Friday, October 17, 2003

200 Square Metres of Shame

Sabor has just dissolved itself, thus paving the way for President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) to call for new elections. One of this Sabor's last pieces of legislation is a law that banned grocery shops from working on Sundays. The law is culmination of year-long campaign led by Church and labour unions; while Church considered Sunday work to be offending to Christian sentiments of Croatian citizens, labour unions were up in arms over grocery shop owners' refusal to pay holiday bonuses for Sunday work. However, the fine print in the act tells that Sabor majority motives were not exactly religious or humanitarian. Namely, there are some grocery shops that are excluded from this act – 1 shop per 5000 inhabitants must stay open on Sunday, and that shop must have less than 200 square metres of areas.

The act is going to hit big supermarkets – owned mostly by Slovenian firms – the hardest and it should benefit small mom-and-pop stores in Croatia, that hardly ever exceed 200 square metres of shopping area. However, Croatia prides itself in having their own chain of small grocery shops – Konzum, owned by Ivica Todorić (Ivica Todoric), "tajkun" ("oligarkh" in Russian) who got rich during Tudjman and continued to get rich during Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan). Needless to say, Todorić was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the new legislation.

Of course, this new law is going to lead to massive lay-offs in Croatian supermarket chains, massive gridlocks on Saturday afternoons and evenings and whole new world of trouble in small, isolated parts of Croatia with low population density (and where 1 shop on 5000 inhabitants covers hundreds of square kilometres of territory).


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