Career & Education

Oliver Štoffa reports about his mind-moving experiences during his exchange semester in Sarajevo.

“But seriously, why did you guys come to study here? Even my grandma couldn’t believe that…” was the question followed by a horse-laugh of my two Bosnian classmates, interrupting work on our school assignment for a good few minutes. This burst of emotions left me thinking, although I had to get used to clarifying this conundrum as a daily routine during my exchange semester in the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the autumn 2014.

After spending one awesome Erasmus semester in Finland, I could not simply sit still without trying to find my way to another international experience. Although the range of possibilities was pretty wide, nothing seemed more attractive and challenging than the beauty, temperament and chaos of Western Balkans – the labels I had in my mind before and during my stay, and I could use them without big adjustments even today. My patience-testing quest for classes held in English turned out to be a fine filter resulting in a single choice – Faculty of Economics at University of Sarajevo. Here comes my first advice for potential followers: It is never too early to start researching about course offers. Yet it doesn’t give you any guarantee that during the first month of your stay you won’t be coming back from your faculty unsure about courses you can take. For some of my friends it turned out to be quite frustrating, because they weren’t even sure whether they could participate in their exchange programmes.

My first encounters with the city, its people and culture were well guided by my awesome Bosnian flatmate, who made it hard for me to imagine a better start of the exchange. Instantly submerged into joys and troubles of local life, I learned very soon what makes people fall in love with Sarajevo, and, on the other hand, what makes many want to leave.

Already before my arrival, he had been a great help for us to find a common accommodation – a cosy apartment near the very centre of the city. In general, it is relatively easy to find a decent place to live for any time period, sometimes with the only obstacle being the language barrier. With student dorms rumoured not to be in the best shape and with rather strict curfew, most exchange students opt for private apartments.

The first two weeks before the semester began were dedicated to our orientation consisting of miscellaneous trips and activities arranged by Erasmus Student Network (ESN) Sarajevo. Together with an intensive Bosnian language course it formed a rather tight schedule with a strong team-building effect, as the total count of exchange students was not more than twenty. The fledgling branch of ESN seemingly having more members than that certainly had a tough role entertaining our small, rather untypical ‘Erasmus cohort’. Sadly, after the very intensive start only few of them had spare time for their realization within ESN and besides one or two short trips, our contact with them was limited to hanging out at dinner parties or bars. Yet, to my knowledge, they have been making certain progress in balancing their workforce and activities.

The less can be more, and so it was with our ESN caretakers. Some have become closely connected to us, as it in general goes easily with warm and welcoming personalities of locals in Bosnia.

What people also treasure about the ambience of the local culture is the relaxed lifestyle based on abundance of coffee and cigarettes, where probably the only legitimate reason to hurry somewhere is warm burek (pastry stuffed with beef) or its variants with cheese, potatoes, etc. I am not sure, if I ever met anyone who wouldn’t love these gems of local cuisine, unless calories set priorities.

So what keeps locals fit enjoying dangerously tasty greasy pastries while sports are not really a part of daily grind? “We have a lot of stress with our authorities and all the bureaucracy, that’s where most of our energy goes to” I once heard somewhere.

Bosnian bureaucracy. That was a big pain also for us foreigners, as many of us agreed that we hadn’t seen it on such ridiculous levels anywhere else. Not to get lost in verified copies of verified documents needed for verification of copies of other verified documents proved to be sometimes quite challenging. On the other hand, the detailed requirements for residence permit made me feel confident that I did not bring HIV into Bosnia. Thank you, the ministry of foreign affairs.

When it all gets too frustrating, you just have a cigarette. No matter where you are. That is why, unfortunately, one must simply forget about tolerance for non-smokers.

I could discourse on pages describing the beauty of diverse nature of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Having my mountain bike with me, I was lucky to discover many marvels in the mountains literally surrounding the city. Besides that, most of the country situated in Dinaric Alps gives ideal opportunities for various trips, even if you are free only on weekends. The luckier ones will appreciate the proximity of other, normally only difficult accessible Balkan countries.

