26-year-old rap artist DJ Tubet engages in a linguistic search that knows no bounds, mixing his mother-tongue Friulian with Jamaican patois
Few imagine that behind a nickname redolent of the New York suburbs, lies the blameless Mauro Tubetti. Certainly, this local rapper is most definitely neither dissolute nor a daredevil. He has nothing of the cursed about him, unlike his American opposite numbers. Indeed he studies and experiments continuously. He dreams of being a teacher in the morning and a singer in the afternoon. Born in 1982, Dj Tubet mixes books, teaching and reggae rhythms, with the same ease that, on stage, leads him to weave rhymes, hip hop and patois (a variant of Jamaican English) with Friulian. A chameleon-like freestyler, when he hasn’t got a microphone in hand he hangs out on the farm family in Nimis, north of Udine. It takes music to drag him out of the house. It is – he assures me – always the music that broadens his many horizons.
Q Dj Tubet, do you support the creation of a crossborder Euroregion?
A I think it’s a good thing. Even though the region represents a boundary from a formal and historical point of view, it cannot represent a limit from a cultural perspective, precisely because of a need that is inherent in people. Therefore a crossborder body, linking us with other regions close by is a dimension we need: we need something more fluid, going beyond the concept of the region alone. In this, Friuli starts with an advantage in having so many microcultures. It’s a melting pot with many participants. It’s historically based on an exchange. Q What role does music have in all of this?
A The music already has in itself a Euroregional character. Think about when I do gigs. Singing in Jamaican English, Friulian and Italian. Take, reggae for example, which is riven by the cultural influences of the place, just so that it can be conveyed better, responding to the area in which it’s performed. It’s the most transboundary music genre of the lot. As regards current musical projects, I often have dealings with Slovenia, for concerts and other stuff – the country is a forerunner in alternative music and the top punk artists stop off in Udine only because they are performing in Ljubljana. Q Why do you base your musical research on the Friulian language?
A Italian is my second language. I didn’t learn it until I went to nursery school. In terms of identity, Friulano was my first cultural expression. I am proud of this. It’s given me a greater open-mindedness, towards diversity elsewhere and recent studies show how being bilingual is a positive addition from a cognitive point of view. Q You have a degree in social psychology, one in educational science and you’re completing a third one in training science.
A I studied farming at high school. When I discovered Jung it brought me to psychology, but in my mind I wanted to be a teacher. So then I dedicated myself to studying education. I would like to teach in a primary or a high school. Q You also sing?
A I’m working on the first album by ‘R.Esistence in dub’, in which I experiment with dub in Friulano. Reggae is a very radical musical genre but so far locally spoken dialects have only been experimented with in southern Italy. Now the new ‘Dlh posse’ album is due out. It’s a live swing double CD with the ‘Suingando quartet’. I’m also working on an a cappella project. Q How do you manage to do everything? Where do you find the time?
A I can get by with little sleep and lead a very quiet life. I’m a vegetarian and I try to stay really thin. For the rest it, I rationalise my time. I go out only to perform and I live in this dimension. x
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
The experience of Gregor Hager, a professional hockey player with KAC, the Klagenfurt team competing in a league covering Austria, Slovenia and Hungary
Gregor Hager is a Carinthian. Since childhood, he has been actively involved in ‘the Reds’ – as the hockey players of the KAC, the Klagenfurt hockey team currently playing in the EBEL (Austrian hockey league), are called. Though of Austrian nationality, he also has Slovene ancestors; there is a joke that each Carinthian has a parent of Slovene origin. Naturally, Gregor Hager, a professional hockey player since 1999, lives in Klagenfurt. And even if the hockey season ended several weeks ago, he will stay in his hometown for at least another month, the reason being the European Football Championship.
Q Right now hockey is surely not the favourite sport in Klagenfurt, is it?
A No, certainly not. If nothing else, it’s too hot now. And, of course, even in Carinthia hockey cannot compete with the European Football Championship. Q This year has been proclaimed the European year of intercultural dialogue. The EBEL League is often mentioned as a good example of intercultural dialogue. Could you provide an example how teams from other countries have enriched the league if this is indeed the case?
