Sunday, April 20, 2008

YEN Report: Study-Visit “Vlach Youth Council” – Macedonia

In carrying through a short but intense visit to the Vlach Youth Council on Macedonia the board, represented by president Aleksander Studen-Kirchner and treasurer Katalin Sebök followed an old rule of YEN that says how to act in the case of an application for membership. The real drive however was of course keen interest and wished enlargement of YEN members, which still is focused on the three geographical areas of the Balkans, the Baltic States and Western Europe.
During the visit, which lasted two days, we were able to get a detailed view of the work of the youth who are working for the preservation of the Vlach language (also mentioned the Aromanian language) and culture in Macedonia. In several projects that are commonly known amongst minority youth organisations, like e.g. language courses, trainings, exchanges, regular meetings and various cultural projects, we found particularly positive that they engage in a regular exchange with Aromanians from other countries, like Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, etcetera. Together they work for the benefit not only of their own interests, but also for those of other minorities. The Vlachs in Macedonia have been granted the same rights in the constitution as other groups, whereas the Aromanians in Romania still are not recognised as a minority. It is interesting to compare the relatively similar situation in society and considering the language position in both countries; the Aromanians in Romania as non-recognised minority hardly receive support, whereas their Macedonian kins also do not receive the necessary support they need to maintain their culture and language, because they are seen as a minority that “does not give any problems”; in other words: they do not cause enough problems as a minority for the Macedonian State to take action.
The open and cross-cultural functioning of the Vlach Youth Council in Macedonia gave us the opportunity to meet the Turk minority in Macedonia, who also do excellent and intense minority work. What we hold in high esteem is their attitude of playing the role of being the “bridge” between the Albanians (who make up a third of the Macedonian population and are almost 100% Muslim) and the Macedonians, and other Christian minorities. This open attitude is worth praising in these times of incomprehensible and excessive Islam-phobia, like so popular in many Western European countries. Therefore we hope that we can intensify the contact with this Turk youth association in the future.
We thank the Vlach Youth Council in Macedonia for the impressions and experiences, and especially for their hospitality. The Vlach Youth Council will present itself and their application for membership during the upcoming Whitsun Seminar of YEN. We wish them and all the people we met a lot of success in their work and hope that they will be able to use their expertise and engagement also within YEN.

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