Czechs bid to attract skilled migrants

For the past year now, the authorities have been running a scheme to lure skilled foreign workers to the Czech Republic as the country's population ages and people go abroad to work. The scheme is still in the trial stages, open to applicants from just three countries - Bulgaria, Croatia, and Kazakhstan. Under the scheme, potential immigrants are given fast-track access to residence permits, allowing them to settle permanently in this country after just two and a half years instead of the usual ten. One of them is Mladin Barbalic, a 40-year-old civil engineer from Croatia who came to Prague in 1994. Kay Grigar spoke to him.

"When the war in former Yugoslavia started I had two choices: either to stay in the country and fight or to go to another country and develop my skills as an engineer. At that time the only option for me was to come to the Czech Republic. I wasn't paid as much as I was used to but I appreciated being able to apply my skill and knowledge and be in high positions; the opportunity was given to me by Czech technicians and engineers."

To re-locate from your homeland to a foreign country takes a lot of courage. What were some of the main adjustments you had to make?

"Well, I learned from my friends from Scotland and the UK who work with me in Prague. I now understand the difference between people from the Balkans and people from the West. When somebody from my country comes to a foreign country he tries to make that country more comfortable for himself. When people from the West come to a foreign country they try to attach to the local habits etc. That is what I am trying to do in Prague. I drink beer and I very much enjoy Czech lifestyle. Because it is not so different from my original lifestyle I don't feel like I'm living in a different country. I felt more alien when I was working in Switzerland where I had double the salary because the habits and free time activities are much different than those of Czechs and Croats."

So you made the decision to stay here in the Czech Republic. What have been the biggest complications in obtaining your residency here?

"For me I always expect the worst but when something good happens it's nice. Life teaches me and I am not expecting anything. I just want to do my work decently and honestly and I haven't had any difficulties."

So you just make sure that you fill out all of the forms necessary and there haven't been any major problems so far?