Although I can’t say that this experience makes me want to spend my life in Sarajevo, I do believe that only few places in Europe offer such an interesting and diverse exchange semester. And such good burek.


Campus Europe Goes Balkans

by Marsida Bandilli

Albania is a relatively small country, located in the South-East of Europe. It has a population of approximately 3.5 million people. Its neighboring countries are: Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece. In its western side, Albania is flanked by the Adriatic and Ionian seas. Italy is the closest country, across Adriatic sea. The capital of Albania is Tirana, one of the most important cities in the country. Tirana is a hub, where most of the economy, politics and administration takes place. Contrary to the outmost prevailing believes, Albania indeed is a very rich country. Its richness stands on: history, myths, legends, culture and hospitality.

The Culture

If it ever happens that you come across Albania, there is one particular element that you would definitely notice, no matter the city you are visiting. “Let’s grab a coffee” is one of the most popular expressions, for Albanians of every generation. Albanians, they do not simply love their coffee, but they would rather “get drunk” in coffee. There is a bit of mystery in every single grain. Coffee is the bittersweet taste of life, that puts everyone in a perpetual state. It makes you talks and discuss about everything: starting from politics and education, to travel, religion and relationships too.

Hospitality: the generous and friendly treatment of visitors, is one of the core values for Albanian culture. Whenever the guest or stranger knocks on the door, you greet with a warm smile and make him feel home. The best meal is prepared and the most comfortable shelter is offered, because the guest is always special.

Albania has an old and enriching history. Great myths, tales and legends are still much alive in the mountains of Albania. One of the fragments that demonstrates Albania’s ancient cultural landscape is the old town of Butrint. The historic cities of Berat and Gjirokastra are inscribed as rare examples of architecture. They are a true witness of the wealth and diversity of urban and architectural heritage of Albania. The country itself offers a spectacular and diverse terrain: mountains and sea, rivers and forests. Very rare it is the Albanian language. It belongs to the European family of languages, but strands in its own branch without any close relatives. The country is well-known for its religious tolerance between the Muslim and Christian communities.

European Integration

So far, Albania is a member of the United Nations, NATO, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe and the World Trade Organization. A major achievement that was largely congratulated was the official candidate status of the EU. For a long time, Albania was considered a potential candidate country for the EU Membership. In June 2014, in recognition of its progress, the European Council granted EU candidate status to Albania. Major achievements were applauded, but after advancement of reforms in key sectors, there will be an opening of the accession negotiations. The last progress report about Albania-EU relations came out in October 2014. Progress in specific areas was marked towards fulfilling the political criteria and towards becoming a functional market economy, visa roadmap, public administration etc although more efforts should be made for example in the judiciary system, elections and so on. Local elections took place just a few months ago in the country. Rather than that, key European representatives are visiting Albania, for the sake of strengthening more collaboration with the EU in general, but with other counterparts in the region, in particular. The chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel visited Albania in the beginning of July, followed by the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz.

But something is sure: if you ask the public opinion about what do they think for enlargement: almost 90% of them would say that they would like Albania to be a member state of the European Union. If you put everything into historical perspective: the restriction of movement, of living and generally building your life in Europe- was an unimaginable phenomenon, before the 1990s. Most of people see European Union as one of the biggest political constructions of Europe. It doesn’t represent just a project, it is rather the idea of belonging to the continent, the European identity, solidarity and promotion of “united in diversity”.


It is also unquestionable that the eagle- the messenger of highest gods is spreading its wings from the highest cliff of the stiff mountain of Albania to Europe and everywhere in the world: “Albanians have a vision. They are an indispensable part of the European identity. Their enriching history and vivid culture are a real testimony why Albania is a small but a very precious-stone of the Mediterranean.



