Young immigrants share experiences at Ljubljana conference

Having in mind the recent outbreaks of violence in French cities it is obvious that the relation of European countries towards younger generations of immigrants is and will be one of the key socio-political issues of European countries. This week a panel on how the second and third generations of Albanians, Bosnians, Montenegrins, Croats, Macedonians and Serbs live in Slovenia was organised by the Peace Institute in cooperation with the Dutch and British embassies took place in Ljubljana.

Intolerance exists in Slovenia - this is the conclusion of the Institute for Ethnic Studies, which looked at the perceptions of members of ethnic communities and the majority Slovenes. Dr. Mojca Medvesek took part in the survey and a round-table discussion which followed:

"70% of those asked in the survey believe that intolerance in Slovenia exists. 40 % of those say that intolerance in Slovenia has increased since its independence. Asked whether there were situations in the lives of the members of those ethnic communities when they felt they had to hide their true identity, 40 % of them answered yes occasionally or even often."

Most of the participants in the discussion agreed there's a concealed form of discrimination in Slovene society. The members of these ethnic communities feel most shut out of our political activities; they feel there are no real possibilities of becoming politically active. The research of the institute for ethnic studies showed that many of those asked would like the opportunity to learn the language of their parents at school and they would appreciate their own shows on the Public broadcaster RTV Slovenija. There are also differences when it comes to education - only 10 % of the children of members of the communities of the former Yugoslavia go to grammar schools. And dr. Medvesek has been looking at who they mix with..

"Only a small percentage of those asked socialize exclusively with members of their own ethnic community, however there are differences within the different groups. Bosnians, Muslims and Serbs tend to stick more to their own community than other groups."

Ahmed Pasic is the representative of the Muslim community in Slovenia. He says ethnic groups are isolating themselves:

"Particularly after Slovenia's independence during 1990 -1992 the so called grouping started within these ethnic communities, because they felt threatened somehow. They did not know what was going to happen to them, especially when posters of the Slovenian National party emerged with titles like Slovenia to the Slovenians and so on and this was very common in the town of Jesenice, where many people from former Yugoslavia live."

Ahmed Pasic speaks of a type of rebellion among young people..

"The younger generations born after 1982 speak Bosnian in the streets in public and one could say they are searching for their identity. They do not know whether they are Bosnians in Slovenia or Slovenians with Bosnian origin."

But not all ethnic groups share the same problems. Sonja Cekova the president of the Macedonian cultural club "Makedonija" in Ljubljana sees differences among ethnic communities and their experiences:

"We never felt such a strong pressure as for example the Muslim community and we never felt the urgent need to found an association in order to be among people of the same origin."

All involved in the debate agreed that outbreaks of violence such as in French cities recently are not a threat to Slovenian society; however, Ahmed Pasic stressed the need to get to know each other better:

"There are two worlds. When we are at work we are Slovenians, when we are not at work we socialize with 'our people'. This is dangerous; we must build bridges for a better understanding, integration, interaction and getting to know each other all that is necessary as well as an exchange of information."