From your own correspondent: time for change

Dear All,

Thank you very much for have followed my (mis)adventures linked to the research for my MA Thesis.

As Abruzzo traditions impose, I have celebrated properly the successful defense of the thesis, which granted me the highest mark: 110/110 cum laude.

This would not have been possible without the support of many professionals, professors and friends who supported me morally. academically, financially and emotionally until the moment I walked the stairs of Gorizia University’s aula magna.

Apart from drinking and eating and dancing, I have also continued my personal researches, trying to follow the possible future outcome of next Serbian elections. My opinion will be out in few days.

Overall, I can confirm that writing my MA thesis resulted in the most satisfying experience I’ve ever had. I said “confirm” because I had the same impression while writing my BA thesis on Montenegro independence. Thus, after attentive scientific experiments, I can corroborate my previous theory with fresh, brand new findings.

Some of you might be interested in the non-emotional, less introversive findings of my MA thesis. Fair. Let me thank you in advance for such curiosity.
As a matter of fact, the outcome of my research might be published soon by a Serbian institution. I will keep you posted. However, from time to time, I will make sure that a selection of arguments exposed in my thesis will be published on this blog, in a brand new section.

So, what’s next?

My eagerness to keep researching will not be stopped by the lack of perspective in the academia, nor for the objective difficulties our generation has to face when it comes to “finding a job”.

It is clear though (as demonstrate by my recent inactivity… I beg your pardon), that the time I will be able to devote to such research can be effected by the weight/mass of my wallet, by the emptiness of my fridge and related emptiness of my stomach. I am not trying to touch you, to make you feel pity for me: personally I don’t like easy challenges. What I really mean is: unite we stand, divided we fall. The Bridge opens its doors to any international relations expert, anthropology aficionado, international law student, European law critics willing to share clever discussions, sleepless writing nights and vivid debates on the topics of this website. The objective is simple: as a very good friend of mine uses to say: “life’s too short to read bad books or stupid news!”, ergo  the goal is to provide impartial, alternative, high-quality commentaries on issues afflicting the Balkans, Europe and their relationship. Honestly, many write about these topics, but very few provide something more than a placid re-interpretation of facts. Apart from “imaginative” ultra-nationalists, of course…

For this reason, I am announcing you that The Bridge is changing. both graphically and content-wise.

I hope that you will keep staying connected to us.
I also hope that many more  of you will actively join, walking a mile with us, on The Bridge.

From your own correspondent in Bruxelles: first chapter sent

Some says that the first chapter of your thesis is the most difficult to write down. I disagree.

Not just because I love writing, and I love writing about the topic of my thesis (and ergo I love my thesis), but also because it is much harder to find a way to capitalize your writing effort, and make it worth.

I have the impression that for how much energy I might put in my writings, this won’t change much in my future. I am aware that Bruxelles “working environment” it’s not really sensitive to hardcore, mind-blowing, concerned MA thesis, especially if written by a (not so) young Italian wannabe anthropologist. This however does not change the amount of time I spend every day to work on it.

Some others might contest that the value of a thesis relies in its scientific arguments, not in the effort the student put in it. I would really like to find someone willing to sit down and pass through my thesis with a scientific eye. This would be already and achievement.

To be honest, I have found someone. My beloved friends are supporting my editing, helping me polishing the thesis, providing an incalculable added value.
I have also hell of a good “supervisors team”.

But I somehow am sure that, out there, there will be very few people interested in an anthropological criticism of the enlargement policy.
Since I believe it is extremely useful, I am considering the idea of voluntarily (and freely) send it to our Commissioner Füle, once it will be ready.

Maybe this might not be the right approach, but lately I paid to much attention to the so called “right approach” than to the content of the message I was delivering.

It’s time to go look back at contents rather than shape.

From your correspondent… Eating in Novi Sad (with no money and lot of sarcasm)

I’m in one of the few Novi Sad cafes where the smoke curtain is rare enough to allow me to see the screen of my computer.