Campus Europe Goes BalkansPolitics & The World

by Ivan Šuklev

July 25th, 2015. Five thousand refugees are desperately trying to enter the city of Gevgelija, a city that lies on the border of Greece and Macedonia. Their goal is to continue their long journey from the hells of Syria to their final destination, the paradise of Germany and Western Europe. On their way stands more than 2000 km of road, police brutality, negligence, President Orban’s well known stance and… corrupted Balkan politicians.

In the news nowadays, people can hear a lot about the Syrian refugee crisis that has hit Europe. How they escaped in order to live, how General Assad is killing his own people with his politics, how some of them may be terrorists in disguise sent from ISIL, how precarious their journey is (hint: remember the boy that drowned?) and how their arrival to Germany is a dream come true. But let me tell you a story that you won’t find in any of the news stations. Let me tell you a story in which you will understand just how this crisis has helped some of the politicians in the Balkans get rich, and not a single one of the Western European news agencies reports about this. After all, everyone knows that it’s all about the money, right?

As a guy who was born in the city of Gevgelija, I am well familiar with the ways of public transport. A bus ticket to Skopje (70 km from the Serbian border) is about 7 €. A train ticket costs even less, 3 €. This is because of the fact that Macedonia is a country that has a very, very low living standard (minimal pay check: 180 €/month) and ergo, the prices for public transport are very, very cheap. Except for refugees.

Several days ago, reports have surfaced which said that Macedonian police has acted upon the refugees stationed in the camp of Gevgelija with brutality. As a guy who is highly sceptical of every news agency, I decided to talk with some people who live closely to the railway station in Gevgelija (the refugee camp in Gevgelija is about 1-2 km from the railway station) and also to some local taxi drivers. What I found out was absolutely stunning.

The taxi drivers expressed their disgust towards the police and the local authorities in Gevgelija because the police was stopping them to transfer refugees from Gevgelija to the border with Serbia. This statement seemed pretty absurd to me, because after all, in the news reports every Balkan politician has said that they want to help the refugees to get to Germany. So, why did the local taxi drivers  come up with this frankly ludicrous accusation?

And yet again, the answer was – very simple. Money. Unknown to me or to the rest of Western Europe apparently, the prices for public transport are different if you are a refugee. Bus ticket to Skopje? 30 €. Train ticket? 25 €. Maximum capacity of a bus – 50 to 70 people, depends on the type of the bus. An actual bus filled with refugees – 100 people! Maximum capacity of a train with wagons – 400 to 500 people. An actual train filled with refugees – 800 people! And the local taxi drivers have also said that they witnessed how the police has boarded the refugees on the trains using police brutality and force. I insisted on seeing these busses with my own eyes. When I arrived at the railway station, I saw at least 20 busses parked, from 20 different firms, and not a single one was a public transport company. Not a single one has ever before showed up at the bus station and not a single one has ever made a transport from Gevgelija to Skopje. Then it all added up.

The Macedonian politicians from the government (a government widely known to be an authoritarian and in some instances even totalitarian) had sent these busses and trains because they saw an opportunity of a tax-free material gain. According to the local taxi drivers, at least 4 trains part from Gevgelija every day filled with refugees. That’s about 3200 refugees. A ticket costs 25 €. Daily, that’s about 80.000 euros. No receipts are being issued for the tickets, so these numbers are just speculative. They could be much, much higher. Daily, about 5-6 busses part from Gevgelija to the Serbian border. Roughly about 500-600 refugees. Around 15.000 to 18.000 euros per day.

And this continues on a daily basis. The local taxi drivers are stopped of doing what they are supposed to do (some were even beaten by the police for trying to stand up to them) and their hopes of getting actually paid to do what they are supposed to do – shattered. A taxi driver that looked resignedly at his fate told me in his final sentence: ‘That is just the way things happen around here. Not much we can do about it.’

So next time when you hear a report in the news in which it is stated that many refugees entered Germany or any other country in the EU, think about the fact that around 90% of them passed through Macedonia. Think about the money that went into the pockets of the corrupted Macedonian and Balkan politicians (Serbian and Croat politicians are accused of using a similar transporting scheme). Think about the horrors that the refugees had to endure. Think about the fact that in the Balkans, they had to survive a hell not much different from the one they escaped from.


