As one of the oldest Croatian seaside resorts, with a hundred year tradition, Opatija has become a co-founder of the European Historical Riviera Club By signing the Charter of the European Historical Seaside Riviera Club in Rimini, Opatija will not only join, but also be a founder of the Club as one of Europe's oldest seaside resorts, together with several European cities which can also be proud of their seaside resort tradition and tourism background. They include the Italian city of Rimini, which launched the initiative, and Nice, Blackpool, Oostende and Brighton. Besides recognizing Opatija and its century of tourism, the acceptance of Opatija as a founder also extends its possibilities of cooperation. This particularly refers to its market position, because looking for new attractions and the enhancement of tourism is the purpose of the initiative. The initiative was launched in Rimini, one of the most attractive Adriatic tourist destinations. It is obvious that even the most developed tourist centers do not leave their future to chance, and they are aware that they have to adapt to more demanding guests who are "attacked" by numerous offers in all parts of the world at fairly reasonable prices.
Stimulating cooperation with other cities can only be positive for Opatija, which is primarily a tourist town. Nonetheless, certain forms of cooperation were even fostered previously. The former municipality of Opatija established sister city ties with Ilirska Bistrica, in Slovenia, and with Castel San Pietro Terme, in Italy, in 1983. Cooperation with the first was established as a neighboring municipality in order to solve some concrete joint problems, and with the latter in order to open possibilities of more numerous visits by tourists from that area.
In the meantime, the former municipality of Opatija was divided into four local self-government units. Some of them have maintained previously established cooperation which they "inherited" jointly. Cooperation with Castel San Pietro Terme was confirmed by signing a joint charter in September 1994.
Cooperation has been maintained mainly with the city of Opatija, while the municipality of Matulji maintains the closest relations with Ilirska Bistrica. This is understandable because the two municipalities are neighbors, although now divided by a state border, and solving joint problems is in the interest of both. Talks on numerous issues have been initiated so far, including issues involving border crossings, waste disposal, cemeteries (the inhabitants of the Croatian village of Rupe are buried in the Slovenian village of Jelani), economic development in border zones, water supply, and other important issues. However, since new self-government units have been organized, the municipalities and the city of Opatija have embarked upon the establishment of cooperation with some new towns. Matulji cooperates with Gorika Brda in Slovenia, and Lovran with Zakopane in Poland and Pjetani in Slovakia. However, these relations have not been formalized yet. In contrast, Opatija formally signed charters and established friendly relations with the Hungarian town of Balatonfüred and Italian town of Carmagnola. An initiative for establishing cooperation has recently come from the French town of Vittel as well.
Balatonfüred is similar to Opatija in terms of its population. It is also a tourist and bathing resort, situated on Lake Balaton, but it is primarily a health resort because of its thermal springs. It seems that the Hungarian town's interest in cooperation has been very great at all levels.
Cooperation with Carmagnola, a town located in a rich agricultural area in the Italian province of Piemonte, was established almost spontaneously at the initiative of the Carmagnola bicycle club, which resulted in reciprocal interest on the part of Opatija. Since cooperation was established, numerous tourists from Carmagnola have come to Opatija. They stayed there even during the Easter holidays, and a group of tourists from Carmagnola has made reservations in Opatija hotels for the celebration of the year 2000.
Some of the questions which can be heard occasionally include the following: what is the purpose and objective of such cooperation and should such cooperation be limited to a few cities. According to Opatija mayor Axel Luttenberger, Opatija as a tourist city should be open to cooperation.
The aim is the exchange of experience and information as well as economic cooperation. Namely, cooperation is established and agreements on cooperation are signed at the city or municipality level. This should be an incentive to businesses to seek out their own interests and foster deeper cooperation.
Cooperation could be established on the economic, sporting, cultural and educational levels. Balatonfüred, for example, offered cooperation at many levels, obviously much wider than Opatija could offer. Cooperation with the Hungarian town has so far been restricted to the level of schools and choirs, said Luttenberger.
Cooperation within the European Historical Riviera Club should be different, based primarily on market principles. This means that joint performance and regulations should be agreed primarily by tourism associations and hotel owners. Rimini, where the Club's establishment was initiated, has great experience and knowledge in tourism. If there is a desire to do something, this circumstance could objectively be used well. The cities are offering only draft agreements which should enable cooperation between particular subjects, according to Luttenberger.
This page compliments of Marisa Ciceran