Vid Varga was born in Croatia and has lived in Slovenia most of his life. He moved to Austria in 1989. He explains--through an interpreter-- that when he went to renew his documents in 1992 in Slovenia, he was told that he couldn't do so because he wasn't a citizen:
"When I came to a local municipality to exchange the documents and there my colleague worked who I knew from the workplace, I said to her Diana, what's going on? Why don't you issue me a new document, and she said no Vid, I cannot do that."
When Slovenia became a country it offered automatic citizenship to ethnic Slovenians, and gave other residents six months to apply. 171 thousand people born in other ex-Yugoslavian republics—Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro—became Slovenian citizens. 18,000 did not and were barred from social services, jobs and housing. The Slovenian government purged these people from the national registry without much fanfare. So, each person found out individually—when renewing documents, or registering for unemployment. It took 10 years for these "Erased" to realize they were not alone, and become organized.
In 1999 and 2003, the Slovenian courts ruled that the erasure was unconstitutional, but many are still without rights, or they spent years in limbo waiting for them. So this caravan is an effort to engage the rest of the world—to make this a European issue.
Several Erased people were in the audience at a panel discussion on Tuesday in Paris. The whole discussion was translated between French and Slovenian. The Slovenian Ambassador to France, Janez Šumrada, was also in the audience, and stood up to correct what he called inaccuracies presented by members of the panel:
As the Ambassador started to translate himself into Slovenian, panelist Jelka Zorn, who is on the faculty of Social Work at the University of Ljubljana, started to argue with him.
Many in the audience cheered - and then several people rushed up to the Ambassador, speaking angrily, holding up their ID cards.
The Ambassador excused himself and quickly left the building.
"We understood that it's impossible to solve this problem in our nation state."
Andrej Kurnik is one of the caravan's organizers:
"Apparently it's impossible to solve this problem in Slovenia. And we think it is Europe."
Eleven Erased have sued the Slovenian state in the European court for human rights. In Paris on Tuesday French deputies vowed to write a letter to President Chirac about the situation:
Ambasador Šumrada says that Slovenia is preparing a law to regularize those who are left. The law will be presented to parliament. He says that it wasn't done before because previous governments lacked the political will.
"Until now there was never been a clear majority in the parliament to pass a law like this."
And again, he is quick to minimize the number of people this is affecting:
"It is, in my opinion. A few thousand people, but not 18,000."
Regardless of the numbers—of who is in or out of status today--there are many like Asim Skopich who want some kind of recognition. He finally got citizenship in 2003, but it didn't change much for him he says, because by that time he was too old to find a job:
"I didn't feel any different because many years of my life had been totally destroyed… My life has been ruined."Listen to the report:
The leaders of NATO's 26 member states gathered in the Latvian capital Riga this week for their annual summit. It's the first meeting the alliance held in an ex-Soviet state. Afghanistan was at the top of the agenda, as NATO-led forces there have faced fierce resistance from Taliban fighters in the south of the country in recent months. NATO commanders were now calling for more troops and more flexibility in the deployment of their forces in Afghanistan.
For weeks now the European Union has debated about what should be done with EU candidate Turkey which is refusing to open its ports to Cypriot ships. Should the EU partially suspend accession talks or totally freeze negotiations? The European Commission recommended this week a suspension of talks on eight of the 35 "chapters", or policy areas, into which the accession talks are divided. The final decision though will be taken by EU heads of states later this month. And it will be a difficult one, as member countries are divided over Turkey. Sweden for instance warned that sending negative signals to Ankara could be a "strategic calamity", while Finland, the current president of the EU welcomed the partial freeze. And so does Cyprus, as the Cypriot Foreign Minister told Network Europe.
While the number of Turks supporting EU membership has been steadily falling over the past year, hitting an all time low of about 30% - a public opinion survey just released in Poland this week suggests that people there are head over heals in love with the European Union. Even former Eurosceptics seemed to have been reconciled with the EU. What are some of the reasons behind this positive trend?
In less than one month Bucharest will be the easternmost capital of the European Union. In the 17 years since the fall of communism the city has gotten a facelift, but the traces of the past are still visible everywhere. Iulian Muresan from Radio Romania International caught up with a team of Romanian and British architects, sociologists and artists and reports on their efforts to give Bucharest a new identity.
It's all done at a touch of a button. Instant loans via the internet or text message on your mobile phone. The business idea has been in Finland and North America for some time, but SMS instant loans were only launched in Sweden in spring this year. Clever and aggressive TV and Radio marketing by the private companies involved has meant it's already a smash hit amongst Sweden's tech-savvy youngsters, eager to snap up loans with low credit checks.
There's a wealth of Christmas customs around Europe, some dating back hundreds of years. In a particular Nordic country so-called Yul brothers visit farms and towns during the 13 days leading up to Christmas. They're strange creatures, part troll and part prankster in human form. "They come to town one by one, 13 nights before Christmas and if the children are well behaved and go to bed early, they receive a gift in their shoe and if they are not well behaved they receive a rotten potato" We want you to tell us in which European country naughty children get rotten potatoes in the run-up to Christmas. Email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org we have five Christmas presents to give away and will announce the winners at the end of.
This webpage receives support from the European Union