Abstract: There is a perception that consumer products are a direct offshoot of the stereotype that surrounds the products’ countries of origin. “If the product comes from my area I like it more”. These are some of the results of research conducted exclusively for Euregio by SWG and Valicon on Euroregional patterns of consumption
A set of data collected by the Ljubljana-based market research company Valicon, working with SWG in Triest, and commissioned exclusively for ‘Euregio’, provides us with an initial idea of how, within the Euradriatic area, the contents of shopping trolleys are linked to a national identity. Euregio has been able to analyse the questionnaires completed by about 1500 respondents, a representative sample of the citizens of Carinthia (Austria), Slovenia, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia (Italy). Continua la lettura di The Frontiers of Consumption→
The Deputy Mayour of Koper – Capodistria throws down the challenge: a single Port Authority to take on northern Europe
Q Deputy Mayor, you’ve always lived close to the border with Italy. What has this demarcation line meant to you and your family?
A A border is always a border even though the one with Italy was always permeable. My father worked right up to his retirement in the shipyards at Muggia. Almost half of my relatives, after the post-war exodus of ethnic Italians from Yugoslavia moved to Triest or its surroundings. The same went for our friends. Maintaining contacts was difficult. Locals could cross at the smaller border posts using the lasciapassare (a locally-valid passport). These however closed at a certain time so you were forced to make long detours to the international crossings to return home. One shouldn’t forget either that at that time the border was heavily patrolled by the Yugoslav military and this made the climate tense. The entry of Slovenia into the Schengen area was a great moment for us and we felt a lot freer. Q Could you lay out your point of view on how the Euroregion should function?
A Completing the regionalization of Slovenia should make the birth of a Euroregion easier. I believe that the Euroregion could represent a step forward on the road towards cooperation between adjoining regions but everything depends on what one seeks to include in the field of cooperation. Q What geographical area should the Euroregion cover in the view of Koper – Capodistria?
A I don’t have any firm ideas on the borders of the Euroregion. In my opinion it should include areas that share a common history, traditions and problems, but, to my eyes, the area covered is less important than the common initiatives that those involved can undertake. Q The possible reservations against the birth of a Euroregion are often linked to a presumed risk of loss of sovereignty in one’s own area. What is your view on this?
A I don’t believe loss of sovereignty is a real risk. National borders will not be eliminated and the peoples’ identity would be strengthened by the various joint initiatives. Doubts of this type are baseless. Q We know that you are in constant contact with the neighbouring regions of Croatia and Italy. What cooperative ventures are already up and running with the various municipalities in Istria and Friuli Venezia Giulia?
A Koper – Capodistria believes that good neighbourly relations should be a priority when seeking to promote projects in common at a European level. Much has already been achieved in the field of environmental protection and planning at a multilateral level through the various initiatives that we are taking part in. There are plenty of opportunities for bilateral meetings with the local councils of Triest, Muggia, San Dorligo della Valle – Dolina and elsewhere in Italy. On the Croatian side of the border we are in regular contact with the Istrian local councils. Q Do you see the possibility of resolving shared problems in the local area by using the Euroregion and what are you currently doing in this field?
A We are trying to agree on the sorting of waste and its subsequent recycling with Triest. Everything that cannot be recycled would then go to be incinerated at Italian plants, as, on our side of the border we lack the necessary infrastructure. The other issue currently under examination is that of water supplies. The water resources for Koper – Capodistria are running out and bringing in new ones would be extremely costly. We would also like to draw attention once again to our interest in linking the school networks. Finally, I cannot miss out the area of healthcare provision where a cross-border plan is being drawn up for both emergency services and treatment in the region’s hospitals. Q What are the prospects of economic cooperation through a new political entity such as the Euroregion?
