The round table was organised by the CHF, the Institute for Slovenian Emigrants of the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, the Institute for Ethnic Studies of Ljubljana, the Association for the Development of Voluntary Work of Novo Mesto and the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies of Zagreb.

The Croatian Heritage Foundation of Zagreb, the Institute for Slovenian Emigrants of the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU http://isim.zrc-sazu.si), the Institute for Ethnic Studies (http://www.inv.si/domov.aspx?lang=slo) of Ljubljana, the Association for the Development of Voluntary Work (http://www.drpdnm.si) of Novo Mesto and the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies (http://www.imin.hr) of Zagreb organised on December 10th a round table discussion on Croatian Associations in Slovenia and Slovenian Associations in Croatia: Engaging Youth and a Vision for the Future. CHF legal affairs head Diana Mašala Perković announced the event for lecturers and other participants.

The gathering was opened at the Croatian Heritage Foundation building with welcome speeches from CHF director Marin Knezović, Marina Lukšič Hacin of the Institute for Slovenian Emigrants of the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Sonja Novak, a deputy from the Institute for Ethnic Studies of Ljubljana, Branka Bukovec of the Association for the Development of Voluntary Work of Novo Mesto and Zlatko Šram of the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies of Zagreb. The event was moderated by Filip Škiljan.

The discussion opened with the topic of Social Activity: Croatian Associations in Slovenia and Slovenian Associations in Croatia. Speaking on the topic were Mijo Stanko and Ivan Botterii of the Croatian Association of Ljubljana (http://www.hdl.si), Darko Šonc of the Federation of Slovenian Association in Croatia (http://slovenci.hr/hr_ZVEZA/) and the Culture & Education Association of the Slovenian House in Zagreb (http://slovenci.hr/hr_ZVEZA/kulturno-prosvjetno-drustvo-slovenski-dom-zagreb). They were followed by Đanino Kutnjak of the Croatian Culture Association of Pomurje in Lendava (http://www.hkd-pomurje.si/), Barbara Antolić Vupora of the Slovenian Government Council on Slovenians in Neighbouring Countries and Abroad (http://www.vlada.si/delo_vlade/) and the Nagelj Slovenian Culture Association of Varaždin. Also speaking were Vladimir Pobežin of the Croatian Culture Association of Novo Mesto (http://hku-nm.com/) and Klaudija Velimirović of the Slovenian Culture Association of Istria in Pula (http://www.skdistra.hr).
The lectures were followed by constructive discussion moderated by Filip Škiljan.

The second part of the gathering focused on the topic of Engaging Youth and a Vision for the Future: Education, Activities and Intergenerational Relations.
The lecturers on this topic were Jasmina Dlačić and Barbara Riman of the Bazovica Slovenian House and Culture & Education Association of Rijeka, Marko Mandir of the Croatian Culture Association of Maribor (http://www.hkdm.si/), Slavko Malnar of the Slovenian Culture Association of Gorski Kotar in Tršće, Katica Špiranec of the Međimurje Croatian Culture Association of Ljubljana (http://sokultura.si/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/18.-Me%C4%91imurska-no%C4%87-i-Izlo%C5%BEba-sekcije-cvijet.pdf), Zvonko Horvat of the Stanko Vraz Slovenian Culture Association of Osijek (http://skdstankovraz.blog.hr/) and Marijo Malkoc, a Croatian language professor in Slovenia. The discussion was moderated by Marijanca Ajša Vižintin. The closing discussion was moderated by Marina Perić Kaselj of Zagreb’s Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies.