Cheap music on air, cheapest images on the screen (MTV Serbia, I never experienced anything cheaper…).

The waiters are making the place ready for the vibrant Novisadist saturday night. Light down (even if it’s just 20.00…), cheapest music (if possible) pumping out from the speakers. But the connection’s good, so the coffee. I shall stay.

As I twitted few days ago, culinary speaking Novi Sad has much to offer.
My student wallet is just too small to allow me to taste every single Fruska Gora wine, or to take a sip of the infinite varieties of rakija I’ve encountered, or eat every delicious meal prepared in local restaurants.
I shall rather describe how to spend your money wisely, eating in Novi Sad.

Going at one of the local markets (close to the Ribar, the former fishermen neighborhood, or along Jevrejska) is not only a tasteful experience, but also an healthy chance to feed yourself without drying out your pockets. Don’t worry you, agoraphobic, distressful, frightened Western reader! At the market people is just not used to fool you (unlike tourist restaurants…). Prices are displayed on the merchandise, which looks good and tastes even better.

Don’t waste your dinari eating low quality grilled meat in one of the thousand rostilj of the town. There is only one place, and one place only where you should taste a decent pljieskavica. Why you shall want a pljieskavica if you don’t even know what it is? I assume you wanna eat like a Novisadist. If you don’t want go to KFC and choke yourself with a chicken wing. Otherwise reach this hidden rostilj. The place, as far as I know, does not have a name, so forget to search it on your smartphone, even if you can enjoy free wi-fi pretty much everywhere. It is placed next to a cross road, in the pedestrian area of the town center, behind the cathedral, close to the funtain. The outer shutters are horribly red, as the neon sign on the wall, as the chicks of the “cook”, a skillful, tidy, meticulous cross-eyed girl on her mid twenties. The place is small and smelly, as every respectful rostilj. But it’s clean, as every respectful rostilj. Don’t waste time trying to interpret the menu written in cyrillic or asking the aforementioned cross-eyed girl for information in English: go for a gourmanska pljieskavica, with some kajmak on top. I would not order a gourmaska pljieskavica anywhere else. The idea os a gourmanska pljieskavica itself is disgusting: 250g of spiced Balkan minced meat made of local veal meat (originally the recipe was “imported” from Persia via Ottoman Empire), mixed with young white grated cheese. Well, actually our cross-eyed (did I underlined it too frequently?) cook grates the cheese, and mix the meet “live” for every gourmanska. No big chunks of half melted cheese. No other addictions. The cheese just melts in the already juicy meat, making it delicious. But once more: don’t dare to order a gourmanska anywhere else. As garniture, we already mentioned kajmak, which has to be put over the meat few seconds before the latter is ready, so to melt a bit on top. Kupus (white cabbage) is a must as well. As you probably noticed, we in the Balkans we do not really suggest; life’s just simpler when everything is black or white (please apply sarcasm). Don’t mess up this fine street food with ketchup or mayonnaise: most of the times they are too liquid not to be suspicious. Go instead for ajvar (sauce/salad made of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant roasted and blended), or pavlaka (as kajmak, it is not translatable… It vaguely more thick thank Greek yogurt, and less acid). Onions and tomatoes are always present in my plijeskavica as well (the concepts “the more the better” does not apply to most situations on earth, apart when it comes to the quantity of onions). You don’t drink while eating pljeaskavica. You have drunk rivers before, and you need some solid, comfortable, trustable food floating in your stomach and fill the gap evidently left open by alcohol.