A For Koper – Capodistria the integration of the ports of the upper Adriatic is of the utmost urgency to take on the competition offered by the large operators in Northern Europe. Defining strategies together could further allow the advantages that our maritime ports offer to come to the fore. I don’t rule out that, with time, we might see a single port authority. Greater coordination is also possible in tourism, with a joint offer in the market towards third countries. This should be put forward whilst avoiding unnecessary competition and duplication in the itineraries and peculiarities of the various areas. Above all environmental protection and sustainable development should be the dominant theme. For example, there is no place for regassification plants in our area as tourism would be the main sector to suffer. x
The sad reality of the division caused by the demarcation line between Italy and the then Yugoslavia had to be faced up to by the inhabitants of the hills above Muggia, between Triest and Koper – Capodistria. Villages such as Hrvatini – Crevatini, Kolomban – Colombano and Cerej – Cerei along with others, that even today hold a good proportion of Italian nationals, found themselves on the Yugoslav side of the border. One of the protagonists of the political and social life of Hrvatini is professor Alberto Scheriani. 43 years old with a degree in History from the University of Triest, he is the Headmaster of the Italian Middle School of the (Slovene) town of Izola – Isola. Deputy mayor of Koper – Capodistria (the municipality that includes Hrvatini), for many years he has been an important personality within the Italian community in Slovenia. x
From the first degree in Gorizia to the doctorate from Klagenfurt, passing through Ljubiana and Triest, a snapshot of Serena Fedel, at home in more than one univeristy of Alpe-Adria. Projects fors the future? That her children will speack the languages of the area: Slovene and Italian, not forgetting English and German obviously…
“My children will go to the bilingual nursery at Vermegliano, near Ronchi. At home we’ll speak Italian but it’s right that they should learn the languages spoken in the area from an early age, as much as it is that they learn German or English”. This sums up the project for a future euroregional experience of Serena Fedel, a citizen of Alpe Adria, who although a die-hard bisiaca (a speaker of the local Italian dialect), as she herself is at pains to point out, has lived for two years between Klagenfurt (in Austria), the Slovene capital Ljubljana, and Trieste
After being awarded a degree in Public Relations with top marks from the University of Udine 2002, Serena Fedel won a scholarship for a doctorate in Transboundary Politics in Daily Life: a creature born form the cooperation between the Institute of International Sociology of Gorizia and the Universities of Trieste, Udine, Klagenfurt, Maribor, Krakow, Budapest, Cluj Napoca, Bratislava and Catania.
“It seemed interesting to me to develop a project linked to the area of Alpe Adria. The theme came to me almost by chance through some publications I came across on a series of initiatives linked to the field of equal opportunities – she explains. I thought that a comparison between the conditions of women in Friuli Venezia Giulia, in Slovenia and in Carinthia could represent a new and still largely unexplored theme”. The results of the project were, on one hand, a doctoral thesis “Gender inequalities and social conditions of employed women in the Alps-Adriatic region. A comparison between Carinthia, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Slovenia, and, on the other an intense life and work experience, gained at first hand in the three areas; and, confirming the conclusions reached in her thesis – that Slovenia offers the best living and work conditions for women and recounts how it was in Ljubljana that, were she able, she would have stayed and lived.
“At the University of Klagenfurt there is a department dedicated to the promotion of Gender Studies, with a well-stocked library and, not of minor importance, my supervisor Professor Josef Langer. I did my first term of the doctorate there and, finding good working conditions, decided to stay on”. But the life of Serena Fedel at that time wasn’t only that of a student. Looking for alternate employment , more or less temporary, she worked as a barmaid and as a hostess at trade exhibitions – opportunities that on one hand allowed her to pay her way and on the other, “live” the city and practice the language, getting to know people. In the meantime there was a thesis to carry forward, in particular an analysis of the professional conditions of women, using a series of interviews with female employees of a bank with branches in all three areas.
If fieldwork in the Region Friuli Venezia Giulia and in Austrian Carinthia could be completed fairly easily, the barrier of language was an issue in Slovenia. “I didn’t speak Slovene” she explains, “ and from my arrival in Klagenfurt I’d done courses, but obviously being behind a desk is not the same as learning directly in the real world. I thought it would be much more useful, obviously also with the research in mind, to go to Ljubljana”. The publication of a competition for a scholarship from the (Italian) Foreign Ministry proved crucial; and so Dr. Fedel moved, lock stock and barrel, to the Slovene capital to start a new adventure whilst keeping to the theme of an analysis of the condition of women. So it was that in Ljubljana a new thread in her Euroregional experience was woven, leading her back to Italy, not in her own San Canzian on the River Isonzo but to Trieste.
“At first I got by using English but I soon realised that the courses I was following were insufficient. I was irritated that I was unable to understand everything, and it especially disturbed me that I had to have help to carry out the interviews necessary to complete the thesis. I carried on studying and after a few months I was finally able to speak and understand Slovene” she says. In the meantime however, her experience on a Ministry scholarship had come to an end, meaning she had to find paid work.
First came the experience as an assistant to Professor Langer at the University of Klagenfurt, but the distance Ljubljana and the Carinthian capital was too great to commute, even just for a few days a week. With too little money for a car, she began a search for a job in the place that would become her new home. Having to work within job quotas, given that at that time Slovenia had not yet entered the Schengen area, she decided to work to her strengths in order to carve for herself a place in the job market.