A Of course it is. The most definite proof is that the number of spectators increased at all venues. It’s much more dramatic if the audience can also watch matches with foreign teams that are equal rivals to domestic ones. Of course, it’s then that patriotism comes into play, which makes it even more interesting to play against Slovene or Hungarian teams. Q Our newspapers often announce a match between the KAC and Olimpija as a local derby. Do you also see it that way?
A As a matter of fact, the real local derby is a match between Klagenfurt and Villach, but lately we do have other derbies as well: Villach – Jesenice and Klagenfurt – Olimpija. Carinthian newspapers also label them as derbies and I’d say they’re doing the right thing. There is certain rivalry at work between these teams and, as a result, we can talk about local derbies. The spectators also consider them that way, which is good for hockey and the atmosphere. Q Do you think that sport could set a good example and make people see that good co-operation could be also developed in other spheres?
A Sport can certainly set a good example for all kinds of spheres. The problem is that it is difficult to realise that in practice. But sport can teach us a lot of things. Q Do you notice great differences between Slovenia and Austria once you have crossed the border?
A How can I put it? No longer. They have really become much smaller. They were very large a few years ago, just think of the infrastructure surrounding the Slovene towns that house hockey halls. In this sense, Slovenia is catching up with us. Most probably, it will invest lots of money in the following years, which is good. I have noticed that spectators and my team players have a much more positive attitude to Slovene towns as so many things have changed for the better. Q What do you think about cross-border Euroregions?
A We can conclude with no doubt that such co-operation is a must in certain fields. For example, it would be fruitful in tourism and tourism marketing. It would go down well. We should just promote and sell it well, just think of the ‘Alpe-Adria’ idea. I’d say that at the moment everyone tends his own garden and there’s no co-operation. If they worked together instead of separately, the three regions would be much stronger. In comparison with other regions and cities, we’re relatively small. Such co-operation bring us certain advantages. Q I’m sure that your team members also come from abroad. How do you get along? Do they keep more to themselves?
A No, hockey is a team sport. You have to stick together, each player is part of the whole, and the more we are connected, the better we understand one another, the better our results will be at the end of the season. A good case in point is Olimpija from Ljubljana. In my opinion, it was their character that made them this year’s best team in the league. They fought together and that was the main reason for their success. Q These days, football has turned Klagenfurt in a multicultural town par excellence. Have you considered it that way even before?
A Yes, Klagenfurt has always been a multicultural town. Again, I’ll give you an example from the field of sports. The EURO 2008 Championship is not the first big sporting event organized in our town. Each year, Klagenfurt plays host to a big beach volleyball tournament, as well as an Ironman Triathlon qualifying event. Thanks to these two important sporting events and to sportsmen that take part in them, Klagenfurt is famous as a multicultural town all around the world. x
Rok Uršič, leading researcher and successful businessman explains his philosophy: “consistent support for worldwide initiatives.” And admits “I partly contribute to lower European efficiency by saying that I’m proud that something was done in Slovenia”
Rok Uršič, Bachelor of Engineering Technology, is the 45-year-old founder, owner and CEO of the company Instrumentation Technologies that develops and designs specific technological solutions for particle accelerators, with its clients located on all continents with the exception of Africa. The company, which has shown record economic growth, employs 30 people and is located in the industrial zone of Solkan, a town adjacent to Nova Gorica, Slovenia.
Q What part does your company play in the global picture?
A The company has been present in the global market since its very establishment 10 years ago in a small room in Solkan. It developed from my vision that Solkan, a Slovene town bordering Italy, should become home to a company whose products and services would make it a world player. As soon as I graduated, I was attracted by the idea of being part of something transcending Slovene borders. This belief grew stronger when I started working in Triest and later in the USA and Switzerland. My goal has always been to work in fields that have a global dimension. Globality is the essential element of our company, the foundation stone upon which our values, culture and, last but not least, the image of the firm are based. Q You’ve described the beginnings of your company in terms of geography. Does the fact that you are located in Central Europe, in Slovenia, in a border region bear any special significance?
A Not directly. Perhaps it has to do with the Slovene habit of always repeating that we are small and cannot go big. But greatness is a matter of heart. I know from experience that we have all it takes to write an important story here. Q As a global player, how do you differ in terms of organisation, recruitment policy, and ongoing education?
