Croatia: Tourism And Ecosystems Fret As Offshore Drilling Rushed


Pristine Croatian Coast

Pristine Croatian Coast (Click photo to enlarge)

Millions of tourists visit the beautiful Adriatic coast of Croatia every year and indeed are the ones to whom Croatian economy, no matter how deeply in tatters, owes much gratitude. However, the current government’s increasing acceleration and rush to get going with offshore drilling looking for oil and gas speaks of the government’s path to destroy one successful industry – tourism – in order to gamble with another: oil and gas production. The Croatian government keeps saying that there could be oil and gas deposits in its part of the Adriatic worth billions of Euro and, if so, these could turn Croatia into a major energy heavyweight country that could be crucial in reducing Europe’s reliance on Russian energy imports.

Few weeks ago the Croatian government awarded 10 licences for hydrocarbon exploration and drilling in the Adriatic to three consortia, which together paid some 100 million Kuna (13 million Euro) for their rights. US, Austrian, UK, Hungarian, Italian and Croatian companies involved in the bidding reportedly have until 2nd of April 2015 to sign their exploration and exploitation agreements.

As much as 3 billion barrels of oil equivalent reserves are believed to lay beneath the pristine seabeds along the Croatian waters in the Adriatic. This is held to be among the highest mix of underwater energy deposits in the European Union. It is, therefore, no surprise the failing and incompetent government of Croatia is now hurriedly pushing ahead to tap into this possible energy wealth and thus try and save its political hide in this election year. They may not find what they think is there, though.

Tourism rakes in a fifth of Croatia’s 51 billion Euro total annual economic outputs and the grand scale of the government’s appetite for oil and gas does raise the worry about how any such relatively large-scale oil rush may affect the tourism industry. Indeed, there will be many a tourist who won’t choose to spend their holidays by the seaside looking at an ugly, enormous steel contraptions sticking up from the sea surface even if they may be a few kilometers away. And let’s not even mention potential spills from such contraptions.


Offshore oil drilling platform

Thousands of people, mostly living on Croatia’s coast, have signed a petition by the Clean Adriatic Sea Alliance, a group opposing the drilling. This is their plight:
In case of any kind of accident, oil exploration and exploitation would endanger the entire Adriatic ecosystem, including all people whose livelihoods depend on tourism and fishing…
• The Croatian Government keeps investing in old technologies in an era when there are clear alternatives to fossil fuels. According to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the prices of renewable energy sources (RES) in 2014 were competitive with fossil fuel prices…
• Oil drilling in the Adriatic threatens tourism, one of the most lucrative branches of the Croatian economy, which not only employs a large number of people, but also regularly contributes around 15% or more to the annual GDP. That makes it one of the few stable industries in Croatia. Drilling threatens fishing as well, an industry which employs many people throughout the year, especially in areas which don’t have many employment opportunities, such as islands and smaller coastal cities (Croatia exported about $114 million worth of top quality marine fish in 2003).
• Even among the companies that are presented as “the best”, “most professional”, and “safest”, such as BP or Shell, catastrophic errors still happen…
• The whole process of conducting the public tender, “passing” the Framework Plan and Program for the Exploration and Exploitation of Hydrocarbons in the Adriatic, and the preparation of the Strategic Environmental Impacts Assessment was nontransparent and rushed. The license for 2D seismic exploration of the Adriatic, which was conducted by the British company Spectrum Geo Ltd from September 2013 to January 2014, was issued by the Ministry of Economy after signing a secret contract, and without holding a public tender. The decision to award concessions for oil and gas exploration in the Adriatic was made on January 2nd 2015 in a closed government session, without any prior public debate or thematic session in the Parliament. The very fact that the whole process is run by just one ministry [of economy], and a hurriedly established Agency for Hydrocarbons, leaves room for corruption, and signing harmful contracts.
These are only some of the reasons why we believe that the planned exploration and exploitation of oil in the Adriatic is unacceptable”.

Croatian officials dismiss safety concerns and say that rig operators will have to meet the strictest EU safety standards for offshore drilling.

Barbara Doric, president of the Croatian Hydrocarbon Agency, or AZU, said recently that The Gulf of Mexico [disaster] happened because of the lack of human surveillance and that they in Croatia have implemented the highest standards and controls for all operations.

It seems Doric can guarantee human surveillance to the level of absolute proof against disasters such as the Gulf of Mexico one – what a nut case! I will only take one spill and the damage to the tourism industry would be enormous.

Photo: Infographic by

Photo: Infographic by

But Croatia’s plans to become an energy hub in “the region” go further. The government wants to look for gas and oil onshore in the country’s northeast, build a liquefied natural gas terminal on the coast—planned to open in 2019—and transport gas from Azerbaijan via its overland pipeline network, Croatia’s economy minister Ivan Vrdoljak said recently.