If you wish to survive a week in Novi Sad, you shall also eat something more healthy. However I might comprehend that cooking kiselo kupus, sarme and the epic punjene papkike by yourself (maybe in a hostel) might be difficult. A fair compromise among your insatiable hunger, your laziness and the threat of a striking cancer is Foody (yep, this place has a name…). American 50-ish look-alike restaurant, with a professional open at sight kitchen. And when I say “open at sight” I mean that a) you see the young cooks preparing your food; b) there is no smoke (incredible, eh?). Take one of the daily soups, dribble the grilled meat and point the specialités du jour. There’s a great choices of vegetable side dish. Make your own salad, filling your plate as much as you want. There is no dignity for salads: no matter what you put on your salad cup, you’re gonna pay a fix lump sum for that. If you’re spending more the 5 € in this place it means that a) you’re still trying to fill the gap left open by the plijeskavica. In this case I have a bad news for you… b) you’re eating together with a friend (recommended). Forget alchools: it’s a family place, with kids, teen age couples and workers.

Coffee is averagely good. turksa kafa (domaca kafa might be appreciated more in Belgrade, but here people call things by their name…) costs less then water and will help you getting rid of all the plijeskavice, the drinks, the heavy food, the vomiting Balkan trips by bus. Most probably a turks a kafa will also help you getting rid the hole food and alcohol did not managed to close (if you’ve somebody to share the coffee with). It’s just miraculous.
Espresso is a virus which by this time infected every city on the other side of the river Soca. If you’re cappuccino lovers make yourself a favor and do not order one here. Rather choose an ice coffee, and institution from Nova Gorica to Kotor.

Surely the biggest problem for an Italian student traveling through the Balkans is breakfast. Even if you’ve recently robbed a bank and thus you decided to sleep in a 5 star hotel somewhere downtown, the so called continental breakfast rules the breakfast buffet. Forget cookies, forget croissants, forget jam and forget also smoothies. So what to do? Since most of us did not (recently) robbed a bank, the cheapest option is to reach the closest pekara and try to find, among the as vast as homogeneous variety of products the word “eurocrem”. This usually identify a cheap briosh-a-like pastry filled with wannabe Nutella (dear Balkan reader, this is a “translation” for our snobbish Italian Nutella-fundamentalists readers… Ja volim Eurocrem!). Eat it with some yogurt, walking the road of Novi Sad.

Desserts are good as well. I can’t choose my patisserie. One thing is sure: the Viennese masters who trained the ancestors of nowadays Novisadist pastry cook must have been giants: portions are just pantagruelic. And very cheap.

Drinking is mandatory, it does not really matter how much does it cost. Avoid drinking in discos. And please, avoid drinking alone, or along the streets: this is not Belgium.

For the rest, suite yourself.

From your own correspondent: Belgrade’s always Belgrade

Of all the memories I am collecting during this Balkan research period, the one I will have about today will be the sweetest.

Walking the Kalemegdan walls talking with an old friend.

Drinking a cheap tasty white wine (so much for you, chardonnay lovers…) in a bar which does not serve Coca Cola (in one of the major European consumer country per capita this means a lot…).

Taking a noisy tram to the desert of glass and iron called Novi Beograd.

Eating homemade food. And homemade ajvar.

Once, a smart person told me that once you leave for  make researchthe “field”, you never know what you will find, and most probably you’ll find something different from what you were looking for originally. Today’s event forced me to consider the fact that I was also looking for those emotions I have just described.

I am not sharing this brand new awareness so to allow you, dear reader to judge me. You will do it anyway…
I wish to warn you: the only thing you will ever learn on the field, dear reader, is that things are not much better, nor romantic, nor different from the place you’ve grown up. If you think so, you’re fooling yourself. If you’re sure so and you can bring me examples, well, I guess that it is already impossible to save you.

People brings significance within themselves. That is why it is worth travelling and discovery the differences within the world: the unity of mankind is worth of the biggest efforts in order to know it.

But if you’re looking for your Atlantis, I’d suggest you to save time and money, and to get addicted to some cheaper drug, rather then bother other human beings in the world with your psychological burden.