Image by Fotomovimiento, taken from flickr

Campus Europe Goes BalkansVideos

Some people argue that Bosnia & Herzegovina is the most complicated country in the world – for us, it was at least one of the most interesting ones!

Travelling from Belgrade to Tuzla, Bosnia’s multicultural city in the North, to its capital Sarajevo and back eastwards to the Republika Srpska, we experienced the many different faces of the country.

Bosnia – a country caught between three national groups with three different religions, divided socially and politically, but still with vibrant centres and the hope for a better future.

But well. Just have a look yourself!

Campus Europe Goes Balkans

by Admir Čavalić

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country with 4 million people, located in the heart of the Balkan region, sharing borders with Croatia in the West and North, with Serbia in the East, and with Montenegro in the South.

It has a very rich history in which we had Illyrian and Slavic tribes, the Roman Empire, Bogomil heretics with their Bosnian Church, several Bosnian kings, the arrival of the Ottoman Empire and the spread of Islam in Europe. Afterwards the Austro-Hungarian Empire, followed by the beginning of World War I in Sarajevo, the birth of the Yugoslav state, then World War II with Partisans fighting in hilly Bosnia, later communist Yugoslavia with its charming dictator, in 1992 the declaration of independence. But also the start of the four-year war with the genocide in Srebrenica in 1995. Since then and until today – the era of transition and Euro-Atlantic integrations.

The political complexity

What makes Bosnia and Herzegovina politically so interesting is the complex administrative-territorial system of the country. Basically there is a state-level government with three presidents, under which there are two entities with their governments, and as a third part a district called Brčko. The first entity, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina covers 51% of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina and is mostly populated by Bosniaks (mostly members of the Islamic religion) and Bosnian Croats (mostly members of the Catholic religion). The Federation is further divided into ten cantons (following the Swiss model), where each canton has its own government and budgets. Cantons are formed by cities and municipalities.

The other entity is called Republic of the Srpska and is accounting for 49% of the territory and is mainly inhabited by Bosnian Serbs (mostly Orthodox religion). Unlike the Federation, which is highly decentralized, the Republic of Srpska is centralized and below the entity government there are only cities and municipalities.

Finally, the Brčko District is independent of two entities and is often referred to as a Hong Kong of Balkans. All in all, the above-described structure implies that we have a total of 14 governments, 13 Prime ministers and 136 ministers. The head of the state is made by three presidents, each of the three constituent nations by the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats).

Economic paradoxes

The political complexity of Bosnia and Herzegovina is further forced by frequent political conflicts that are mainly inspired by nationalism. This leads to the country’s economy being totally ignored, and the existence of some remarkable paradoxes. Regarding the labour taxation for example, Bosnia and Herzegovina is among the first in the World (on 100 euros, the state takes 72 euros). This is one of the reasons why the country is the world’s record holder in youth unemployment, with a rate of 57.9% of young people unemployed. There are also lots of other problems of course, from the labor market and tax policy to bad legislation and business conditions. Let us add that the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina are the least economically free in Europe, and on the 97th place worldwide on rankings by Index of Economic Freedom.

However, one sphere of economy is among the healthiest in Balkans. At the same time it is the only sphere that local politicians do have no control of. It is the monetary sphere, ie, printing money. The local currency called the convertible mark (BAM) is pegged to the euro through the Currency Board. Bosnia does thus not have the ability to control its currency, which is therefore extremely stable and always worth 1.95 against the euro (1 euro is 2 KM). Interestingly, the currency uses the name „mark“ because during the war the German mark became the dominant currency of confidence among various nations.

EU integrations

Where we can be optimistic and hopeful for Bosnia and Herzegovina is the determination of its citizens to join the European Union as a full member, and to integrate further with NATO, too. Therefore, the ultimate political goal of any political party, regardless of whether they are left or right, moderate and extreme, is the European Union. The level of support among citizens is incredibly high, with more than 80% of citizens supporting EU membership. Therefore, the 2015 is often called the year of reforms for Bosnia and Herzegovina, because this year we signed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU, but also started serious reforms within the framework of the so-called reform agenda which was created with the help of EU.

