Author: By Michael Day
Hard-up Croatia is putting the celebrated Brioni Islands in the Adriatic up for sale. The islands, a few miles off the mainland, were a favourite bolt-hole for the ruler of the then Yugoslavia, General Josip Broz Tito.
When Tito governed the land with an iron fist, he loved to entertain world figures and celebrities in the idyllic setting, which, with its crystal blue waters and verdant interiors, is known as the Polynesia of the Adriatic.
The Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and the Ethiopian monarch Haile Selassie were guests there, as were the US President Franklin Roosevelt’s wife Eleanor, the Italian screen legend Sophia Loren, and the novelist James Joyce.
But with the days of Communist Yugoslavia long gone, its constituent states are now at the mercy of the markets. And the economic turndown has hit them with a vengeance. In Croatia, national output is down 5 per cent in a year, and foreign investment has collapsed by more than 40 per cent.
To help the state coffers the islands are going to market along with the state insurance company, the railways and parts of the energy sector.
The biggest island, Brioni Grande, is said to be on sale for ?1.2bn (£1bn), while the entire archipelago is going for a cool ?2.5bn. For their money, potential buyers would not only get 14 islands, but a national park with rare wildlife, and possession of Tito’s snow-white cockatoo, Koki, which, aged 52, is still going strong.
Other novelties in the archipelago, which between 1921 and 1947 came under Italian jurisdiction, include the remains of pre-Christian Roman settlements and even some fossilised dinosaur footprints. That’s quite a package. Should it still seem too steep, consider this: since it’s a buyer’s market, Croatia may be in the mood to consider offers.
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