A What really counts is the fact that the majority of the employees are proud to work here. And another important fact: when it comes to technological development, Slovenia still lags behind other countries, and lower flexibility of the support environment can sometimes work to our disadvantage. But the other side of the coin is that we are highly differentiated in such an environment and, as a result, a magnet for new staff. We offer an ideal working climate to people who are dynamic and willing to accept new challenges and a certain amount of risk. Q How far is Europe, in your opinion, from achieving its famous Lisbon goal of becoming the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based society in the world?
A I believe there’s nothing wrong with the goal itself, we just have problems realising it. Americans, for example, are much more agile decision-takers than Europeans. Perhaps that is due to the fact that they already are the United States, while we still have to become united. Being more agile, they make mistakes, but they also correct them more rapidly. European and national structures should pay more attention to ‘bottom-up’ initiatives. Just by establishing the infrastructure that will facilitate co-operation between research and development, and industry, they will not make that happen. Besides, they should also support those breakthrough initiatives that boast global potential. Europe should adopt both approaches simultaneously. It should also develop a system of supporting those initiatives that cannot conveniently be pigeonholed at present. If someone had said ten years ago: “What the hell are you going to do with high tech in Solkan?” our story would have never begun. When the Slovene Prime Minister Janez Janša paid us a visit, we presented him a far-reaching initiative that doesn’t only concern our company. His positive response and his immediate support for the project proved a positive experience for me. Q Europe is characterized not only by strong national interests, but also by strong national nonsensical claims. Do the fields of knowledge and technology reach beyond the national or even continental?
A I have never separated knowledge from the emotional element that is always present in people, and part of this emotional element is national affiliation. I have to admit that I partly contribute to lower European efficiency by saying that I’m proud that something was done in Slovenia. The feeling, “Yes, this was done in Europe” comes only later. I’d say it’s the other way round in the USA. On the one hand, such attitude towards nationality, which will not die out that soon, makes Europe slower, but on the other it has many advantages. 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
40 years of the history of borders in the life of the writer Drago JanÄar, who doesn’t believe in multiculturalism but DOES believe in culture “because by definition men of culture are curious, open and given to accepting the culture of others without renouncing their own”
Q You were born in Maribor, a town lying along the Drava river, halfway between Vienna and the Adriatic. For 30 years, you have been living in Ljubljana, but you are still attached to Maribor and you often find yourself travelling to Triest where your recent books have earned you a warm welcome.
How do the landscape and your mood change on your way to Triest?
A I get very excited when I come to Triest and see my novel ‘Northern Lights’ or ‘Ringing in My Head’ or the collection of short stories ‘Joyceâ€™s Pupil’ in bookshops. Now I feel more at home in Triest than before. Itâ€™s not that Triest didnâ€™t feel like home before – since the 1970s, this diagonal between Maribor and Triest, the old Central European route Vienna-Triest, has served as a link to a more open world. At the end of this road was a geographically open space, as well as a city characterized by cultural and political openness. At that time, I often met with Boris Pahor who wasnâ€™t as famous as today. Later I realised, and I hope that the inhabitants of Triest wonâ€™t find themselves offended, that Triest, too, had its provincial dimensions manifested not only in its aversion to Slovenes and other foreigners, but also in the fact that its cultural vibrancy was not as strong as that of Ljubljana. Despite this recognition of Triestâ€™s darker sides, I still remember the journeys from Maribor through Ljubljana, the centre where I became recognised as a writer, to Triest a sort of cross-section of life that then extends itself to many other European and American cities. Q You have mentioned the Central European area. Is this not only a ‘meteorological phenomenon’ as it used to be called in the past?