“In fact I was a student living in a foreign country – she explains – and my advantage was being able to speak Italian, whilst in the meantime, having picked up a good working knowledge of Slovene. It wasn’t particularly difficult to find part time job in an import-export firm, one in fact managed by an Italian, that also allowed me to teach in some private schools”. The experience gained allowed Serena to do a bit of “insider trading” at a management software company, where she was able to pass herself off, so to speak, (given that she was one) as a student needing to collect information to finish a doctoral thesis.
Even though Slovenia comes across, as it also does in her thesis, as a country where women enjoy the best working conditions, this does not mean that it is easy to find permanent work. Serena – who in the meantime was looking for a more secure position – came across an agency which seeks to place Slovene students in temporary jobs, positions reserved for those attending the University of Ljubljana. Serena decided therefore to follow two degrees at the same time, enrolling in a course for a degree in Political Science. Moving from job to job, in the meantime she finished the research and wrote up the thesis and finished the three year research doctorate, but wanted to stay in Ljubljana. “I didn’t want to return to Klagenfurt even if there would probably have been good opportunities to carry out new research work at the University, paid for with EU Interreg funds. “I liked (and continue to like) Ljubljana, it has that touch of Balkan spirit that makes it a warmer place than Klagenfurt. In addition it is also welcoming, on a human scale but you breathe a cosmopolitan air of a European capital. Obviously I also made a lot of friends in my months there. The only thing I missed was being close to the sea”.
The next step was to move on and look for a permanent job, this time not as a student, possibly in the area of Communication and Marketing. But the response is always the same: “At the moment we are not looking for staff but we’ll keep your file on our books” A series of C.V’s returned to sender – it wasn’t looking good.
Amongst the companies contacted however was a one in Trieste, the only one on the list and it was this one that replied, offering an eight month Apprenticeship in the Area di Ricerca. “By coincidence the company was involved in connectivity and security policies for company networks and was looking to expand into Slovenia and this was why my curriculum made its way to the top of the pile. There I worked as an apprentice before finding a job in a company that works in electronic commerce, but the most important thing to me is that I’ve moved to Trieste. I’ve been living here for a year and I like it a lot, the people are more open and I’ve had a chance to catch up with old friends”. But another move is on the cards, this time it would seem for good. Destination Cervignano (in the province of Udine) to work for a agricultural company.
“I would have happily stayed in Ljubljana. If I could– she reveals – I would choose to move there for good but my life has brought me back here and I’m happy about that. I’d do the whole thing again, making the same choices to end up exactly where I am today. And then there is balancing family and work time – returning to the theme of my doctoral thesis, which represents a problem here in the Region: and that’s why having as my boss the father of my children will prove a real advantage”.
Author: Annalisa Turel
Journalist with a degree in Public Relations she has worked for four years with the Italian daily Il Piccolo and other newspapers. Since January 2007 she has run GoriziaOggi, a daily blog supplying information on the Isontino, the territory on either side of the River Isonzo, running from Italy’s border with Slovenia to the Adriatic.
Female Slovenian workers enjoy the best conditions and are much better represented at a managerial level. Social research carried out at the International Institute of Sociology in Gorizia compares the female populations in Austria, Slovenia and Friuli Venezia Giulia (NE Italy) in the fields of economics and employment
Greater ease in finding work, less discrimination, a network of services that supports mothers. The women of Slovenia can count on the best working conditions and quality of life. This is what emerges from a doctoral thesis on the conditions enjoyed by women in the Euroregion.
‘Gender inequalities and social conditions of employed women in the Alps-Adriatic region. A comparison between Carinthia, Friuli – Venezia Giulia and Slovenia’ is the title of the work of Serena Fedel, carried out between Friuli Venezia Giulia, Slovenia and Carinthia, during a doctorate in transboundary policies in daily life, through the Institute of International Sociology in Gorizia together with a consortium of ten universities from Central and Eastern Europe.
The aim of the research and fieldwork was to analyse the approach towards gender differences in the three areas. Jumping to the work’s conclusions one discovers that Slovenia is without doubt the country where women find fewer obstacles in achieving their aims, especially economically and in the workplace. This, of course, without forgetting how these two aspects have a positive effect in the social and family spheres. But behind these conclusions there is a long piece of research that begins with the reasons that, today, produce the different outcomes, in Austria, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Slovenia. Amongst these, without doubt, is the socialist heritage of ex-Yugoslavia.