The aim of the reforms is the liberalization and deregulation of the domestic economy, and the reduction of fiscal liabilities with the of increase fiscal discipline and privatization of the rest of commanding heights of the Bosnian economy. Ruling political parties that are center-right are working on this, although the unions and the public are often opposed.

In the long term, the vision is that Bosnia and Herzegovina becomes a competitive EU mini-states that will offer its relatively cheap and skilled labor force, but also actively compete with their companies in the European internal market. Even today, many Bosnian companies are doing subcontracting work for multinationals and EU companies. By joining the EU this trend will increase, and we will further work on economic integration as a long-term condition for peace and prosperity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as generally on the Balkans.


Campus Europe Goes BalkansVideos

After long-time EU member Slovenia and cosmopolitan Liberland, we have finally made it to Serbia, the heart of former Yugoslavia! Still the unequaled cultural hub of the Balkans, and with a fascinating historical and political landscape, this is were things went wild.

Our trip led us from the autonomous province of Vojvodina and its capital Novi Sad in the North, to the white city of Belgrade – often called the “Berlin of the Balkans” – and down to the famous trumpet festival in a remote village called Guca.

So be prepared for an episode with too much of an overarching concept, throwing together all we experienced in the Serbia. From minority rights and politics to partyparty, crazy Balkan music traditions, and much more!

Campus Europe Goes BalkansVideos

Just few months ago, Czech politician Vít Jedlička has declared his own state on a little strip of land somewhere between Croatia and Serbia – Liberland. Profiting from border disputes between the two states, he used the unclaimed “Terra Nullius” on the shores of the Danube for the creation of a new libertarian micro-state.

Yet, there are still many problems so far – for example the fact that the Croatian police forbids the Liberland settlers to set foot on the country they claim. To find out what was really going on with Liberland, Campus Europe visited the Liberland Settlement Association, which is active on the ground to make the settlement of Liberland happening.

Campus Europe Goes Balkans

by Nikola G. Petrovski

would start with a brief introduction of Macedonia’s path towards the EU. On the one hand the Republic of Macedonia is the first state of the Western Balkans that signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement in April, 2001, which came into force three years later in 2004. But on the other hand, we are still stuck in between the name issue, the Copenhagen criteria and the domestic political transition. Along with the last Progress Report, the EU Commission once again set (the 6th) positive recommendation to start negotiations for EU membership.

The problem is that the evaluation has been made basically according to the fact – how many changes have been made in the legislation in particular areas, where the European Union pointed on the needed changes, but not on how that changes the reality.

A European Future

Thus, the comments on the last Progress Report regarding the Macedonian accession were not so warm. Most of the previous problems the country had faced during the enlargement process remained more or less on the same level, such as the rule of law, judicial independence, the reform of public administration, freedom of expression, electoral reform and strengthening the market economy.

Hence, the ex-Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule stressed that “the integration process faces a halt, and [that] concrete actions are required in areas such as the freedom of media and the independence of the judiciary. There is also an urgent need to find a solution to the name row with Greece and the political crisis (…) The parties’ interests have been placed before the national interest, therefore we demand and expect the government and the opposition in the country to be responsible, to enable the political debate within the parliament and to contribute towards the creation of terms to function”.

According to the opinion of the EU’s ambassador to Macedonia, Aivo Orav, “although Macedonia’s recommendation on EU accession remains, the country needs to undertake serious reforms (…) for what the state failed to accomplish this past year. (…) The report was not only criticism but a clear guideline on further actions and there were many concerns in the report, such as the increasing polarization of the state institutions, the government’s control over the media, the political crisis and the party’s interest. Despite all of this, the recommendation has been given with regrets for the failed issues.

