Monthly Archives: March 2013

Where are you on a borders scale?


IMG_7444 Did you ever consider it? How many borders do you have around you? How many do you impose or support? What type of borders gets you out of your mind? How do you perceive boundaries, margins, your place in the world and limitations around you? Would you be surprised to find out that others see it the same or have a totally different view on it?

I just had to check it so I attended the seminar “From Borders to European Integration-Itineraries from Yesterday to Today” in Skopje, between February 7-10, 2013, organized by European Intercultural Forum (Germany) within the Europe for Citizens programme. The NGO I represent (ATCE-SR) is partner in this project which is made of a series of seminars tackling the topic stated in the title, customized according to the venue (Berlin, Skopje, Warsaw, Tirana).

Two gone two more to go. For more technical info and past experiences, visit  (also and to attend the seminar in Warsaw, you can find the announcement here

There have been 3 full days in Skopje in which we tackled topics like European Union enlargement and the perception of Macedonian people on the possibility of them joining the EU, social inclusion of minorities in a country where the main minority is approximately 20% of the population, governmental plans for national identity building received with high disapproval by the people, integration perspectives while people see a possible economical collapse in the EU, boarders evolution and perception. We received essential input from specialists on the EU integration process of Macedonia and on the Ohrid Agreement Framework, from the locals on the national reality and feelings, from the participants coming from the other countries involved in the project (Germany, Latvia, Albania, Poland) found on a different position related to the EU.

The learning part was achieved through mixed tools: from seminars, debates and discussions to small group workshops, open air activities, meeting local NGOs working in the field, field study visits and other methods from the non-formal education area.

On a personal note, I can say that I got a complex image on the local reality and I have seen the situation at different levels: regular local people’s view, civil society attitude, governmental action and statements, European Union input. There have been a few predictable situations or facts but several that shook the ground I was standing on.

It was interesting to see that the very same element can mean a separation for some and cohesion for others. Take rivers, for instance. Generally they can be natural boarders: for Romania, the Danube has always been the river that kept the country safe and unite against enemies along history. On the other hand, for Skopje, the Vardar River creates a transparent wall between 2 communities in the very heart of the city.

I always value the power of words and I believe that 2 of the biggest things that we can never take back are the words we express and how we make people feel. However, on this occasion I realized, once again and way stronger than before, that a single/simple word can make the difference between inclusion and separation, friends or foes, peace and war. Changing the name of the country (a word/ expression), not mentioning names of minorities in the Constitution, changing the nationality from Macedonian to Skopjan or other are changes made in words that affect nations or large communities; such changes led to war before, where would they lead nowadays?

I discovered a country that makes efforts to include everybody and ends up excluding some through their governmental programs. In order to create an inclusive framework, 25% of the jobs in the public sector are granted to minorities, thus bringing extra labor which is not actually needed, the result being that more than half of these people are paid to stay at home. There is positive discrimination in the educational system to support the enrollment of minority students, which gives to some minorities the opportunity to join a quarter of their body at the faculty they choose even if they have the highest admission grades  compared to all their colleagues, regardless of the ethnicity.

CTFOcrj-tSntRFVeIgwbY2YyHJPPeLLp52o3f-awRJUHowever, in a world in which nations tend to be left behind for any reason and many people easily disregard their culture and identity, I met, as well, many youngsters that hold on to the name of the country and to their nationality even if they know that this keeps them far from joining the EU and the advantages of this process; youngsters that wonder how exactly the integration would go and how it would affect them, both positively and negatively; active youth in NGOs that believe that emigration is not a solution if they would be seen abroad as Skopjans and not Macedonians as they rightfully feel so they take small steps at least to understand the world they live in and to change it, if possible. I discovered Suto Orizari, a Roma community that has its own working and integration system, based on positive field work with all age groups starting from their needs, initiated by civil society and supported by their Roma leader and several international and European funds. When governments fail or have other priorities than some of their people, when international organizations lose sight of certain issues in favor of pressing economic crisis, people use the frame of civil society as a force to make a change- an inspiration for Romania and for Ramnicu Sarat as well.

All this and much more I discovered and learnt in 3 days. The lucky ones who will go to Warsaw will live a different experience but the same as interesting or more than this one.

Did I reconsider my own borders, work and life objectives? You bet I did, every 3 hours of every day spent there and after my return home when I was still digesting the experience…and even now as we speak.

Daniela Strîmbei




From Borders to European integration – Itineraries from yesterday to today


Impressions on the Skopje seminar, 7th to 10th of February 2013

Dragoș Oprică

When I say “Balkans”, two words come to my mind: wonderful and intriguing!

These lands are home for great traditions, they host stunning landscapes and truly brave people! A unique yet homogeneous balkanic cuisine gathers centuries of resistance against the invaders that have left visible traces over the local culture.

Coming down to the people, this region cultures are so much alike because of the similar mentalities across this land. We are stubborn people and usually spiteful as well, which can trigger both good and bad consequences. One of the good outcomes is that we survived the trembled history we have had without being assimilated. However, as a drawback I could mention that even though we have so much in common, we still did not find a way to successfully cope together at times of peace, especially different cultures living inside the same borders.

After being under communist regimes for more than half a century, the Balkans are facing a new challenge: leaving behind the socialist heritage and catching up with the Western Europe while integrating within the EU community. Macedonia is one of the current candidate countries with a special integration agenda due to its unique situation. The seminar in Skopje brought up different aspects of this process and tried to find possible acting paths for outstanding issues in Macedonia.


