Congress founder Marin Sopta spoke about what has changed since the first congress. Also drawing much attention were panel discussions on the media and health tourism, where we heard presentations of positive examples, including presentations of successful entrepreneurship, health tourism and various innovative projects.
The 3rd Croatian Diaspora Congress was held in Osijek from the 29th of June to the 1st of July. Osijek is Croatia’s fourth largest city, the largest urban hub in the Slavonia and Baranja region and has been hardest hit by the ongoing exodus of youth, the very people that could revive the region’s prospects. It was in fact the aim to stage the congress, under the title Departure/Stay/Return, in a city where emigration is a burning issue.
This year’s diaspora congress was dedicated to sounding out the reasons behind this emigration and the unattractive options for returning to the country, hearing discussions on why people have left the homeland, what their experiences are in their new places of residence, and under what conditions they would return to their homeland. The congress was rich in creative ideas, a number of inventive projects, brilliantly presented, and above all in the meeting of friends, new friendships, and the exchange of ideas and opinions that certainly enhanced and enriched every participant of this gathering. This symposium and specialist gathering also pooled a large number of top domestic figures, researchers and professors, and eminent members of the diaspora community, representatives of the Roman Catholic pastoral authorities in the homeland and the diaspora communities, various diaspora organisations, humanitarian associations, volunteers, and media experts that daily work to link homeland and diaspora Croatians.
This was a gathering of people of diverse profiles and professions who wish to invest their personal efforts to do something for their country, enthusiasts from the across the homeland and the whole world, both those who have returned and those living abroad and who voluntarily invest in these kinds of projects, people that in their own way contribute to the prosperity and quality of life in the homeland and in the diaspora communities. This is an enthusiasm that has for all these years seen the launch of numerous collaborative projects based on the power of good arguments and that with each passing year are turning down the volume on ideological talking points.
Those who have remained in the homeland are aware that they must get the country and their local area moving and certainly showed a positive attitude that was clearly present during the three days of this congress, which boils down to the idea that nothing will come of complaining for the sake of complaining, from anger and resignation, and that the congress must produce only solutions. The many gathered researchers and demographers presented their analyses and the devastating emigration figures. People are leaving Croatia primarily because of the internal dissentions in our society, the country’s poorly organised and poorly led administration, incompetent politicians and political parties, a sense of hopelessness and lack of perspective, the decay of the country, the society and the nation, and the employment of sycophants, party coteries and nepotism. We heard for the first time a report on a new category of emigrants that covers children in the emigrant population—sometwenty thousand people. Also on the agenda were history, emigration and the relationships between the homeland and the diaspora communities.
Congress founder Marin Sopta spoke about what has changed since the first congress. Also drawing much attention were panel discussions on the media and health tourism, where we heard presentations of positive examples, including presentations of successful entrepreneurship, health tourism and various innovative projects. It was all quite refreshing and full of positive energy, breaking the melancholy of the negative emigration trends, with an effort to send a positive image of solutions that are out there.
Numerous conclusions were presented on how to prevent emigration, including proposals to move quickly to slash the tax rate on gross wages, to facilitate the receipt of citizenship for foreign students, to dedicate more attention to education, demographic renewal measures, increasing scientific, cultural and athletic cooperation between the growing diaspora communities and the homeland and to encourage lobbying efforts among the diaspora communities.
What is by far most important, however, is to restore trust and offer opportunities to those who remain in the country. We need to create a sense of optimism because we know that it is up to those who stay in the country to set their regions in motion and that nothing will come of divisions, depression and the blame game. The Dublin into which people from our Slavonia region are moving in droves was once a bleak town and is still home to many vagrants and impoverished persons. In spite of the previous massive emigration, they have succeeded over time in creating a positive image and the appearance of a positive and attractive city open to everyone. Only a happy and open society can be a magnet for new young generations and we certainly, if we want to be better and more successful, have to develop, to brand Croatia as a country of happy and free people and to open up to, and learn to, accept diversity. We need to emphasise what is positive and taken for granted locally but acutely visible to foreigners and our people living abroad, because only a positive attitude and a positive image of our society can hold onto and attract positive people. These were all messages from the 3rdCroatian Diaspora Congress in Osijek—the next congress is slated to be held in Zagreb in two years time.
By: Katarina Pejić