Slovenian community in Croatia come together for annual meeting

Delnice – More than 300 members of the Slovenian community in Croatia turned out for their 18th annual meeting, organised by the Union of Slovenian Associations in Croatia in the Golubinjak Forest Park near Delnice on Saturday.

“A great number of people came from all over Croatia, which is good news. What worries me a bit is that there are very few children. This is a fact that we have to face with and look for ways to help associations to involve the younger generations as much as possible,” Slovenian Ambassador Gašper Dovžan told the STA on the sidelines of the meeting.

To preserve Slovenian culture and language, he believes it would make sense to develop leisure activities such as music, hiking or football, which would also attract younger people. He proposed engaging in dialogue with the Office for Slovenians Abroad, “to look for concepts that could also be channelled financially to support such programmes”.

Barbara Riman, the head of the Union of Slovenian Associations in Croatia, is aware of the problem as well. “Slovenian associations should think about how to attract those who are not yet active,” she told the STA.

She welcomed attendance at the gathering by the ambassador and a representative of the government Office for Slovenians Abroad, which she said gave members of the community in Croatia an opportunity to talk with them and tell them about their challenges.

She hailed cooperation with the Slovenian Embassy in Croatia and its support for the community with Croatian ministries. She also expressed the hope for a continuation of the successful cooperation with the Office for Slovenians Abroad.

The office’s official Rudi Merljak said it was hard for the homeland to do more for the Slovenian minority in Croatia than it was doing now. “They are an independent community and they know what they want, what is best for them, but we may sometimes imagine things differently,” he told the STA.

One good example was the Slovenian community in Italy, who he said as a minority were also very politically active and organised. “Without political participation, it is unfortunately difficult for a minority to access the rights that, in principle, belong to them on paper. It’s necessary to fight, and politics is the tool. Slovenians in Croatia are somewhat reluctant to engage in this way,” he said.

He said Slovenians in Croatia should not complain when it came to financial aid. “Support is continuously growing year after year. We reached a record high this year. The funds coming from Slovenia, 90% of which through our office, total close to half a million euros,” he said.

Merljak believes that with Croatia joining the Schengen passport-free area, the situation will change radically for Slovenians in Croatia. With the country also adopting the single currency next year, he believes it will enhance the links further.

Dovžan agreed that with Croatia joining Schengen, “which we do not know exactly when it will happen”, the living conditions for Slovenians in Croatia would improve and it would also facilitate contacts with Slovenia.

“Schengen and joining the euro area is certainly progress, but of course we are under no illusions that it is not without risks. The Western Balkans is very exposed to migration pressures, and Croatia will take on an extremely responsible role here on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina”, he pointed out.

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