Monday, June 18, 2007

Before the rain

How strange that I have come to write this with a white pen, taken from a London hotel, as I travel through the Macedonian night. Shifting scenes, just as in the movie by Mančevski.

An decrepit ex-Italian Railways train took us away from Tirana. To the very end, Albania left me bewildred. We found our safe haven though, Tirana Backpacker Hostel, situated in an old Italian villa in the diplomatic quarters. I can only recommend it.

60 hours remain until we have to be in Sofia for our flight back to Vienna. We travel so easily between these worlds, the people here do not. Not even those who could afford it.

To get an EU Schengen visa requires a considerable amount of determination and financial resources. Not only do you have to go to your country's capital for an interview, but you have to pay all accomodation and travelling in advance, giving proofs that you hold sufficient funds to live well in the EU country you plan to visit. No cheap kebabs there.

This strict visa regime, more than anything else, alienates the young generation in many countries bordering the EU. Instead of integration and (at least formal) equality, the present regulations make it absolutely clear to these people that they are second class citizens, forever separated from roaming backpackers like ourselves.

Some would say that greater freedom of movement would cause crime. That is most likely true. Yet, after the wars in Yugoslavia, we should know that the long-term price of nationalism tends to be considerably higher than that of petty crime. And expelling a whole generation from our EasyJet-existence seems to be an exceptionally effective way of fuelling such murky sentiments.


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