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Essay by Dubravka Suica
Mayor of Dubrovnik, Croatia

The nomination for the 2006 World Mayor award once again shows me that the residents of the city recognise and value the work of the city government over which I preside. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for this sign of their confidence and faith.

This is not a moment for returning to the past, to 2001, when I first became mayor, and the consequences of war could still be felt in Dubrovnik. We would prefer to forget that time, when houses and hotels had not yet been reconstructed, when there were few tourists in town, when the economy was weak, businesses in debt, unemployment high, infrastructure poor, and roads, schools, playgrounds and parks in disorder.

There is neither time nor space here to explain all the details of what we have done to make Dubrovnik a pleasant place for all its residents and visitors. Some of the completed initiatives include improvements in infrastructure, sewerage and water supply, renewal of parks and green spaces, building and improving playgrounds, sports fields, school sports halls, and the central bus station, upgrading the city's bus fleet, and the adoption of a city planning document.

Instead, I wish to speak of the future of Dubrovnik, which has endless potential for countless forms of development. Our goal is to develop Dubrovnik as an elite year-round cultural tourist destination, and a leader in this part of Croatia and the Adriatic Euro-region.

This will be accomplished by meeting the goals of the Strategic Development Plan, among which are plans for a golf course on Mount Srd, a multimedia conference centre, a sports and recreation park, and a marina. Construction of comprehensive new harbour facilities and the city's first public parking garage are already in progress.

The development of elite tourism in Dubrovnik is essential, since the city is situated in a narrow spot between the mountains and the sea, and the possiblities for expansion are limited. Today, the infrastructure of a city which was designed for 45,000 residents, supports an additional 25,000 visitors per day at the peak of the tourist season. The limits of sustainability have been reached, and we must solve this problem as soon as possible.

International interest in the Dubrovnik real estate market has made it the most valuable in Croatia. The value of a square metre of undeveloped land in Dubrovnik often exceeds that of a square metre of finished living space in other areas. Housing is very difficult to obtain, especially for young families. This administration has decided to dedicate a full fifth of the city budget to buying land for the construction of apartments for young families, war veterans and other residents in need of assistance. The completion of this project is one of the most important undertakings of my current term.

We are aware that our future lies, to a great extent, in the development of sustainable cultural tourism, and we are continually working on rebuilding and protecting the cultural heritage and monuments for which Dubrovnik is renowned not only in Croatia but around the world.

In addition to the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, an internationally known drama and musical festival which has attracted visitors to Dubrovnik for over 57 years, the city government supports a number of international cultural events in order to expand our cultural offerings. We aim to make Dubrovnik 'a city of festivals', which would be held continuously throughout the year.

In addition to culture, the city government over which I preside recognises the important role of sports, especially water sports, in the lives of Dubrovnik's residents. Today Dubrovnik has world-class water sports facilities accommodating 3,000 spectators, thanks to the recent renovation of the city swimming pool in accordance with the most current international standards. Recently, the 'Jug' water polo team won the European championship for the second time in the past five years, and that occasion allowed the City to demonstrate its outstanding capabilities for hosting sporting events.

Our plans for developing modern sports facilities are continuing, and I expect that in the near future Dubrovnik will have a world-class sports centre, including several indoor and outdoor facilities for basketball, volleyball, tennis and other sports. Completion of this project will make Dubrovnik an attractive destination for many athletic teams.

I believe that cities can only succeed through the synergy of the city government, public services, business, nongovernmental organisations and city residents. To strengthen civic unity and raise public awareness in various areas, we have created 'the new face of the city' project. Recent initiatives include our environmental cleanup project 'Each Neighbor Cleaning His Neighbor's Garden', a program of historical preservation entitled 'Protecting Every Stone' and 'Let's Walk Though Town Together' which promotes healthy living, exercise and sport. The 'Put Your Helmet On' campaign promotes public transportation safety.

On a broader level, the most important factor in the further development of Dubrovnik is the improvement of transportation links, which will be accomplished with the completion of a motorway connecting Dubrovnik with the Adriatic-Ionian highway.

When we accomplish these goals, the tourist season in Dubrovnik will last 365 days a year. Hotels will not close their doors during the winter months; every resident will have secure year-round employment, and each family will be able to afford their own home.

An evenly distributed number of visitors throughout the year will ensure sustainable use of our natural and cultural resources. The capacities of the city's infrastructure will no longer be strained. Then, Dubrovnik will be a leader among cities, not only in this part of Croatia, but in the Adriatic Euro-region. With Croatia's accession to the European Union, a developed, modern Dubrovnik will certainly add to the cultural diversity and economic development of a united Europe within whose culture, history and tradition it undoubtedly belongs.

Dubravka Suica, Mayor of Dubrovnik

Dubravka Suica

Dubravka Suica was born on May 20, 1957, in Dubrovnik, where she finished her secondary education. She gained a B.A. in English and German at the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb. Presently, she is pursuing a Master’s degree in American Studies at the same university.

 She taught English and German in Dubrovnik elementary schools, high schools and colleges from 1981 to 2001. She served as director of the “Gimnazija Dubrovnik” classical academic High School from 1996 to 2000.

 In 2001, the citizens of Dubrovnik elected her as mayor. She was re-elected in 2005.

 Mrs Sˇuica has been a member of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) since 1990. She has been President of the party’s City Committee and a member of HDZ’s Central Committee since 1998.

 She was elected as a member of the Croatian Parliament in 2000 and again in 2003. Among other positions in Parliament, she held the position of President of the Committee for Family, Youth and Sport.

 Today, Mrs Šuica is President of the Croatian Delegation to the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe (CLRAE). She was recently re-elected as the First Vice-President of the Chamber of Local Authorities of the CLRAE. She is a board member of the Union of the Association of Towns and the Association of Municipalities of the Republic of Croatia, a board member of the European Association of Historic Towns and Regions, and a board member of the Union of the Association of Towns of the Republic of Croatia. She is also a Councilor of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County Assembly.

In 2005, she was named Croatia’s “Mayor of the Year” in recognition of improvements in the city’s tourism industry.

Her husband, Stijepo, a sea captain, is presently on his 40th ship. Their daugher, Mirta, 23, is completing her final term at the Faculty of Law in Zagreb.