The Salonit Company was a state owned factory located in the Croatian town of Vranjic, near Split - the second largest city of Croatia. The company had been producing construction materials that contained asbestos since the 1920s. By the end of the 1990s, 250 of Salonit’s workers and a few hundred of Vranjić’s citizens were officially diagnosed with asbestos disease (an incurable lung disease).
In 1999, the Croatian Government accepted to compensate some sick workers to an extent, but the process was plagued with numerous irregularities.
Meanwhile, Vranjic citizens suffering from asbestos disease faced difficulties in getting compensated as the state resolution covered only Salonit’s employees. Due to the long compensation procedure, many of the citizens have died before they could be compensated. In 2006 Salonit was closed and declared bankruptcy, as Croatia adopted the EU decision from 2005 to strictly ban the production, sale and usage of asbestos.
However, research into documents from the Customs Authority about the quantities of asbestos products imported into Croatia since the absolute ban of January 2006 show that 11,677 tonnes of asbestos products were imported into Croatia until 2012 (out of that 87% came from the EU).
In 2008, the Croatian Government launched a clean-up and sanitation program of asbestos contaminated areas in town of Vranjic, including these three ‘hot spots’: the production building, Marvička kava – the depot for asbestos containing materials from the factory, and the northern part of Vranjic peninsula where large amount of asbestos had been disposed into the sea. Also, it is important to note that some workers had been involved in process of remediation of Salonit but, in 2009, the bankruptcy manager of Salonit company did not renew their working contracts. The workers claimed that this decision was not in line with the guaranties they received from the Prime Minister in relation to their employment on remediation of the factory, and they organised hunger strikes. The clean-up program was done, however according to local organisations provoking even greater ecological damage, as the process did not fully respect EU sanitation norms. The workers and citizens claimed irregularities to the state authorities and demanded justice and compensation.
In July 2008, the Social Democratic Party (in opposition in that time) filed a request for criminal charges against top officials in the Ministry of Environment for omissions in the process of disposal of asbestos waste from Salonit. In 2011, representatives of the EU Green Party visited Vranjic on invitation by local ecological NGOs to check the validity of information on the sanitation procedure received from the Croatian Government and were negatively surprised.
Thanks to the laws on professional illnesses, 170 of Salonit’s workers (who had working contracts in 2006, when the company filed for bankruptcy) received compensation in 2011. However, the laws do not cover persons with diagnosed asbestos, such as ex-Salonit workers that stopped working before 2006. These people did not receive compensation, nor have they managed to obtain disability pensions. The civil organisations CS ‘Biglovi azbesta’ organised protests to require from the Croatian government to be more efficient in resolving the problems related to sick people's retirement status.