Our Slovak tour gets underway with a white wine toast. We are in a cool wine bar in the historical centre of Bratislava. We’ve just met Denisa and her nice friends. They are all members of European Dialogue, a Slovak think-tank based in Trnava, aimed at raising awareness of European issues within the Slovakian public. The atmosphere is jovial and the heated environment helps us to dry the humidity of a rainy Bratislava. The good Slovak wine does the rest.
Denisa is a PhD candidate at the Department of European Studies of Trnava University. She’s currently writing her PhD thesis on European identity. We ask her about the kind attention given to the EU and EU related topics in Slovakia.
– You know… Here’s not like in Brussels – Denisa says.
– Dealing with European identity in a country where only the 13% of the population went to pools for the last European elections is not easy. But still… Me and my collegues are doing our best to tackle the common scepticism and to make understand the European Union is not that monster our media and politicians use to depict”. –
We take our time to finish our glasses, say goodbye to Danisa’s friends, and set out for Trnava.
The morning after we are welcomed by Denisa and Marcel Vysocky at the venue of Mladá Archa, a brand new space specifically created for youngsters, which can be used for conferences, cultural events and parties. Marcel, against the appereance of being a young student, is the the Law Faculty vice-rector at Trnava University. We are so impressed by the median age of the population and the bulk of cultural activities carried out in several areas of such a relative small city.
Trnava is a lovely 60 millions inhabitans city, featured by the high presence of catholic churches (actually it’s called the “little Rome”) and young students. Everything looks new and nate, aside from some typical comunist buildings coming out here and there. The first impression is of a truly liveable city, where strong attention is given to young population.
While we introduce one another and exchange our visions sipping a good coffee, the first participants come along. They are all students from Trnava University, aged between 22 and 26. Most of them are enrolled at the master of European Studies.
The Study Group kicks off, and after a short ice-braking explanation of our purpose, we start interacting with all the participants. Several ideas and food for thought emerge right away.
We realise that the topic of identity is actually pretty delicate.
– We are still struggling in finding our Slovak identity – a participant claims.
– We have lived for almost one century in a country that was not ours, and for more than 40 under a regime we didn’t want. Now that we finally have succeeded in having our country, we are facing other difficulties. –
– Slovakia is completely split in two different realities. While the Western part of the country is doing quite well, the Eastern part is in dreadful economic and social state. Last but not least, we haven’t understood yet how to cope with the huge Roma population. On the one hand, they don’t want to be integrated and cooperate with the rest of the society, on the other hand we have isolated them in these awful camps looking like ghettos. How is it possible to build up a new kind of coexistence in these conditions? –
Denisa, who sits silently on a couch, shakes her head, maybe thinking how long it will take for getting European identity if also feeling Slovak is so tricky.
After the lunch-break, we start taking a deeper look at the YouthMetre website and Slovak statistics. The maps help us to raise two further critical points for youth: lack of jobs and low wages. We get to know that Slovak teachers are among the lowest paid in Europe. Despite a good-level of education, the average for teachers in Slovakia is only about 650€. Bearing this situation is getting harder and harder, especially because the cost of living is increasing, and many brilliant youngsters decide to move out of Slovakia after finishing university.
After 6 hours of intense activities, we manage to close our YouthMetre Study Group with great satisfaction and gratitude towards all the involved persons.
But our time in Trnava is not finished yet. We have the chance to know Mirka, a member of Future Generation Europe, an organization dedicated to support youth education through projects aimed at strengthening information, skills and motivation. Our visions about youth policy, active participation and social inclusion perfectly meet, and we start paving the way for future collaboration around the YouthMetre project. Naturally, even in this case we use an amazing toast to celebrate our future partnership.
A moc ďakujem. To everyone.
Date of event: 7 October 2016
Location: Trnava (Slovakia)
Hosting Organisation: European Dialogue and University of Trnava
Coordinator: Denisa Karabová
Contact: [email protected]
Author: Vittorio Giorgetti