The Zagreb event gathered representatives of six Croatian associations from Slovenia: in Ljubljana, Maribor, Novo Mesto and Pomurje Lendava; one Croatian language professor from Slovenia; and six Slovenian associations in Croatia: from Zagreb, Rijeka, Pula, Varaždin, Osijek and the Gorski Kotar region. The first segment of the round table discussion focused on presenting the Federation of Croatian Associations in Slovenia and the Federation of Slovenian Associations in Croatia, which gather diverse Croatian and Slovenian associations, and individual presentations of the associations from across Slovenia and Croatia, while the second segment touched on the key issues of the “age” of the associations, youth engagement (or the lack thereof), and the increasingly present process of assimilation leading to a loss of the use of the mother tongue. In the discussion, which saw the interactive involvement of the audience and association representatives, it emerged that Croatian associations in Slovenia have good communication with local and regional authorities and with the domicile population. The status of an ethnic rather than national minority means that they are not able to access financial or any other assistance from the Republic of Slovenia, which results in, as they note, “a feeling of inferiority” and a sense of being “second class citizens.”
Unlike the Croatian minority in Slovenia, the Slovenian minority in Croatia enjoys the status of a national minority and enjoys the full support and protection of the Republic of Croatia. Croatian and Slovenian associations conduct most of their activities on their own initiative, and there are individual examples of cooperation between Croatian and Slovenian associations, while the communication and cooperation between the Slovenian and Croatian federations of associations is underdeveloped. Croatian associations are also seeking the assistance of the academic community, whose research would demonstrate the many centuries of links between Croatians and Slovenians, and the need and logic of recognising them. It is in fact thanks to the great enthusiasm and volunteer work of their membership that the majority of Croatian associations in Slovenia are able to operate. In early 2011 the Ljubljana-based Federation of Croatian Associations decided on its own initiative to launch a campaign to see the formal recognition of the Croatian minority in the Republic of Slovenia. They submitted their request to the Speaker of Slovenian Parliament and the governments of Croatia and Slovenia. Two years later they received a letter in which the president of the Slovenian parliament’s administration commission informed them that the members of the commission would evaluate whether the initiative would or would not be considered in the Slovenian parliament. Later the Speaker of Slovenian Parliament Janko Veber responded saying that the required majority of MPs needed to debate the issue and make the necessary amendments to the Slovenian constitution was not present.
There are positive examples of cross-border cooperation with Međimurje County in Croatia and the Municipality of Lendava in Slovenia, but there is a relatively low turnout rate for Croatian language courses in the five Slovenian cities in which there is organised Croatian language instruction. There is, however, significant interest for Slovenian language courses in
Varaždin County in Croatia. In short, Slovenian associations are satisfied with the attitude of the Croatian authorities towards the Slovenian minority, the opportunities for their cultural and social realisation and the preservation of their heritage, but they do face the issue of the age of their membership and that of assimilation.
Both the Slovenian and Croatian associations agreed that a new approach and presentation was needed to better motivate and engage youth – the second and third generation – necessary to the survival of the associations. It was concluded that the geographic proximity of the two countries and the similarities in language meant that there was a danger of the loss of minority identity, a source of great wealth in the treasure of identity in the EU member states.
The discussions at the end of the first and second segments of the round table touched on issues pertaining to population censuses, the issue of multiple and complex identities, the significance of affiliation to two homelands, cultural exchange and joint projects via EU funds, language as a key marker of identity, social impact and recognition at the level of both countries and many other issues.
Marina Perić Kaselj noted that a new expert symposium is planned in Ljubljana on this topic in early June of 2014.

Following the close of the round table at the CHF premises an exhibition was opened on Women’s Labour Migration in the First Half of the 20th Century in Istria: Šavrinke Past and Present. Exhibition authors Nataša Rogelja and Špela Ledinek Lozej spoke of the šavrinke (http://www.rtvslo.si/savrinke/21.htm) and of the use of the biographic method in researching women’s labour migration.
The exhibition was opened by art historian Ljerka Galic, head of the CHF department of emigrant heritage.

Learn more about the Croatian minority in Slovenia at:
http://www.hrvatiizvanrh.hr/hr/hmiu/hrvatska-manjina-u-republici-sloveniji/13
And about the Slovenian minority in Croatia at:
http://www.slovenci.hr/ and http://www.uljppnm.vlada.hr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=31&Itemid=29

Text by: Diana Šimurina-Šoufek