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Mayor of Karlovac Damir Mandić, Source: City of Karlovac

Damir Mandić: EU funds will change the face of Karlovac for the better

Damir Mandić: EU funds will change the face of Karlovac for the better

An interview with the Mayor of Karlovac, Croatia

Damir Mandić was born in Stuttgart, Germany in 1973. He has completed Philosophical Theological Studies at the Catholic Faculty of Theology in Zagreb. In 2006, he became the principal of Karlovac’s Grammar School and was a member of the City Council for 8 years.

Mandić has been the President of the City Council since 2014 and the Mayor of Karlovac since 2017. Now, he has spoken to TheMayor.EU following his recent re-election to discuss the municipality, COVID, and the future of the city.

Mr Mayor, how would you describe Karlovac in your own words?

Karlovac is the perfect place to live and work in. It is big enough to be an urban centre, with all utilities needed for business and living. It is still also small and can be enjoyed while having a 15-minute walk from home to work and less by car.

The abundance of greenery and safety (which we all take for granted) are the two privileges I must emphasise. Situated in the heart of Croatia – as many other cities claim to be but Karlovac really is – gives people and businesses a lot of space to have a quality life and develop. Zagreb is only half an hour away by car and the coastline one hour away.

Alpine, Pannonian and karst characteristics come together in one place, and with so many beautiful rivers, greenery, historical events and buildings, it is logical that tourism is an important economic activity. Altogether, it results in providing conditions for comfortable living.

For example, rarely anywhere in Europe and the world, can you find a city or urban environment where, in the summer, you can go swimming in the river, in the city centre, and the registered river bath "Foginovo kupalište" (the first in Croatia) – in Karlovac, you can do it.

We are talking about rivers that have good and satisfactory water quality. This is especially interesting when you know that it is possible in an area where the metalworking industry is developed.

It is the perfect place for families indeed.

How has the city evolved since you assumed office in 2017?

We prepared many projects. One of the most important is the preparation and absorption of EU money from integrated territorial investments (ITI). ITI and EU funds helped us in the past with some crucial infrastructural projects which helped us have clean rivers or, for example, the biggest freshwater aquarium “Aquatika”.

The most important project was the Entrepreneurial Zone ILT which was developed in 2019/2020 and sold out by mid-2021. Thanks to the investment cycle, the need for additional space and the fact that we sold plots in the newly built zone during the pandemic, we will continue arranging new plots in the new zone for potential investors from whom we receive frequent inquiries.

What projects has your administration launched to maintain Karlovac’s reputation as an economic centre and important transport corridor?

Two transport capital projects are crucial for the development of the city, not only for the economy but also for demography. Here, we primarily mean the second track of the railway from Hrvatsko Leskovac to Karlovac and the third lane of the highway, i.e., the new junction of the descent from the highway in Karlovac. This hub will open the Selce Entrepreneurial Zone, which we believe is the most promising.

How is the city supporting businesses and ensuring Karlovac’s post-COVID recovery?

In my opinion, Karlovac as the local municipality, reacted immediately (mid-March 2020), launching measures to reduce the negative impact on the economy and the citizens. Among others, we:

  • Suspended payment of fees for the use of public areas, business premises owned by the City of Karlovac, utility fees, and the use of services in primary schools;
  • Subsidised interest on loans for current liquidity in commercial banks, in the amount of 50% interest for 3 years;
  • Temporarily suspended the payment for parking in the area of the city of Karlovac;
  • Implemented a public call to support farmers and SMEs;
  • Introduced a new communication channel (website) to provide citizens with information on the procurement/delivery of food and agricultural products to support farmers;
  • Provided the Red Cross with financial support for the purchase of food;
  • Provided the Karlovac Country with support for the purchase of medical equipment;
  • Made a financial donation for the reconstruction of Zagreb after the earthquake.

This summer, you were re-elected as Mayor of Karlovac. What plans do you have for the future of the city?

Reducing surtax from 12% to 9% and reducing consumption tax from 3% to 2%. We believe that this reduction of surtax will primarily support our citizens and encourage others to invest in their businesses.

When it comes to green energy, i.e., smart solutions, I believe that with EU funds and the support of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, we can finally start to heat Karlovac using geothermal sources. In the district in the city centre, along with other public facilities, we also plan to build a primary school with a sports hall for 500 students and a kindergarten for 400 children.

These are just some of our priorities planed for the next four years. We believe that European funds will change the face of Karlovac for the better. I think that the new financial perspective is really an opportunity to move forward even more intensively.

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