CST to the Former Yugoslavia

October 17 - November 1
Maribor, Zagreb, Sarajevo, Tuzzla, Novi Sad and Skopje.
During the second half of October 1996 AEGEE set a precedent with a Case Study Trip (CST) to the Former Yugoslavia. Organised by AEGEE Enschede with the help of the antenna group in Maribor the CST visited six cities in five states, talking to young people in each one about their views, opinions and hopes for the future. The research was conducted by twenty participants, both AEGEE members and non-members, by the use of questionnaires. A standard set of questions was devised to be used in all cities and divided into four headings; Daily life of young people, Reaching social stability, Relations among the new states in Former Yugpslavia and View towards Europe. The participants were also divided into four groups, each group concentrating on a specific heading and each individual completing a certain amount of questionnaires in every city visited. The main advantage of this method of research was that young people were dealing with other young people and it was therefore less formal than it might have been, with people speaking more freely. The language barrier, however, was an obvious problem, particularly when dealing with open questions.
The CST began in Maribor where the final version of the questionnaire was produced, with all the participants having an input into its contents. This was also where they were first put to the test and any last minute problems ironed out.
After Maribor the participants were to visit Zagreb, Sarajevo, Tuzla, Novi Sad and Skopje, before returning to Maribor two weeks later. The time constraint caused obvious problems, in that two days in any one place is never long enough to gain a real understanding of the difficulties there. In addition, each antenna had gone to a good deal of trouble to organise lectures and social events around which the research had to be conducted. For instance, in Zagreb a city tour was organised, as were lectures from both ends of the political spectrum, one, very interesting and unbiased, by a lecturer from the Faculty of Political Science and the other by an employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Accommodation in Zagreb, as in most of the cities visited, was with host families, which helped the participants to get the know the local young people a little better and to partly experience the home life of the citizens of each country first hand.
In Sarajevo there seemed to be a general consensus among the participants that this was the city which posed the most problems in terms of conducting the research. Everyone felt slightly uncomfortable asking personal questions and there were added problems in the lack of police permission to ask questions on the street. However, despite what has happened there it was a surprisingly normal place, with public transport apparently operating normally and shops full of goods, many of them targeting the tourist trade. In fact the only reminders of where we were, were the 11pm police curfew and the restriction of running water to just four hours a day.

The visit to Tuzla, however short, was useful in that it provided an alternative view of Bosnia. Residents of Tuzla did not escape the tragedy of war totally, but they had not suffered years under siege and were more willing to share their opinions about what had happened in Bosnia than the citizens of Sarajevo had been.
Novi Sad, second city of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and capital of Vojvodina was, I think, a pleasant surprise for everyone. Having gleaned our information about the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from newspapers and television, no-one was sure what to expect. Of course I can only speak for myself, but I must confess to a mental image of an unfriendly place and a war-hungry people. The two and a half days I spent there shattered that perception completely. Those to whom we spoke were as open and honest about what has happened in the region as they could have been. They would not refer to 'the war' as such but preferred to speak of the UN embargo. Their war was not one of bullets, but of massive inflation and price rises and although things are no longer as bad there economically, the general consensus among the locals was that the other states have benefited far more from the Dayton Agreement than the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has. I think all of the participants were genuinely sorry to leave Novi Sad and I, for one, am already planning a return visit.

The CST reached it's final destination, Skopje, on Tuesday, October 29. The fact that two of the researchers were from Skopje was an obvious help. The group attended some very interesting lectures courtesy of AEGEE Skopje, one by the former governments Minister of Education who dealt very honestly with the extremely sensitive subject of the Albanian minority in Macedonia and the standard of education in minority schools. Just as the Slovenian focus was economic, so the Macedonians appear primarily concerned with minority problems there, specifically the Albanian minority, which is thought to comprise some 23% of the total population, quite a significant number in a country of just 2 million people. A panel discussion was held with Macedonians and Albanians participating and while it was very informal and did not lead to any firm conclusions it gave the CST participants an overview and perhaps some understanding of one of the major problems facing the Republic of Macedonia today.
The above is an example of the thinking behind the CST and Case Study Trips in general - for participants to gain a greater understanding of the problems faced by other countries and the people who live there. By presenting the information gathered to those bodies who have the power to implement change it is hoped to ultimately bring about change for the better. Surely the people who understand countries best are those who live in them and what better way to find out what people want than to simply ask them? Of course the CST research was not conducted by professionals, but if I may be a little cynical, the whole world has seen what professionals did in Former Yugoslavia and, given that, maybe it is time to give the amateurs a chance. The information gathered by the CST participants is currently being processed by AEGEE Enschede and the Final Report will be produced in early 1997, with the first major follow-up event being the recent conference, on working groups, in Enschede. Hopefully it will achieve its ultimate aim - positive change for the people of the Former Yugoslavia.

Written by Cathy O'Grady

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