One of the most important external issues is the naming dispute, a singular case among the candidate states. As we all know, the neighbouring country Greece is claiming the name of “Macedonia” for one of its regions, located next to the border with the small ex-Yugoslavian country. While Macedonians are struggling to build their own identity worldwide, solving this issue is compulsory for the EU integration to which a good part of the citizens aim for.

Now looking internally, the biggest issue in my opinion is the conflict between the two largest ethnic groups of the state: the Macedonians and the Albanians. Macedonia was always a peaceful country, both during the Yugoslav Wars, in the early 90s, and during the Kosovo conflict in the late 90s. Moreover, wanting to help the fellow neighbours, Macedonians received a great number of ethnic Albanians, coming from Kosovo during the war. This has strongly destabilized the country, basically doubling the number of ethnic Albanians in the country who have never left after the war, contrary to what some sources say.

Before receiving the mass exodus of refugees, the Macedonians were living peacefully with the Albanians under the same borders. However, following the adoption of the refugees, strong conflicts started which involved even an armed dispute between the Government and some Albanian rebels. This happened mostly because the ethnic Albanians originating from Kosovo were asking for more rights in the adopting country.

IMG_7445 All in all, the conflict ceased and a peace agreement was signed in the local city of Ohrid. The document is, in my opinion, both beneficial and disadvantageous for the two parts. Of course, the good outcome is the peace and maybe some rights for the Albanians, but this is arguable as well, since the Macedonians say they have been rushed into signing the agreement, favoring the Albanians at the expense of everyone else.

On the other hand, I believe this agreement did not go far enough. Having ethnic school is a big division input and this agreement did not try to change that. The education system in Macedonia splits the elementary schools on ethnic principles, fact to which I strongly disagree as it makes the society and individuals want to divide further on as they grow up. Besides the mixed neighbourhoods, which are not very common either, people do not bind together with other ethnics. I believe that mixing pupils and having mixed schools with only different classrooms for different ethnics it is a far better option, since it will make kids bound stronger relationships with each other, regardless of the mother tongue.

There are of course other minorities, such as the Roma, the Turks, the Vlachs, the Serbs and other ethnics, who roughly reach a tenth of the population. Towards them, the Macedonians are tolerant but yet not completely inclusive I would dare to say. Some ethnics, such as the Roma and even the Turks still live in certain marginalized areas and are not completely blended with the Macedonians. The Roma especially live in very poor conditions, as they usually do throughout the Balkans. What I have noticed and admired in the Roma community living in Macedonia is that they are slightly more cooperative between them than in Romania. Most of this minority lives together in Skopje’s outskirts and fights for their wellbeing through International projects, as they get little attention from the Government. The Roma community has representatives who look after them and have their best interests in mind, in contrast with Romania, where the Roma representatives do not really help the community as much as they should.

IMG_7461Going to Macedonia also made me remember the fears that we had ourselves before the EU adherence. Being little-known countries in the European context, both Romania and Macedonia share some worries. The cultural identity is the biggest one, many citizens believing that an EU inclusion would mean a national heritage exclusion. Right before the adherence, I recall Romania rushing to register as original products a lot of our local cuisine and beverages. Nevertheless, even if one registers them, nobody can take away the right of somebody to produce a certain good. Only if you are the best at something you will get recognition for that in people’s minds. National identity preservation is a matter of personal choice and ambition of the nationals to perpetuate and make their culture wide known. Any fear is completely unjustified if you ask me, as after entering the EU, nobody obliged the Romanians to forget their traditions. That happened voluntary here, but this is another story!

A good outcome of the EU membership is that things will happen and change a lot faster in the Balkans! That is from the political way of speaking. The Balkans have always been very slow in taking decisions. But now EU is watching and urging some important measures to be taken wherever they are needed, actions that otherwise would drawl indefinitely. I am not saying this is always a good thing, but when it comes to infrastructure for instance, I prefer a highway finished in 5 years rather than 20! I hope it’s not just me!

To conclude, I believe that Macedonia’s shiniest days are yet to come and its beautiful people are essentially contributing to that! Meeting ambitious people in Skopje made me realize that the youngsters are actually preoccupied with the future of the country and they want to change things. Of course, in a rather closed Balkan society, as we all are, any change comes with challenges, yet nothing is impossible! All we need to do is involve ourselves in beneficial projects and keep fighting for our interests, like we have been doing for thousands of years!


Diseminare speciala Comuni-CAT – album de prezentare


sigle fortes si tia             In perioada 1 mai 2012 – 1 februarie 2013, federatia FORTES a implementat proiectul Comunicare prin arta si traditie, Comuni-CAT, proiect finantat de Comisia Europeana prin programul Tineret in Actiune, actiunea 1.2 initiative ale tinerilor. Proiectul s-a desfasurat in Municipiul  Ramnicu Sarat, Comuna Bisoca, Comuna Buda si Comuna Vintileasca, iar pe parcursul derularii activitatilor, cei 12 tineri cu initiativa au invatat si au confectionat obiecte traditionale din lut, ata, sfoara, au gatit mancaruri traditionale si au contribuit la promovarea si conservarea traditiilor, obiceiurilor, mestesugurilor populare romanesti, in contextul globalizarii UE prin acceptarea diversitatii.

                                                                                              Giorgiana Vlasceanu – coordonator de proiect

Munca celor 10 luni de implementare a proiectului o puteti vizualiza aici, accesand urmatorul link:

Album de prezentare Comuni-CAT