A Central Europe (Mitteleuropa) is no longer such an interesting notion as it was in the time when it was promoted by Claudio Magris, GyÃ¶rgy KonrÃ¡d and other intellectuals, as well as people living behind the so-called Iron Curtain. Yugoslavia wasnâ€™t situated behind the real Iron Curtain: in the mid-1960s, we were allowed to travel beyond its borders with our passports if they had not been taken away – as mine was – and so we lived in a fairly open world. The discussion on Central Europe and on how to transcend borders was an attempt to overcome the wire barriers between Czechoslovakia and Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Austria, mine fields and guards. There existed a farily closed world, and the discussion on Central Europe was an attempt to open the borders and space in order to get an area where cultures could function more freely and where – and now we come to meteorology and to something Iâ€™ve written elsewhere – people and ideas could move round the globe as the clouds float across the sky. Q And so weâ€™ve come to mobility. Now we are part of Europe, which is more important than Central Europe, as well as of a globalised world. Does mobility stand for rapid changes in the environment and the adaptation to new cultural patterns?
A Central Europe is not only a phenomenon from a certain historical moment, that is the 1980s, or a cultural phenomenon and a goal we had. It is first and foremost a geographical and historical notion. We share our history. We saw conflicts, as well as periods of good co-operation. We lived in the same countries, but then the borders started changing. I believe that Central Europe still exists. People who witnessed all these drastic historic shifts and changes in borders lived differently to people elsewhere. This part of Europe is different, just as Mediterranean Europe differs from Northern Europe. The issues of globalisation, rapid changes and so on have strengthened my belief that first we have to show interest in our local characteristics and only then in establishing ties between large regional and national entities. At the same time, we also have to cherish memories of excellent things and catastrophes that this area has witnessed, which makes it interesting, original and special. Q You are an advocate of storytelling, of stories that we give to one another, with the aim of getting to know one another better. Here’s an example: your short story ‘Joyceâ€™s Pupil’, which has given the title to your entire book of short fiction, talks about Boris Furlan from Triest.
A Precisely this story about Boris Furlan, Joyceâ€™s pupil, talks about the continual change of cultures and places he underwent: he moved from Ljubljana to Triest, ZÃ¼rich, and London, to return to Ljubljana, find himself in prison, and then moved to a village in the Gorenjska region. Furlan saw different ideological systems and states, he experienced Fascism, cherished hopes in Communism only to be disappointed â€¦ He travelled around and experienced changes as only a few Europeans did. The writer often finds himself in the role of such an observer. Q There is no end to conflicts. Why is it so difficult to foster dialogue between people, even between neighbours, why does xenophobia keep resurrecting itself in new forms?
A Neighbours are not strangers to one another. I spent half of my life in the vicinity of the Slovene-Austrian border where people used to live in harmony, share the same stories, fight together against the Turks, drought and grasshoppers, convene sessions in the town hall â€¦ And then the divisions began. We were divided by culture, however paradoxical this may sound. Slovenes were justified in raising the issue of the rights of the Slovene language, in turning to our brothers in Prague or even in faraway Moscow. And so we grew apart, only to find ourselves in the 20th century that brought us national and ideological conflicts and new states. If misunderstandings still arise, they are caused by the past, by deep frustrations on both sides of the border. They thrive in Istria, Primorska and Triest, as well as in northern part of Slovenia, in Maribor. Everywhere there are memories of the things that happened before, during and after war. Some people believe that these misunderstandings, which generate new conflicts and problems in communication, can be solved by forgetting the past and focusing on the future. On the contrary, we have to be familiar with these things, with all the tragic events, from the Trieste trials against the Slovenes to the killing of the foibe that happened after WWII. This will make our dialogue easier. Greater curiosity and openness are the preconditions for better understanding. Iâ€™d dare to say that they are more often found on the Slovene side. We are familiar with Italian history and culture, which is logical as theirs is an ancient culture, while Italians living along the border are not familiar with Slovene culture. Things have been getting better lately. To know the past, culture and interests of your neighbours is a fundamental thing. Q Which most probably applies to new immigrants as well.
A In principle, this is the same story, yet we are afraid to face it as it is somehow material in nature. An increasing number of immigrants means increased pressure on public services. People who have lived here for long time and have paid taxes find it difficult to accept that. I would say that it will be easier to overcome cultural differences. Other issues will have to be solved by politics: how to integrate immigrants into society, how to ensure them access to public services without making the local population furious or bad-tempered. Q You believe in intercultural dialogue, which is now on the agenda of European politicians. All of a sudden, culture matters.
