The beach area of Velenje lake has been severely damaged by mining activity
Interview with Kristijan Jurjako, mayor of Cres, Croatia
Kristijan Jurjako was born on 27 December 1971 in Rijeka. He completed his primary education in Cres, and his secondary education at the School of Electrical Engineering in Rijeka. After studying at the Polytechnic of Rijeka, he received the title of Professional Specialist in Economics.
He has been involved in social life since his early school days. In 1993, he and his friends founded the Susajda Youth Club, which soon took over almost the entire social life of young people on Cres.
In 2009, he became the first mayor of Cres elected in direct elections, in 2013 he won a second term, and in 2017 he won for the third time.
Mayor Jurjako, please describe the beautiful island of Cres in a few sentences.
The island of Cres is the largest island in the Adriatic, with an area of 405.8 km2. It is located in the upper part of the Adriatic near Istria. The northern part of the island of Cres has the sub-Mediterranean climate, so the area is wooded, and the central and southern parts of the island have the Mediterranean climate, so these are the areas with extensive pastures.
There are many beaches along the indented coast. The island’s long and interesting history is primarily the result of its geographical location, climate and relief. The Cres-Lošinj archipelago was inhabited probably as early as the end of the Paleolithic, as evidenced by the archaeological remains from the Stone Age.
Throughout the centuries, various peoples, from the Romans to Napoleon, have claimed these islands, which is why they are so rich in cultural and historical monuments.
In recent years, many investments have been made, the archipelago has been developed and transformed a lot. Please tell us more about the investments in solar plants and infrastructure in Cres.
The construction of the largest solar power plant in Croatia, located on the island of Cres, is attracting the attention of the public these days. We also plan to build three more solar power plants on the island, which will make us the leaders in the use of renewable energy sources.
The 6.5 MW solar power plant is built with special care for the environment because the rare plant and animal species found in the area are protected. The numerous island sheep will be able to graze freely between the panels.
The expansion of the port of Cres is also underway, in order to improve the inter-island connections, and in recent years a lot has been done on the reconstruction of transport infrastructure. This is still one of our main challenges because we want to ensure quality transport connections throughout the island.
At what stage are you from the introduction of a modern waste management system on the island?
We are proud to be at the very top when it comes to waste management in Croatia. With the construction of the transshipment station in 2017, we have achieved that municipal waste is no longer disposed on the island, but is taken to the county centre. We have set up semi-underground tanks for separate waste collection throughout the island.
After that, we built a recycling yard to raise our separate waste collection system to an even higher level, and now we will remove the last remnants of the former landfill – its final remediation is underway. Data from our utility company show that the people of Cres are increasingly applying separate waste collection and that we are among the top 10 cities in Croatia in terms of the percentage of waste separation.
At the same time, the municipality is implementing several social-oriented projects, with a focus on children and youth care. How many new kindergarten and schools have you already opened or are planning to establish?
The task of the municipal administration is not only to take care of the infrastructure and the communal system but to take care of the people. This especially means our young generations, from kindergarten to college.
We have just improved the conditions for the youngest. We have doubled the funds allocated from the city budget for the Girice Kindergarten, and this institution has made great progress in recent years. The building has been completely energetically renovated, and now we are expanding it, so that it can accommodate more children.
No child on Cres should remain unenrolled. The kindergarten has a better professional team than many on the mainland. We also allocate significant funds for elementary schools and high schools so that our students would not lag behind children on the mainland.
We provide scholarships and co-finance travel expenses for all high school students who study outside the island and all students who apply for funding. We currently provide scholarships for about a hundred students.
What would you like Cres to look like at the end of your term as a mayor?
Before the last election, I set the following priorities: infrastructure development, strengthening tourism and entrepreneurship, Cres - an open, smart and sustainable island. This is how I have behaved over the past three terms at the helm of the City of Cres and I believe that all my fellow citizens and our dear guests see the progress.
I have already talked about infrastructure, the progress of tourism is best shown through the constantly increasing figures. Even while fighting against the Covid-19 epidemic, we are still achieving very good results on Cres. We are also working to introduce smart, modern technologies and solutions into our daily lives.
I would also like to see all of us here, regardless of our personal differences, work together for the benefit of our Cres.
What are your thoughts on TheMayor.EU portal as a unifying platform for Europe’s municipalities and how can it be useful to you and your citizens?
It is always helpful to hear and see other people’s experiences because we are smarter when we cooperate. Everything I can learn as mayor from my colleagues in Europe will benefit my fellow citizens.
Finally, pitch Cres to our audience as a tourist destination rich in natural beauty and cultural-historical heritage.
Cres is primarily an island of preserved nature that offers everything a guest needs for a holiday in a quiet, authentic, original Mediterranean environment. Above all, we offer clean sea and beautiful beaches to everyone's taste - from large beaches near hotels and camps to many smaller, somewhat wild and secluded coves where you can find a break from everyday problems.
For those who want an active vacation, there are kilometers of well-maintained hiking and biking trails around the island, of various difficulties, so both recreational hikers and those looking for a greater challenge can choose their ideal trail.
The island has beautiful heritage sites from various historical epochs, but we also offer culture and entertainment: concerts and traditional festivities where you can join the locals. It is difficult to list them all, but I must mention the modern Visitor Center in Beli with a recovery center for griffon vultures that takes care of these magnificent birds, and at the same time offers tourists an interesting story.
Finally, I must mention our gastronomic offer, simple and unpretentious, but based on local high quality ingredients. We offer a unique experience and wonderful memories.