Speech by Emilio Cocco

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Speech by Emilio Cocco

  1. 1. ITALIAN MIGRATIONS FROM AND TO CROATIA. Talk at the ELF-Neumann Stiftung meeting, Opatija 8-10 November 2013, Croatia. Emilio Cocco Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished colleagues, it is my pleasure to be here today. I would like to thank the organizers of the meeting, the Neumann Stiftung and the European Liberal Forum for having sponsored such an interesting event, which allows us to have a discussion on some of the more sensitive topics for the European liberal agenda today. My talk will deal with the issue of Italian migration and integration from and to Croatia. This is a tricky topic. First of all, because we are here in Opatija, at the edge of the Istrian peninsula, and many of you are probably quite read about the issue. Perhaps, some of the participants themselves are part of the Italian minority or have Italian relatives in their family histories. Thus, you might be sensitive on this issue and would be more than critical on my claims. Which is something good, and I would welcome your comments and/or corrections. Secondly, there might be a semantic problem here. Not everybody would agree if I describe purely in terms of migration the people’s movements between Italy and Croatia. I remember, for example, a discussion I had some times ago with a friend in Trieste, Italy. My interlocutor was one of those proud descendants of the Italian Istrians, who had or wanted to leave their hometowns after the Second World War and found repair in Trieste. Talking about Istria and the intense socio-demographic changes that the peninsula undergone in the last century, I remember I classified those movements of population in and out of Istria in terms of “migration”. My friend reacted immediately, somehow with disdain, pointing out that “those movements” were not migrations, especially the one concerning Italians that left after 1945. In fact, my friend, explained me, they were “forced” to leave. So, they were not migrants, they were “exiled”. This short anecdote tells a lot about some of the strong rooted beliefs and conceptions that still today haunt people’s imagination when migration is at stake. Even today, a good deal of people kind of believes that migrants are migrating because they want to, because it is nothing more than their choice. Accordingly, they could also stay home and sent back home, if necessary, as they have a home and only decided to leave it to go somewhere else. Differently, when people are deported, removed pushed out, well, in that case they are refugees, exiled and they deserve shelter. A survey on the issue, realized few years ago with young school pupils (between 8 and 18 years old) in a number of Italian cities, shown a depressive and scary scenario, where majority of pupils didn’t even know that Italians massively migrated in the past decades. When asked about the reasons of Italian
  2. 2. migrations, a significant number of people answered the question: “Perhaps they wanted to travel”, “They were bored and wanted to change” and similar I think anyone with a liberal mind-frame should carefully reflect on this take. Such a way of approaching migration and integration is still at work today, quite often, when people shape their opinion about problems like integration of migrants, migrants rights, citizenship and so on and so forth. Conversely, it is important to stress back that migration is, first of all, a circular process, that involves e-migration (out of some territorially bounded sociocultural environment) and im-migration (in some other territorially bounded socio-cultural environment). Besides, such a movement is not unidirectional and migration dynamics have also a return phase, when people go back to their departure point or just change destinations. The reasons why people move are not necessarily personal or individual. Sometimes it’s even difficult to talk about decisions. Thus, the border between exile and migration can be quite difficult to draw. The most classical theoretical model to study migration, usually referred to as “push and pull” model, can provide some concrete example of the factors at work when a migration phenomenon takes place. The table below (table 1) breaks down some crucial dimensions behind the reasons for “e-migration” and “immigration”, plus it tries to details them in terms of factors. TABLE 1. • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • PUSH AND PULL FACTORS OF MIGRATION Push Factors—Factors that make you want to leave a place Economic factors: Lack of employment Natural disasters (earthquakes, floods) Lack of food or shelter Lower standard of living Social Factors: Lack of health care Lack of educational opportunities Lack of religious tolerance Political Factors: Unfair legal system Disenfranchisement (Not being able to vote) or lack of governmental tolerance War and terrorism Pull Factors—Factors that draw you to live in a place Economic Factors: Hope for better employment More money and food Better shelter Hope for family to have a higher standard of living Social Factors: Encouragement from family and friends Better health care Better educational opportunities Religious tolerance Political Factors: To gain protection under the law Right to vote and freedom from persecution Safety
  3. 3. One should consider that both reasons to move out and move in could be experienced individually or socially shared. For example, a single individual could be push out of his bounded socio-cultural environment for economic reasons (i.e. unemployment) or for political ones (i.e. he is homosexual and experiences discrimination). Similarly, he can be dragged into another bounded environment for the better economic opportunity or for the fair political conditions. However, when big groups of people are on the move, then economic factors could mean breakdown of national economies (i.e. war or natural disaster, but also financial crisis, these days). As well, huge numbers of incoming could mean that some places become target for they are perceived as political “shelter” or economic “dreamland”. The point is that the distinction between individual and group migration is not easy to do, for cumulative effects are at work. Thus, individuals can act as pioneers, opening up the path for more to follow. Moreover, some people can just experience their migration as something unavoidable, forced and independent on their will (this is the case of many “exiled” Italians from Yugoslavia) whereas the same migration flow could be lived in terms of individual choice by others (i.e. no one forced, it’s me that made up his mind). Such an ambivalence is even stronger in the case of return migration, where the traumatic feeling of defeat – “I did not make it” – can push people to downplay the role of individual choice and to emphasize the importance of “external” factors. When talking of migrations, another important issue and a possible bias depend on the importance held by the “national paradigms” in this study field. Namely, migrations are usually approached within the frame of so-called “methodological nationalism”, which suggests that migration flows are basically similar to pouring out and pouting in people from and to national containers, that is to say nation-states. This notion, still quite powerful, is clearly revealed by the practices of attaching political-bureaucratic labels to people by state bodies. So, the