The last Progress Report was like an announcement for the upcoming events and the political crisis. A few months later, after the opposition’s leader uncovered a political scandal, he held weekly press conferences presenting audio recordings (called “bombs”) among (as he claims) high representative bodies of the state regarding various issues related to the abuse of their power as government officers.

Domestic Protests

That gave a rise to a lot of different protests. To begin with, the one where students protested about the bad reforms in the higher education – they had to occupy the universities in order to be heard; the next one was where a group of citizens protested about a girl who was not sent on time to surgery because of a decision that had been made by the public health system officials; the workers also protested, namely about the high personal tax on their income; another group of people protested because of partially and biased news reporting on the national television; large groups of high school students are also protesting, staying in tents in front of the building of the Ministry of Education.; and the most massive one  – the protest about the  “bomb” of the audio recordings where some new facts about the murder of a 22 years old boy through a police officer back in 2011 can be heard.

At the end of this protest season, two groups of tents were installed: one a front of the government building – against the government policy, and one a front of the parliament building – in support of the government policy.

The role of the EU officials and the ambassadors in the country has a significant contribution in order to find an acceptable solution for the both sides. After long negotiations between the government and the opposition under the umbrella of the EU in Brussels, this month, on 15th of July, the deal  finally came in. But the most important document that preceded the deal was the Recommendations of the Senior Experts’ Group on systemic Rule of Law issues relating to the communications interception revealed in Spring 2015, that identified five areas of concern: the interception of communications, judiciary and prosecution services, external oversight by independent bodies, elections and the media. I would exclude some of the recommendations in the conclusion of the document:

Press Freedom

All media have to be free from any political pressure without any interference or intimidation; Media should distance themselves from party politics and should not be at the service of politicians and political parties; The Public Service Broadcaster should strive to be completely impartial and independent from political, commercial and other influences and ideologies and contribute to an informed citizenship; Therefore, public bodies should refrain from discouraging media to carry out their mandate; Defamation actions should not be used as a means to stifle debate or prevent public figures from being held to account; Courts should develop clear and forseeable practice on the protection of freedom of expression in view of defamation claims; “Buying” political support from the media through financially supporting media outlets is unacceptable. Stringent rules on government advertising should be enforced; Media ownership and media financing should be transparent; Journalists’ labour conditions should be improved in order to reduce self-censorship.

A Look Into The Future

It will be a lot of work to do there – Macedonia needs deep reforms in the political system and the perception of the civil society on how democracy and democratic governance should actually look like. The society is constructed by various individuals and groups and each of them with different goals, needs and ideas. Hence we must work to build a political system where people will be free to pursue their goals (as far as their behavior does not interfere in the same freedom to the others) no matter what party is in charge, and to be treated equally under the law.

People must understand that limited government means more freedom and less corruption, free market brings more wealth, less subsidy – more incentive entrepreneurs, less government regulation and control – more individual freedom and responsibility. To achieve all of that and to build that kind of political system we have to go back to the beginning and to establish strong pillars of rule of law, free media and independent judiciary. To cite the great Huxley: After all, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance…


Campus Europe Goes Balkans

by Marko Kebe

You could tell a lot of Slovenia just by looking at its position on the map of Europe. By saying this I am not refering only on geographical features but moreover on its political and cultural characteristics. Slovenia is indeed a unique case of a country that combines various different landscapes and natural beauties within only 20,273 km2.

Slovenia as a heart of Europe where “the Alps meet the Mediterranean and the Pannonian Plain meets the Karst” is something you would normally read in a tourist catalogue about Slovenia. It is maybe a bit pretentious calling ourselves “the heart of Europe” but from where I am standing we can allow ourselves this little mischief since we are indeed very much proud of our unique blend of various natural, cultural and architectural features.

Pretentious as it might be, Slovenians are generally considered to be rather humble and obedient when it comes to the relations with other countries. Throughout its history up until its independence in 1991 Slovenia has always been subjected to the authority of different royal houses and supranational entities from the rule of Habsburgs to the more recent one of Yugoslavia (let’s leave EU alone for a while).