A Brussels bureaucracy is often obsessed with a certain topic, at the moment its intercultural dialogue. Yet this is not a new topic. The idea emerged at least 15 or 20 years ago under the term ‘multiculturalism’. In my opinion, we donâ€™t need multiculturalism or intercultural dialogue. What we need is culture since cultural people are, by definition, curious and open, and accept another culture without renouncing their own. By saying intercultural dialogue, we imply that there are two very different cultures, which might be indeed the case, but by saying so, we have addressed the subject from two separate sides. Cultural dialogue or dialogue on culture would be a better way of putting it. Q When writing about European soul, you refer to Jacques Delors … What kind of soul does Europe need?
A I quoted a passage in which Delors referred above all to culture. If it wants to become a living organism, Europe cannot only be a sum of interests, which it still is. New states that have joined Europe with enthusiasm, including Slovenia, are well aware that Europe is interested in new markets, and would like to enter that market and partake in progress and welfare. This is a good basis, which functions well, but it is not an organism that would survive major friction. Such a Europe can fall apart. The soul of Europe is culture, into which we should integrate its tradition. The latter encompasses Christianity, which was the first to establish Europe as a united area, the Enlightenment, which placed man, the citizen at its centre, as well as the achievements of the French Revolution, and even uncontaminated socialist achievements such as the welfare state and solidarity. All these elements make the history of Europe, its soul, which is, of course, also reflected in modern philosophical and artistic phenomena. Q You claim that literature plays an important role in the sphere of culture. However, globalization has many side effects, from the spread of instant culture to reverence for internet and multimedia communicationâ€¦ How can literature compete with them?
A In my opinion, it no longer can and this battle has been lost. Literature will most probably survive in more elite circles. I canâ€™t imagine that literature with its abundance of stories, metaphors and associations would not survive, as it meets the needs of our deeper being, just like religion or certain social activities. Literature will no longer be the phenomenon that would change the world or had an impact on it as it did in the 20th century. Q Do you believe that writing is a mission? How can a writer be socially engaged – you yourself differentiate between fiction writing and writing for newspapers or magazines – how can a writer make himself useful?
A I think it is enough to write stories or poems to be a useful person. Oscar Wilde once said that art is the most useless thing in the world. But paradoxically, he claims that without art people would lead more miserable lives. Without some form of art, they would not live at all. Thatâ€™s why literature matters. It cannot replace sermons or social solutions, what it can do is to help man understand himself, the world, other stories with which he can juxtapose his own experience and the wealth of language. Thereâ€™s no need to be a socially engaged writer. I am one because thatâ€™s my way of responding to things. Q How do you view translation? On what does it depend?
A It will never be possible to translate everything into all languages. Well, technically yes, but whoâ€™d be interested in that? The pressure of minor Central European nations to win recognition has its limits. We canâ€™t expect that everyone knows all Slovene literature, just like we donâ€™t know the literature of others. Of course, we have to strive to have as mush translated as possible. People are getting more curious. However, once the Slovene presidency to the EU is over, the increased interest in Slovenia will return to normal. Q What is the descriptive desire that you mention in ‘Joyceâ€™s Pupil’ when Boris Furlan cannot describe a lamp owing to language problems? What does it stand for in your writing?
