euros -
just over four million US dollars. Another islet on the Pakleni Otoci or
Infernal Islands near Hvar is going for 2.3 million euros.
The Zadar archipelago contains both the most expensive and the cheapest
islands, where the price of a square metre ranges from five to 60 euros.
Skarda and an islet between Pasman and Kornat are going for 50 million and
half a million euros respectively.
Croatia boasts more islands than any other Mediterranean country except
Greece. Apart from their natural beauty, they are isolated and sparsely
populated. In all, 125,000 inhabitants are scattered across 48 - some 670
Steady depopulation has hit the archipelago hard. Brac, one of the largest
islands, has only 13,000 inhabitants today compared to 23,000 a century ago.
A turn of the century increase in wine tax levied by the then
Austro-Hungarian rulers drove many islanders overseas. With post Second
World War industrialisation yet more moved to mainland cities and towns in
search of jobs.
The growth of tourism in the Sixties halted the trend but could not
reverse it. The islanders - who were by then heavily dependent on mass
tourism - suffered a further economic blow with the outbreak of war in
Although most of the old prohibitions have been removed, outsiders still
face hurdles when buying land in Croatia. On most islands, conservation
laws dictate that landowners may only use existing properties and repair
them if necessary. New builds are not allowed, with the exception of a
few, such as Obonjani in the Sibenik archipelago.
Ivo Milatic, assistant minister for public works, reconstruction and civil
engineering and head of a department in charge of developing the islands,
makes it clear that he does not want to encourage their large-scale
transfer into private hands.
Local people are divided over the prospect of having wealthy foreign
neighbours, with sceptics complaining that they will not have Croatia's
interests at heart.
Such fears would seem to be groundless, as only a handful of
privately-owned islands are likely to go under the hammer. Many of the
most attractive, such as the Kornati archipelago, belong to national parks
and cannot be sold.
Goran Vezic is a journlaist with the independent news agency Stina in Split.
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