When discussing my country and its role in international affairs with the students from abroad I frequently like to mention our anthem Zdravljica (The Toast) by France Prešeren which is one of the most pacifist and enlightened anthems I’ve ever came across:

“God’s blessing on all nations,

Who long and work for that bright day,

When o’er earth’s habitations

No war, no strife shall hold its sway;

Who long to see

That all men free

No more shall foes, but neighbours be! “

The seventh stanza of Zdravljica – The National Anthem of Slovenia

So, where does this inability to fulfill its interests as an independent actor stem from? And why have Slovenians decided that it is time for a more modern approach when dealing with other nation states? Well, first of all, Slovenia is a relatively small country when it comes to the population with its 2 million inhabitants. It’s economy is – as you can imagine – comparatively small with approximately EUR 45bn EUR of GDP in 2014. Putting its smallness aside Slovenia always had a very healthy balance of trade in merchandise where exports always exceeded its imports. Slovenia’s merchandise exports in 2014 rose by 6.9% to EUR 23.04bn, an all-time high, while imports grew by 2.4% to EUR 22.65bn (Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia). Trends seem to be improving and hopefully our generation will once be able to escape these shackles of crisis and depression we have constantly been reminded of throughout our youth and studies.

Oh yes, as small as Slovenia is, the tentacles of the globalized economy haven’t spared her, quite the opposite, Slovenian economy has been badly hurt by the financial meltdown. Large cuts in public spending have been necessary to avoid international bailout not to mention the ongoing plans for privatization – the topic where a lot of blood is spilled when it comes to political rivalry. Slovenian reputation in international affairs has indeed fallen quite significantly from a model transition state to a near financial fiasco.

While the economy was booming everything was safe and sound but the flaws of inadequate regulation in economic affairs became much more obvious and painful once the crisis hit the small but beautiful Slovenian shore (figuratively speaking of course). It has become apparent that the bad management of some state owned companies can be ascribed to the clientelism which was inherited from the ex-Yugoslav regime where the line between business and politics was very much blurred. Slovenia has therefore been regularly pointed out as being on top in Europe regarding corruption in it’s business practices (Watch Ernst & Young’s: Europe, Middle East, India and Africa Fraud Survey 2015) – definitely not something we can be proud of.

I would have to confess that there really exists a certain ambiguity when it comes to Slovenia(ns), which brings me back to the idea I have pointed out in the beginning. As much as Slovenia is divided in its natural diversity so it is divided in its political and cultural sense. As I have mentioned in the previous paragraph, we face quite some difficulties regarding transparency and meritocracy. We really are somehow divided between the German way of keeping things in order and more of a hang loose approach which is prevailing on the Balkans. Translated into the language of politics, we are strongly trying to give an impression of a westernized state with strong economical and political discipline, whereas our actions and customs aren’t really speaking in favor of it.

Cultural divergence is on the other hand something we have to cherish and respect: you wouldn’t believe how many different dialects we have in such a small area; practically every micro region has an accent and a culture of its own. Although a lot of young people are searching for opportunities in bigger cities such as Ljubljana or Maribor, a normal Slovenian will always stay somehow attached to where he/she comes from (if not in any other way, than by his accent).

This of course brings us to the question what does it actually mean to be a Slovenian? Or “what are Slovenian stereotypes”, which is something I get frequently asked? These are the questions I was never able to answer fully and probably never will. This of course doesn’t mean that we are a nation without a significant character or purpose, rather contrary, I think our struggle and ability to reach independence gives us enough leverage to be proud on our small but beautiful Slovenia.

Campus Europe Goes BalkansVideos

Hitting the road to discover the Balkans, Campus Europe started its trip in Slovenia, the “gate-way to the Balkans”. With five days time and luckily a Slovenian on board, we set out to discover Slovenia’s alternative scene, its wine culture, nature and food.

After five days we went on, this time heading to the East. To see our upcoming episodes on Liberland, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania and Croatia, just subscribe to this channel.