A This is a very important question. All at once, I realised that this is the motto of my writing, this wish to describe things, to label them with words; the lamp, relations between two people, the connection of love, social questions, nature. All at once, I became aware that the ‘descriptive desire’, as Furlan puts it, can be also found in my desire to write. In the story, Joyce tells his pupil to describe an oil lamp. Furlans says that he feels emptiness in his head, which turns into the central metaphor of the short story, as he will feel that same emptiness when sentenced to death at his trial in Ljubljana. This is a metaphor for the mystery of literature. Words, passionate descriptions, theyâ€™re all stronger than the acts of saving the world even if writers can be socially engaged. Literature is stronger. Joyce left Triest because of WWI; according to Furlan, he got scared, while Furlan, a Slovene from Triest and an advocate of liberal values, stood up to Fascism, was sentenced, escaped to Ljubljana, came into conflict with Communism and was sentenced as an English spyâ€¦ The emptiness in his head is the emptiness arising from saving the world. There was something he didnâ€™t understand. He was sure Joyce was a weirdo because of his descriptive desire. These are two principles that I leave open: setting the world to rights and describing it. x
Andrea Tomat, president of the â€˜Lottoâ€™ sportswear company:
â€œNorth-east Italy must obtain fiscal federalism and compete globally along with Slovenia and Carinthia
Born in Udine, Andrea Tomat began his career in the Eaton Corporation and in 1987 started working for Lotto clothing company. In 1998, together with Adriano Sartor, he bought out the Stonefly company. In 1999, as the head of a consortium of entrepreneurs, he acquired the Lotto brand-name and became President and Director General of the company that has its headquarters in the Province of Treviso, in Veneto. Between 2004 and 2008 he was President of Unindustria Treviso (the local association of entrepreneurs) and since 2004 has been on the governing body of the Italian business body Confindustria, and, since 2005 President of the Fondazione Nord-Est (the North-east Foundation). In April 2008 he became the new President of the Italian national committee of the International Chamber of Commerce.
Q What advantages do you see in the new Euroregional institution?
A The Euroregion is a project that, in the past, was called the Alpe Adria community, which was born, as we all know, well before the fall of the Berlin Wall and therefore in a context that is radically different from today. It is an idea that has found a new relevance, given the progressive expansion of the European Union and one that enjoys broad support from the Italian Regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia and, I also believe, in Austria, Slovenia and Croatia.â€¨It is the new Europe of 27, and, more generally, the phenomenon of globalisation, that favour the creation of homogenous transboundary regions. These are, in any case, foreseen by Community regulations and are, in fact, the Euroregions. Particularly in this case, as for businesses, it poses the question of size and the identification of areas suitable for initiatives favouring territorial competitiveness. Q As a North-east Italian businessman, what message would you like to put forward in this respect?
A At this point in time thereâ€™s a widespread awareness that this area has assumed a new centrality for the Continent and a role as a node on at least three important European connecting routes (Corridors 5 and 1 and the Autostrade del mare, that is â€˜sea-motorwaysâ€™ in Italian). It is, above all, this geographical position that means that these regions share the same needs and similar objectives. The Euroregion could, together with the respective national governments, help coordinate the investments that are being made in this field, and, of course, favour the institutional, economic and cultural relationships in this area. Q Is the concept of territoriality still relevant in a globalised market?
A Yes, of course; even more so in a capitalism of people and territories such as that found in Italy, and especially in the North-east, along with the regions that may well go to make up the Euroregion. The internationalisation of businesses, and this is a crucial step for many sectors, should not be seen as an alternative to the identifying themselves as part of a local community and an industrial tradition that is profoundly our own. In fact this could actually become our brand in getting ourselves known and appreciated at a global level. Q What impetus can a multicultural context supply to an entrepreneurial activity such as yours?
A Operating in a multilingual and multicultural context is an opportunity for everyone and each and every business and is present in the DNA of our production systems, accustomed as we are to always searching for new opportunities and partnerships in Europe and the world. Q What behaviour would you like to see from the various nation States and from the Italians in particular when it comes to the delegation of certain powers to organisations such as the Euroregion?
A With North-Eastern Italy in mind, the creation of a Euroregion obviously comes after the carrying out of reforms that lead towards fiscal federalism. These would give the Region Veneto the powers and resources already enjoyed by the two autonomous Regions that also go to make up the area: Trentino – Alto Adige and Friuli – Venezia Giulia. A federal organisation, Iâ€™d like to emphasise, has always been the state of affairs in Austria as well as in Germany – and Slovenia is working towards a regionalised model. As I said in my recent address to the Assembly of Unindustria in Treviso, for whom I have just finished my term as President: a real and efficient federalism represents a precondition in North-east Italy to give life both to our (disadvantaged) interior and an effective metropolitan dimension. Through the construction of a European macroregion, this would allow us to link up with Carinthia, Slovenia, Istria and Dalmatia. In any case, this is the new frame of reference and we must measure ourselves against it without delay. x
â€œTo feel attached to the cultures and people across the border and to remember our common history can enrich our identity as Italians, Austrians or Slovenesâ€, explains Josef Langer, a sociologist based in Klagenfurt (Carinthia), who sees Euroregions as a completely new supranational reality. He adds that the much more serious risk is to get lost in the numerous commercialised and pseudo-political identities offered by the forces of globalisation
Josef Langer is a sociologist working at the Institute of Sociology at the Alpen-Adria University of Klagenfurt. He specialises in theories of globalisation, identity and interculturalism. He has widely researched the social processes surrounding EU integration and has written extensively on these topics.
