Atdhe Mulla, Astrit Ibrahimi
Here comes KONZUM
What we realized on our trip to Croatia was that perceptions and ideas about what joining the EU would mean were quite different from east to west. In the city of Vukovar, east of Croatia bordering Serbia, youngsters had quite a few expectations from the change that joining the EU would bring to them. Some cool youngsters told us, laughing, that they would finally be able to use Pay Pal fully, while another one who worked with a civic association was convinced that ethnic hatred wouldn't disappear just because of joining some bigger family. On the other side, in Istria, west of the country bordering Slovenia, concerns seemed to be quite different. There people feared that their traditions were on the way of disappearing and they were not happy that the EU parliament had imposed quotas on the amount of olive oil production in order to defend the market place of the Toscana region in Italy. In Zadar one guy told us that joining the European “family” does not mean that you start building your life from the same position as somebody from France or Germany, that Croatians would still have to join the “game” from an inferior position.
Well, all of these perspectives and ideas made us understand that geography and economics do matter in determining one's position toward the EU, as to say, who you border, what your region has to offer, expect or give up. Thus the EU question to a country like Croatia will pose different questions to the single individual in terms of its National identity. National identity will decrease as a “theme”, as people start to view the offer, expectations and 'give aways' in terms of regions, which obviously falls in line with EU policies for decentralization. As borders will remain to define countries as administrative units, not anymore as a National cohesive culture, and countries will split into regional economies, big demographical changes seem to be unavoidable. People are migrating where there is a bigger concentration of wealth and investment, where EU structural “funds go to”, and while certain regions will afford to maintain their regional identity due to the productive force of their region, others who do not share the same potential will have to contribute as consumers and as a working force for the big cities.
But as the reality of Croatia makes us (the photographers) understand, in the status of “aspiring country”, that perspectives between the Balkan countries are quite different, again determined by factors of geography, economy but also political history. Coming from Kosovo, the newest country in the world, with no clear parameters of development, with a political rhetoric that has paused or has become a repetitive sample of independence and sovereignty, with passports that look like fakes or like the ones high school kids get at the end of a UN simulation training, we get to understand that joining the EU means much more then our chronic frustration with visas.
These are quite rapid steps for countries which shed blood for national identity until a decade or so ago, and now move to the paradigm of “economy as a cohesive factor”. At least this seems the EU agenda. These shifts of course won’t come about without backfires; however, this will be a long discussion. Meanwhile we leave you with the obvious face of development and the greatest paradigmatic shift of all – from the state-owned markets, to the mom and popshops, here comes “KONZUM”.