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The Faces of EU – Slovakia

Let’s kick the campaign off with the first interview with Jakub Boruv – an aspiring young politician from Slovakia, a member of his hometown’s city council, and an active member of the local community.

Before we begin, let’s see what young people in Estonia know about Slovakia: 

“Do you know anything about Slovakia’s domestic or foreign policy?”

7%: yes

93%: no

“It separated from Czechoslovakia in 1993. Problems with free media and Christian far-right activists.”

Tell me about yourself. Are you an active community member? If yes, why do you feel it’s important? Is it a normal thing in your country/community to do so?

I am a member of the City Council of Bardejov. Bardejov is the 20th largest city in Slovakia by population and is also on the UNESCO World Heritage list. As the youngest member of the city council, I am trying to shift people’s mindset from “What city can give me?” to “What can I give to the city?”. I believe we have huge potential but so far I don’t see the will to use it for the city’s development at all, so my goal is to give the town a restart. Luckily, I am not alone in my fight – we have an organisation called the Community Foundation, which has supported active citizenship for more than 20 years.

How is youth activism organised in your nation and what is the role of the EU in it?

The biggest role is played by Christian NGOs which are funded by the state budget. Cities have their Youth City Council and in the last few years, I also saw many young people being active in youth organizations of political parties. Alongside those organizations, there are also non-political organizations focused on Erasmus+ programs. Generally, the biggest problem with young people under 17 I see is that they usually cannot access information about opportunities and youth organizations. 

How do people in your country perceive the EU? How do politicians?

The EU is not the main topic in Slovakia. I would say people see it like tap water – an essential but rather elementary thing that you cannot really appreciate until you lose it or you encounter people that do not have it. In the beginning, it was like magic for people but now they don’t even realize that it exists. Anti-EU politics were never popular in Slovakia (surprisingly, Slovakia is anti-NATO but not anti-EU).

What does the EU mean for you personally?

I am a proud European and I find the EU as the only possibility to compete with, for example, China or to deal with other global issues in the future.

How would you describe your country to a foreigner?

Slovakia is extremely diverse, and it is hard to describe the country as a whole. Every region is different – dialect, religion, politics, development, etc. 

To comment on your Instagram poll result. We actually don’t have a problem with free media (yet). There was one case when an investigative journalist was murdered for his work in 2018 but I would say that it strengthened the Slovak media. So I would say that Slovak media is on a high level. And also there is no problem with far-right Christian groups, rather with far-right extremist groups. Lately, there was a terrorist attack in an LGBT bar where 2 members of the LGBT community died.

Slovak politics are really funny. The Speaker of the Parliament is the chair of a conservative Christian party called ‘We Are Family’. He has 9 kids with 11 women. And he spends every night with a different girl (yes, girl), and conservative people just love him for that (not joking).

What do you hope for your country to achieve or develop in?

I am hoping to see other parts of Slovakia growing at the same rate as the capital Bratislava in recent years. Also, people are really negative in Slovakia and we should start with people’s thinking.

How will you contribute to achieving this goal?

I am organising many projects and I am also active in politics. Currently, I am working with a “think globally about the whole of Slovakia, act locally” mindset. For example, a year ago I created a vaccination campaign in Bardejov organised by students. The campaign was appreciated by the Slovak PM personally. During the campaign, we opened a vaccination centre where over 1200 people got vaccinated against COVID. I could talk about many small projects like this that are not only shaping our region but also the whole of Slovakia. In near future, I am planning to organise a project promoting women’s leadership in Slovakia.

How can the EU contribute to the prosperity of your country?

I believe that Eastern Slovakia (the less developed part) can be a bridge between the EU and Ukraine and the EU should invest in highways here which can bring other investments to the region. 

What do you think the EU will look like in 30 years?

The EU will have more competencies from the member states and will be even closer to their citizens than is now. As for now, in Slovakia, you only hear about the EU before the EP elections. Many people see the EU only as an institution in Brussels and that needs to be changed – especially in Slovakia.

You mentioned that Slovakia is anti-NATO but not anti-EU. Why do you think that is?

I believe it is a remnant of the past when Slovakia was under the cultural oppression of Hungary. Back then, the national heroes of the 19th-century national revolutions were promoting brotherhood and unity among all Slavic nations, and Slovakia being a part of Russia. Of course, during the Cold War, this part of Slovak history was perfect for Czechoslovak communist propaganda. This is still what kids are learning in school. Many nationalistic parties and movements are spreading the narrative that NATO is a threat to Russia and that NATO is responsible for killing Slavic people, often referring to the 19th-century brotherhood of the Slavic people.

This campaign was made possible thanks to the kind contribution of the German Embassy in Tallinn.

Image: Pixabay, Pexels

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