“The comparison between the three different realities – explains Serena Fedel – shows how Slovenia is more progressive in this sector, as a result of the country’s socialist past. Even in the Constitution women are called upon to work like men. As a result an entire system has been created to help women to reconcile family and professional obligations through nursery schools to the provision of canteens.
Without doubt therefore, over time, a greater sensitivity (to women’s issues) has developed”.
The Italian situation is very different. Even if there are differences, borne out in the thesis, between what takes place in Italy as a whole and in Friuli Venezia Giulia in particular. If, at a Italian level, the number of women in work is far lower than in Slovenia, in Friuli Venezia Giulia the figures are much improved, even though a larger gap between the sexes still remains.
The data, provided by Eurostat and this Italian Region’s Statistical Almanac show a level of male unemployment at 2.6% whilst that for women stands at 5.8%, set against 10.1% at a national level. In Slovenia 6.1% of men are unemployed and 7% of women. In Austria the respective figures are 4.9% and 5.5%. The reasons lie in the strong influence of the Catholic Church in the separation of the roles within the family and the laws that continue to reflect the patriarchal tradition of the Italian family. The model according to which the woman takes care of the children has brought about a more limited provision of services.
This affects the hours of the nurseries and schools which are largely incompatible with parents where both work full time. All this without looking at the terms of parental leave that guarantee only 30% of the salary.
The dissatisfaction of women regarding their position, both professionally and within the family, is also seen in the interviews carried out by Serena Fedel.
The analysis of the various pieces of legislation and the practices in the various areas have been placed alongside fieldwork through a series of interviews with Austrian, Italian and Slovene women employed by the same banking group. “The results – says Fedel – confirmed my hypothesis and the first group of women interviewed stressed the absolute incompatibility of the care services with full-time work. The Slovene situation once again proved completely different, where the system of parental leave was much more generous and, because of this, women were much better represented at a managerial level“.
Even though some change in the old family model, based on the working man and the housewife, was recorded, especially in the Region Friuli Venezia Giulia, the changes were limited to the field of work, whilst less change was seen in the division of housework: the time dedicated to housework was decidedly imbalanced (between the sexes) as were the requests for parental leave which were rather only occasionally amongst the men.
The Austrian reality, and that of Carinthia in particular, presents yet another, different set of characteristics. Here part-time work represents a widespread option for women and mothers in particular, so as to reconcile the time needed for one’s profession with that required for maternity. The possibility to go part-time, together with the generous parental leave given by employers allows women to risk leaving their careers or at least carry almost exclusively on their shoulders the responsibility for childcare and housework, but tends to increase the disparity in terms of pay (between the sexes). Female Austrian workers, in fact, can stay at home with the child until it is 30 months old and get a part-time post until the child reaches the age of seven. Serena Fedel’s analysis goes into the details. The questionnaire given to 30 female workers in Austria, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Slovenia aims to analyse the family and working conditions and their opinions on sex equality policies.
The questions therefore range from the level of satisfaction felt towards parental leave to that on the role given to women in their respective families, through to the level of satisfaction with the services provided by their employers. If the Austrian and Slovene women show that flexible working hours and the opportunities for leave represent the positive side of the equation, the female Italian workers’ responses illustrate a series of difficulties. “Being a woman penalises you, inasmuch as you can be as good as the men, but the men are preferred. Compared to a men you have more things to worry about: there’s not only the work but also the children, the house… even if you put in the same effort, you risk coming out worse…”, one reads in the interviews. Going on: “The differences in treatment are there for all to see”, summing up with those who believe that “the thing is all quite open and above board… because it’s women who have children and that’s why they are discriminated against in the world of work.
There are women who have children and manage to make a career for themselves but it’s difficult and they have to fight harder to get where they are and then hold their position…”. x
The story of Inacio Binchende, an ‘afro-slovene’ who divides his time between his businesses and appearing on TV as an African in national costume.
Inacio Binchende was born in Mansôa, Guinea-Bissau. He came to Slovenia in 1986. Having become a Bachelor of Forest Science, he obtained an MA in Economics. He runs his own import business and has opened an affiliate in his homeland in order to facilitate economic co-operation with Guinea-Bissau. He gives presentations on his mother country in the African Centre in Slovenia. Inacio’s anonimity came to an end when he started acting in Boris Kobal’s comedy ‘Africa or On Our Own Land’, which mocks a typical Slovene family. By accepting the role of Janez Belina (‘John White’) in Kobal’s comedy series ‘Poper’ (‘Pepper’) produced by Televizija Koper-Capodistria, he has become famous right across Slovenia. He lives with a Slovene and has a 13-year-old son.
