Foreign police help summer tourists in Croatia

Thu Jul 7, 2011 9:40am EDT
 
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OMIS, Croatia (Reuters Life!) - For many tourists, a dreamy summer holiday abroad can turn into a nightmare if they run into problems and don't speak the local language.

Using rudimentary language skills and body language to describe the details of a theft, a car accident or worse can be challenging, particularly after a traumatic experience.

In order to help overcome the language barrier between local authorities and the tourists who pack Croatia's Adriatic coast every summer, Croatian police have invited dozens of fellow officers from around Europe to take part in their "Safe Tourist Season" project.

"Our job here is to give information to... German-speaking tourists and help out if they have a problem... anything that may require police assistance," said Mirco Durinovic, patrolling around the northern coastal city of Pula in his Austrian police uniform.

Durinovic speaks a little Croatian because of his Slavic ancestry. Most other foreign policemen do not, but are paired with a local colleague who speaks English.

One of those, Ivica Milic, patrols with Czech policemen and enjoys his summer assignment in the city of Omis in the south, which attracts thousands of Czechs and Slovaks every summer.

"We've had a lot of feedback both from our citizens and tourists and they all really like the idea of this cooperation with the Czech police. Tourists feel safer," Milic said while distributing leaflets about their presence to passersby.

One of the tourists strolling down Omis's busy main street agreed.

"This is really great because every other person here is either Czech or Slovak, so it's a great help," said Zdenek from Banska Bistrica in Slovakia.

Croatia -- which expects to join the European Union in 2013 -- earned around 6 billion euros ($8.7 bln) from tourism in 2010, or almost 20 percent of its gross domestic product, and hopes for a 4 percent increase this year.

(Writing by Zoran Radosavljevic, Editing by Paul Casciato)

 
<p>Austrian police officer Johann Zsifkovits talks to tourists during a patrol in Croatia's Adriatic touristic port of Pula, 270 kilometers southwest from capital Zagreb July 4, 2011. REUTERS/Nikola Solic</p>