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Croatians to vote on golf in historic referendum

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 27, 2013 at 7:18 am •  Published: April 27, 2013

"Unfortunately, the message has already been sent," Frenkel said. "No matter the outcome of this referendum, I think that any other investor will be very carefully watching the development of our project and will think twice before entering the country, which has relatively unclear investment procedures."

Croatia split from Yugoslavia in the wars of the 1990s, and is currently going through a painful transition into a market economy. The privatization and the closure of once prosperous factories led to mass unemployment.

Its economy relies heavily on tourism, which brings some 7 billion euros ($9.1 billion) a year to the nation of 4.2 million, blessed with a spectacular Adriatic coast and stunning islands.

The rocky 415-meter (1,360-feet) Srdj hill currently has only a cable car from the old town to the Napoleon-era Imperial fortress on its top, a large stone cross, a restaurant, a souvenir shop and the small village of Bosanka, with some 30 homes. The Bosanka residents are in favor of the golf park.

"We locals are all against the referendum," said Luko Paskojevic, as he pointed toward the stretch of dry bushes where the project is planned.

"We are against someone else deciding what we are to do with our land. They are saying 'Srdj is ours,' but this is all a private land," he said. "We hope people will see that this golf project is good and that the referendum will fail."

Referendums in the Balkans have in the past been organized by ruling elites and dealt with issues such as secession of their countries from Serb-led Yugoslavia, or joining the EU or NATO. This is the first time that a referendum has been called by a group of citizens to deal with everyday issues.

Dubrovnik mayor Andro Vlahusic says that the Sunday referendum is a sign of Croatia's democratic development. But, he said he hoped Dubrovnik will vote for the golf park.

"That area has been neglected for 15 centuries," Vlahusic said. During that period, there were two ideas of what to build there, he said.

"One was a railway station, the other was golf. Between the railway station and golf, golf is much better."