Q What has brought you to Slovenia?
A My studies. In 1986, I won a Guinea-Bissau scholarship awarded within the programme of international co-operation with Yugoslavia. I graduated in forest science, and then obtained an MA in economics. Q What did you know about Slovenia before your arrival?
A Nothing. I knew only a few things about Yugoslavia, mostly general data and some stuff about Tito. I started to get interested in it after I had received the scholarship. Q What about the language?
A My Slovene lessons started in Ljubljana. For half a year, the foreign students were learning only the language. Q What did you find most unusual, maybe even shocking, upon your arrival?
A My first stop was Belgrade where we were assigned to our universities. I came to Slovenia by train and was very surprised to see that everyone was wearing the same thing: jeans. That was not the case at home. When it was snowing, I didn’t go to classes. When I saw piles of snow outside, I went back to sleep, being totally sure that people stayed at home in such weather. Q When getting used to our lifestyle, what did you find most interesting and easy, and what most difficult?
A I had no trouble adapting myself. With my fellow countrymen living here, I didn’t find it difficult to integrate myself into the society. It was unusual, though, that people would stare at me in the street. Until I got used to it, I often asked them what was wrong. Q Has it ever happened to you that you witnessed intolerance because you were different?
A I can’t remember any direct act of intolerance during the times of the ex Yugoslavia. Most probably the authorities didn’t allow them, I can’t say for sure. Some nasty things, however, did happen after Slovenia gained independence. I was physically attacked by a group of skinheads. Slovenia has been much more open lately, and so maybe it’s getting less intolerant. Q What about Slovenes? What do they know about others? Does it often happen that they don’t know where Guinea-Bissau is located or which language is spoken there?
A People are different. And so they also differ in their knowledge of other countries. They don’t really know a lot about them. When I mention my homeland, they perceive it as anything but a real African country. It’s a small country, indeed, slightly larger than Slovenia, and yet its population is smaller. Interestingly, we speak as many as 25 languages. Q What do multilingualism and multiculturalism look like there?
A There are 23 ethnic groups in Guinea-Bissau, each possessing its own characteristics. The majority of them are of Bantu origin, yet they are very different. The situation is really diverse. Our languages are so different from one another that we don’t understand each other. Our lingua franca are Creole and Portuguese. Q Why did you decide to stay in Slovenia?
A I intended to go back after graduation. But then I got the opportunity to continue my studies at Master’s level. Then arrived my son and so I stayed. Q Guinea-Bissau is far from here. How often do you visit your relatives and homeland?
A At first, it was only rarely that I went home, now I go more and more often. My father and sister and brothers live there. Q What do they think about your life in Europe?
A My sister has studied in Italy, so Europe is nothing special to her. My brothers have been keeping track of my life here and they know it’s very different. Back at home, communication between people is much more direct. Here it’s much more difficult to establish contacts. People are individualists. Africa is home to the collective spirit. Q What habits have you kept?
A I haven’t given up any good habit, I just practice them at home. Elsewhere I adapt myself to the Slovene environment. I’ve integrated myself well into the society, but I haven’t become completely assimilated. Q Does food count as a habit?
A It does, indeed. At home, I like to boil rice and fish, our national dish. Q You have a son. What do you teach him?
A I often tell him about life in Guinea-Bissau, its people. I teach him to be aware of ‘being different’ and warn him that he will meet all kinds of people, some of whom might react to him differently. I’d like that certain remarks wouldn’t hurt him. He has to think that his roots are not only in Slovenia but also in Africa. Q Have you already taken him to your homeland?
A We are going there this year. Q A few years ago, we could watch you on stage and TV. How did you make it there?
A I played an African in Boris Kobal’s comedy. Nobody wanted to perform on stage, so Kobal offered the role to me. I found it interesting, so I accepted it. And then I kept working with him for his TV series. Q What do you think about the name you were given – Janez Belina (John White)?
A I found it a good parody of an African dressed in traditional Slovene costume. And the idea behind this character was interesting. People are not used to an African in Slovene garb. Just think of my son. People ask him what he is, and he says he’s a Slovene. And they tell him: “C’mon, stop joking!” Q If you were asked about your identity, what would you say?
A I always say that I’m from Guinea-Bissau. I cannot lose or change the things I got from my childhood. Slovenia is my second homeland, I’ve been here for a long time. I feel well in both countries and see this as an advantage. x
Facts and Ideas of collaboration between the Adriatic and the Danube