Croatia has great resources and enormous potential for clean, renewable energy sources but nothing about that is coming from the government. So:
The Croatian public deserves to know the facts when it comes to expanding this dirty and dangerous practice to the Adriatic Coast, and what alternatives there are for clean energy generation. Instead of working to fully understand the implications of rushing to develop offshore oil and gas, our elected officials are being blinded by imaginary short-term profits and missing the real opportunity that wind provides. In just 10 years, offshore wind could generate more energy than could be provided by all of the economically recoverable offshore oil and gas resources. Unlike offshore drilling, offshore wind provides power directly to coastal communities where we need energy the most, without the risk of oil spills or carbon pollution. It’s time for the Croatia to use the lessons learned from more than 20 years of offshore wind development internationally and apply them to generating clean, renewable energy off our coasts,” writes Zeljko Serdar of Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES).

Italy has more than 100 platforms in the Mediterranean, on the other side from the Adriatic, but called a moratorium on future drilling in the 1990s because of environmental concerns. Some say that if Italy decided to drill its unexploited Adriatic deposits as well, that is, those that are within its maritime borders, it could double its national production level. But first it seems they’ll wait to see whether the natural gas and oil that Croatia hopes to find in the Adriatic turn out to be there: for the moment the proven deposits amount to only 70 million barrels of crude and less than 900 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

Listening to Croatia’s government representatives on the issue of offshore drilling fantasies of becoming a little Oslo on the Adriatic, Croatia the Norway of the south, are rife but this fantasy might prove more complex than expected. While one might argue that taking the risk of seeing whether riches really lie beneath the Adriatic seabed to try and salvage the economy is worthwhile one simply cannot take lightly the possible enormous damage exploitative offshore drilling could cause to the more lucrative tourism industry. Since it has rushed into this project, one also cannot but criticize the government for not taking the initiative of using funds from the sale of offshore drilling licences for the development of clean and sustainable energy supplies. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)
Link of interest on the protest against drilling in the Adriatic


  1. Martin Vucic says:


    I completely agree with you, oil drilling in the Adriatic is a bad idea. The Croatian public need to be educated on the risks that oli drilling poses to the pristine Adriatic. The Croatian public need to be educated on this issue so that can oppose this insane idea which risks the destruction of one of Croatia’s natural treasures. The BP Gulf oil spill in the U.S. is a disturbing example of the potential consequences should this policy be allowed.


    Martin Vucic

  2. Reblogged this on CROATIAN CENTER OF RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES and commented:
    Millions of tourists visit the beautiful Adriatic coast of Croatia every year and indeed are the ones to whom Croatian economy, no matter how deeply in tatters, owes much gratitude. However, the current government’s increasing acceleration and rush to get going with offshore drilling looking for oil and gas speaks of the government’s path to destroy one successful industry – tourism – in order to gamble with another: oil and gas production. The Croatian government keeps saying that there could be oil and gas deposits in its part of the Adriatic worth billions of Euro and, if so, these could turn Croatia into a major energy heavyweight country that could be crucial in reducing Europe’s reliance on Russian energy imports.

  3. Now is the time to take administrative action and embrace clean energy and climate action, by ensuring dirty fuels remain in the ground.
    Climate pollution, like air and water pollution, must be considered before dirty energy projects move forward. New energy projects and leasing should be focused on clean energy, not projects that further our dependence on fossil fuels. Additionally, some places are too special to drill or mine. These areas should be permanently protected and placed off limits to dirty fuel development, including coal, oil, gas, and uranium extraction.
    Please make a commitment to protect our lands and climate for generations to come by not allowing any new leasing of our public lands for extraction of dirty fuels.
    Zeljko Serdar, Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES)

  4. joe from England says:

    I visit croatia twice a year novigrad and dubrovnik ..i can see why they do want to get rich quick, but this could cause major problems with russia and croatia has just got back on its feet from previous wars. Iam against it totally.

  5. These are concerns that every country should have about oil and gas exploration.

  6. Ante Saric says:

    In American Gridiron they call it a”Hail Mary””. Attempt to win the game with the last throw by the quarterback. As you quite correctly point out this a desperate attempt by Milanovic to try and turn Croatia into Norway.
    Rather than cut spending, implement structural reforms such liberalising the labor market, he hopes to find some hydrocarbons in the Adriatic to keep the party going.
    It just shows you the mentality of this man. He is just a weak, pathetic coward and lazy to boot. Like his hero JBT.
    No wit, no guile, always looking for the easy way out. I don’t believe in governments picking winners. Successive Croatian governments have shown themselves to be utterly incompetent and corrupt.
    Whether it is hydrocarbons or renewables, we know what the result will be. Anyway who is prepared to risk Croatia’s tourist industry is a traitor in my books. Then again what can you expect from communists?

