Over 11,000 Dubrovnik citizens voted on Sunday, in a local referendum to save the cultural and natural heritage of the UNESCO city of Dubrovnik. 84% voted against plans to build a golf resort on the Srdj plateau above the city. Friends of the Earth Croatia is campaigning against the plan, which has links to alleged corruption and tax evasion, will come at the expense of local citizens, and will permanently damage Dubrovnik's international reputation.
Jagoda Munic, from Friends of the Earth Croatia said: "The citizens of Dubrovnik have sent a clear message to the local government. They don't want to sacrifice the cultural and natural heritage of Dubrovnik for the sake of a few greedy investors."
11,486 people voted on Sunday, just over 30% of the total number of voters, despite an open call from the local government, media and investors to boycott the vote. Although this falls below the 50% threshold that would place a legal obligation on government to stop the project, Friends of the Earth Croatia is calling on the local government to respect the wishes of the citizens.
The 50% threshold is rarely achieved in Croatia, even for local elections, and was abolished for the EU accession referendum in 2012, and subsequent national referendums. A decision on the threshold is still pending for local level referendums.
The planned resort is linked to controversial investments and potential land grabs according to the organisation, and questions have been raised about the contacts that investors are said to have within the Croatian government. For over ten years, there have been plans to build a golf resort on the Srdj plateau, an area of mixed forest and agricultural land, which sits within the city of Dubrovnik. The project has been developed behind closed doors and without public participation.