Today in BG I had the chance to meet some professionals whose sincere interest in their job was not paired with any explicit, blatant wish to redime their souls, nor to redime Serbians. One might question the way this job they’re so fond of has been done so far. But no objections shall be made at the personal level.

This is already a starting point.
It is a shame that the starting point arrived almost 2 weeks after I reached Serbia.
I take full responsibility of it, of course.

From your own correspondent: Pristina

Which means wet feet, deadly cold, mud everywhere.

Apart from the white blanket of snow covering Pristina, I was touched also by the news reported on the most important Balkan newspapers.
Apparently, following the withdrawal of Serbs from the barricades in North Kosovo, the Council sent a clear positive message. A “carrot”, if you allow me this wording.

The importance of this carrot is huge: if by any chance Serbian expectations would be let down, I prospect an escalation of the situation in Kosovo. Even if the decisive support of the majors of Serbian municipalities de blocked a long deadlock, I cannot see substantive political ameliorations of the situations.

I will discuss the issue with some experts I had the chance to contact, here in Pristina.



My point is that the “carrot and stick” policy undertook by the EU since the beginning of the Kosovo barricade crisis allow a series of speculations which, in the end, won’t result in any good, nor for the pro-European Serbian government, nor for the far less pro-European Serbian society, nor for the wannabe Russians Kosovo Serbs.

First, a (still very possible!) negative decision of the Council against Serbian candidature will definitely undermine Tadic power, which will lead to his total defeat in next elections, most probably paving the way to nationalists parties success. So much for Merkel glorification of “multiculty” societies.

Secondly, even if the Council would grant Serbia with the candidate status (rather then frozen pseudo-idiotic half-effective semi-statuses, as Austria proposed…) , no effective steps towards the reconciliation with Kosovo have been made in last weeks. Au contraire the management of the crisis by Bruxelles (Berlin? Amsterdam? Vienna?) lead to an exacerbation of the conflict, which ultimately resulted in last hate speech made by several Serbian politicians.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the EU managed once more to pass for the “bad guy” at the eyes of Serbians. The way arguments in favor of the continuation of the Belgrade-Pristina negotiations, paired with the direct attacks led by several MS leaders to Serbian government managed (once more) to polarize the general impression of the EU, shifting it (if possible) towards a pro-Kosovar position. It does not matter if this is the case, if this is the real position of most EU countries. What matters is the way such position has been communicated to the public.
It seems that no one, nor the EU, nor Serbs, are learning from their past mistakes.

Which leads me to a conclusion: most probably change is guided more by ambition and blind will, then by wiseness.

Fourthly (an in the end), nothing changed in Northern Kosovo. Or, better to say, the IBM (the big “achievement” brought ahead by the Cooper) still remains on paper. I will try to move North, so to get some more informations on the matter.

Apart from everything, I have to communicate you all that the cappuccino in Pristina is extremely good. And when I say extremely, I mean that is the best I ever tasted in my life.

From your own correspondent: heading to Pristina

It is obvious that the biggest obstacle on the Serbian path to the EU is represented by its relationship with Kosovo. For this reason it is fundamental for my research to take the pulse of the situation directly on the field.

It seems not so complicated to reach Pristina from Serbia.
It is far more tricky to get in touch with international organizations operating on the field. Recently, my attempts to contact the most important international actors deployed in Kosovo failed miserably. However I am still fully convinced to get first hand information by my own.

I might understand that it could be quite disappointing to deal with a stand-offish student willing to investigate on issues that, by their own nature, are delicate, likely to be even dangerous for the position of the aforementioned organizations.

However it is also true that, for how critical the situation might be in Kosovo, a certain degree of collaboration and transparency should be granted to whom decide to devote time and energies to study such issues.

Or, at least, allow me to say that I would appreciate a more supporting attitude from those international organizations.
Fortunately, I pretend to run an anthropological research, ergo I have to look for findings (also) among the inhabitants, which are the ultimately repository of the information I am looking for.

I just hope to have enough time.