  7. Beautiful !

    • Semra – Croatian sea is absolutely stunning and the environment healthy it pains the heart so deeply to think much of this beauty is in danger. Must fight to stay clean 🙂

  8. The destruction of the Adriatic can already be seen in places near Omis and the Kasteli near Split where the post WW2 Commi regime built huge eye-sore factories and polluted the waters.
    It is no surprise that remnants of this same regime, that has little regard for humankind, would be hell bent on destroying the creation. As long as it brings them profits.

  9. Michael Silovic says:

    I have known for the past 12 years of the oil and gas below the sea and in the Slavonian region. In fact that was something I discussed right here on this blog many years ago. I can assure you that there is much more then the estimated 70 million barrels and much more in natural gas below the sea and in Slavonia combined .I am at this time against the exploration in the sea for these fuels for a few reasons but in the long term not opposed to the drilling. My opposition for now stems from the fact that the goverment did these contracts behind closed doors and with out a study to determine the impact to our overall economic impact on the fishing industry and damage to our eco system. Everyone is aware that if a spill of any type should happen it would have and impact on tourism. Before any of this gets started I would like to see our goverment have a public plan on how they will monitor, prepare for disaster, and who will get these jobs associated with this project. If a Croatia First Policy is not enacted then by all means this project should be halted and that includes in Slavonia where the impact will not be as great as in the sea. The real issue for Croatia is that if we do not drill our neighbors will and I can assure you our neighbors are not as competent as we are as a people to be able to handle such an issue.There is far more corruption and ignorance in those countries then there is in Croatia. If our coastal neighbors drill and have a spill it will impact us directly and be just as devastating. My preference would have been for the tenders to be offered first in the Slavonian region to see what could be extracted there first before we do the sea. It is my belief that the amount of natural gas and oil available in Slavonia is a tremendous amount that can benefit our country that we can withhold doing any drilling in the sea other then the fact that corporate and political greed will come into play. It is my belief that once the goverment can prove that they are capable of handling any accidents on shore then we would have more confidence in them drilling in the sea. I also would like to see us having wind power. But wind mills are just as unsightly even though cleaner as oil rig platforms if used on the coast. We need to have a select location for the windmills be it in Istria or Dalmatia that does not have an impact on tourism. Croatia as I have indicated many times has a wealth of natural resources, not only in oil and gas but also in our forestry, fishing and yet untouched gold reserves which I estimate to be in the billions of dollars. There is also another problem that is not being mentioned and that is the division of our country between the haves and have nots. It is no secret that a majority of investments went into the Dalmatia and Istria regions for political reasons while the rest of the country was ignored. This will also cause a big problem in our country if there is no balance but that is another topic to be discussed.

    • I agree with you Michael re Slavonia, the government should have gone there firs as it is relatively under-resourced by industry or production and you make good sense in all of this

  10. Thank you for explaining more about the petition here for us, Ina. It is important to keep the Croatian sea as it is meant to be naturally, which is a thing of beauty!

  11. Reblogged this on Tajne zdravlja i ljepote by TheJade.

  12. Ante saric says:

    Oil and gas prices have plunged anyway. So there is absolutely going to be no profit whatsoever. It will be all risk (environmental and economic) and no return.
    The world economy is slowing. Aggregate demand is collapsing. So $10 to $20 bbl oil is not out of the question. However, these communists are battling against reason so I don’t expect them to change direction.
    We don’t need to drill for oil and gas. The world is awash with hydrocarbons.

    • Plenty of supply out there, that’s for sure Ante and the Croatian government wants to try and see if there is more of the stuff going for cheaper by the day, threatening the environment and livelihoods that have been most successful!

  13. therealamericro says:

    So, instead of taking advantage of Croatia’s agricultural potential, and investing in strategic wholefoods / non-GMO development projects which the country could cash in on, or simply lowering the FDI tax and lowering industrial taxes for a fixed period to stimulate investments into Croatia’s unused industrial base, the government is risking the murder of Croatia’s only profitable industry based off of wishful thinking in regards to hydrocarbons and offshore oil drilling.

    One thinks they cannot be any more incompetent and indolent and then BAM, they prove they have no boundaries. Worthless.

  14. I doubt that the government will listen to the petitioners. Like all governments, they look to short term gain instead of long term security and safety for the population and the environment.
    It is tragic that a few greedy people are willing to gamble so much to perhaps gain more trouble than they bargained for.

    • So true, Linda – but, masses have been known to make a difference although not often enough – seem all governments are interested in is their own survival at the top but that survival in Croatia just might be cut short

  15. Such a stunning view ! will reblog everything I see about the drilling by big oil that I catch !

  16. There will be a referendum on this Ina if not from the current government SDP then at least from HDZ later this year.

    But I love how Australian Croats pay attention to the homeland!

    • Thanks David. As to payig attention to the homeland from Australia and elsewhere abroad I think it has a great deal to do with dijaspora wanting the same good life, the same opportunities for Croats in the homeland as have been or are enjoyed in “western” countries

  17. Reblogged this on IdealisticRebel's Daily View of Favorites.

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