Q Many think that the new EU legislation on European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) should form the legal framework for the construction of a Euroregion covering Slovenia, Southern Austria, North-eastern Italy and North-western Croatia. According to the relevant regulation, pre-existing political and administrative bodies (Regions, Land, States and Provinces) should jointly contribute some of their administrative powers to this crossborder Euroregion. How do you think this new institution could challenge the perception of the roles of the Nation-States in our society?
A The EGTC offers a complete new definition of state border: I mean it represents a change from a national to a supranational reality. The â€˜genetic codeâ€™ of EU institutions which requires a â€˜pooling of sovereigntyâ€™ is being applied for the first time to the borders of Member States. This legislation provides an instrument for the common management, use and administration of a set of strictly defined and agreed matters. Whereas the Interregs and other previous EU cross-border instruments were conventional in the sense that independent organizations from different states cooperated, the EGTC has the potential to create a single supranational organisation for administering the border – from a line of control and distinction the border moves to become a place of common utilisation. Its implementation would mean a complete negation of the nation state in an important element of its identity – the outer boundary. However, for the time being I do not see any attempt in the Alps-Adriatic space to use the EGTC in such a manner. The new cross-border projects for the 2007-2013 period seem to continue in conventional patterns of inter-state cooperation and refer to the EGTC, if at all, only rhetorically. Q Do you think that a Euroregional identity could be considered more relevant compared to the discourses of identity offered by Nation-States?
A The supportive attitude towards cross-border cooperation which we observe in todayâ€™s Zeitgeist, the ever-growing cross-border business activities together with EU funding of cross-border cooperation, stimulates awareness of what is going on in the territories across national borders amongst significant numbers of people. The recognition and realisation of cross-border opportunities bind people together, creating a feeling of community on the basis of mutual advantage. In the Alps-Adriatic territories there is an additional factor for creating community and this is centuries of common history prior to WWI. For the people between the Alps and Adriatic the time of their separation into nation states is much shorter than that of being together in the past. Hapsburg rule left many constructions and buildings in these territories which can create a feeling of communality even amongst those who are not historically involved. Demonstrating an Alps-Adriatic cross-border identity could be seen as a â€˜softâ€™ asset for building relations and developing common projects.
However, as I indicated before, we live in an era of multiple identities and, even more, of Western individualism and the dominance of particular interests connected with it. In this precarious situation for all collective identities the conflict between regional cross-border identity and a national identity such as Italian or Slovene need not be feared. In fact, my personal opinion is a feeling of attachment to the cultures and peoples across the borders and remembering our common history can enrich our identities as Italians, Austrians or Slovenes. Moreover, collective identities are also linked to material conditions, and here the Nation State is still more competitive than cross-border situations. Today I see no antagonism between the cross-border identity and the national identity, at least not in the Alps-Adriatic area.
The much greater risk, in my opinion, is getting lost in the numerous commercialised and pseudo-political identities offered by the forces ofglobalisation. Let us not forget, that in certain contemporary socialmilieus identifying with the logo of arbitrary global brands is moresignificant than identifying with a territory, culture or nation. Q Some people see a national language as the primary indicator of one’s identity. What do you think should be the languages used and taught in the contexts of the Euroregional area to support cross-border cooperation, both in the public and private sectors?
A Personally I consider knowledge of a foreign language as an advantage. However, I am sceptical about obligatory foreign language learning. Nevertheless, for the Alps-Adriatic area the learning of the languages of this area should be encouraged and the necessary organisational opportunities (education, exchanges, etc.) created. I do not think that knowing a foreign language can negatively affect oneâ€™s identity. x
Facts and Ideas of collaboration between the Adriatic and the Danube