major problem with immigrants become to have or not to have documents, in order to identify their national (state) identity both to carry out statistics and to figure out where to send “back home”, if necessary. Nevertheless, some problematic issues arise and are particularly important for such a case as the one between Italian migrations from and to Croatia. For instance, a simply national framework would inevitably imply that migrations mean nothing more than primordial ethnicities moving across perennial borders. How far can we rely on these myths when Italian-Croatian relations are at stake? As a matter of fact both Italian and Croatian national identity are relatively recent and modern social construct, not to talk about the coupling of a modern political identity and a state structure. Diversely, a different paradigm, such as the mobility paradigm should be taken into consideration to grasp the phenomenon of Italian migrations to and from Croatia. In other words, neither borders are perennial nor ethnicities are primordial; conversely, national identities are progressively established with the establishments of the state borders. Thus, border making is identity making, and such a process is neither easy nor smooth, because it usually brings about long and contested dynamics of exchanges, dislocations and relocations of people, objects, memories and symbols across the borders to create newly established homogeneous spaces. Thus, perennial and primordial notions are in fact continuously shaped and re-
  4. 4. made in social and relational manner. In this context, several notions of border appear and are discussed. Sometimes they are institutionalized, sometimes they are lost and in other cases they can be remembered and are possibly objects of fantasy and desire. In the case of Italian-Croatian relations, a central role within this historical border making process has been played by the Adriatic sea, which has been a medium both for migration AND identity-making. In this perspective, the Adriatic Sea staged a long and rich history of exchanges and joint heritage between the Italian and Balkan peninsulas. In other words, one could even talk of a reciprocal identity making through the Adriatic Seascape. Historical characters such as Marco Polo, Rudzer Boskovic, Marin Drzic, Nicolò Tommaseo, to quote some, are both part of the Italian and the Croatian heritage, in spite of the present days struggles to bring their memories into exclusive national pasts. However, the Adriatic witnessed overlapping political trends of international cooperation and conflict, which aimed to political union and territorial separation of the lands inhabited by both Croats and Italians. Altogether, if one considers the complexity of the regional dimension, the creation of separate national identities is often a matter of disentanglement. And the more people are similar the more problems are big, along a sort of “narcissism of the smaller difference” (M. Ignatieff). I think one should distinguish three phases of the Italian migrations form a to Croatia. They might work as well, at least to a certain extent, to study Croatian migration to and from Italy. The first phase can be named: 1) “Physiological” migrations across the Adriatic (pre-20 th century) This is the time described by F. Braudel, when the Adriatic was a “Unique but not united landscape”, where economy, culture, sociality were heavily interdependent but there was nothing like a united political frame. Remains of such an “Adriatic condominium” were still observable by the Croatian (Illyrian) politician Smodlaka at the beginning of the 20 th century during his “ trip to Croats of Molise” (beg. 1900). That was a social world populated by “frontier men”, displaced rural communities, wanderers, merchants and artisans, who played on the Adriatic common field. The second phase can be named: • 2) “State-building” migrations (from mid 19th century) Personally, I would say that the 1866 Battle of Lisa (Vis) has been a crucial turning point, for the breaking up of the Venetian Adriatic Seascape and the establishment in the Northern and Eastern Adriatic of political loyalties to different and competing nation-states in the making. Such a dynamic grew stronger with the dislocations, exchanges and relocations taking place during and after the 1st World War. (“regnicoli”, “optanti”, “allogeni”, “bonifica”). The intense socio-demographic transformations were strengthened by the ethnic and Political Migrations taking place after 2 nd World War (“esuli”, “rimasti”…), which eventually reshaped the Adriatic map according to alleged homogeneous ethnonational and political criteria.
  5. 5. The third phase is the contemporary one, thus named: • 3) “Contemporary” flows Especially after the 1990s, with the break up of Yugoslavia, the end of socialist regimes and the EU enlargement, Italian migrations from and to Croatia take a quite different shape. Here the question is: how to manage, promote and sustain (governance) contemporary flows and integration, when they are relatively disconnected from historical patterns? In fact, we are observing some new identity patterns, which make us reflect on the existence of the historical Adriatic connectivity: is it still there? Or, differently, it’s just a romantic picture nowadays fading away and replaced by Continental and Northwestern centers of gravity? Some possible answers come from the endeavor of rethinking the Adriatic to make it fit for our present global age: is it a European continental periphery or European stage for Mediterranean orientation? The latter would obviously mean to pursue harmonization of legal framework and political goals in a wider perspective. From this standpoint, to re-make the borders of Europe (of Italy and Croatia) is also a way for making the sea a common good to better act in the global scenario. Here Italian migrations - students, workers, investors, etc. - should work as the driving forces of a joint working space. And for Croatian going to Italy should be the same.
  6. 6. The third phase is the contemporary one, thus named: • 3) “Contemporary” flows Especially after the 1990s, with the break up of Yugoslavia, the end of socialist regimes and the EU enlargement, Italian migrations from and to Croatia take a quite different shape. Here the question is: how to manage, promote and sustain (governance) contemporary flows and integration, when they are relatively disconnected from historical patterns? In fact, we are observing some new identity patterns, which make us reflect on the existence of the historical Adriatic connectivity: is it still there? Or, differently, it’s just a romantic picture nowadays fading away and replaced by Continental and Northwestern centers of gravity? Some possible answers come from the endeavor of rethinking the Adriatic to make it fit for our present global age: is it a European continental periphery or European stage for Mediterranean orientation? The latter would obviously mean to pursue harmonization of legal framework and political goals in a wider perspective. From this standpoint, to re-make the borders of Europe (of Italy and Croatia) is also a way for making the sea a common good to better act in the global scenario. Here Italian migrations - students, workers, investors, etc. - should work as the driving forces of a joint working space. And for Croatian going to Italy should be the same.

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