Interview with Srđan Veljančić, a young representative of Mladi forum SD who points out “It is plainly obvious that some of the struggles young people face in Slovenia are essentially one and the same as those faced by our peers in the Western Balkans region”

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Dear Readers, with the arrival of Fall comes the start of our next series of interviews with bright young voices from our member organizations all across the region. Meet Srđan Veljančić from Slovenia’s Mladi forum SD!

1. Dear Srđan, please introduce yourself to our readers!

My name is Srđan and I’m the president of the Ljubljana chapter of Mladi forum, the youth wing of Slovenia’s Social Democrats. We advocate for progressive solutions to problems Slovenia’s youth faces: a major housing shortage, worsening mental health, and the climate crisis. I’m also engaged in several student activist associations, where we organize around issues of student welfare and political participation among college students.

2. Look back at the start of your political activism. What was your motivation? What was the reason behind your decision to be actively engaged in politics?

Although politics had interested me all my life, I only started actively engaging with the subject in late 2020, when Slovenia was going through a severe political crisis on top of the problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of vigorous protests fighting the country’s slow descent into conservative illiberalism, I realized it was time for me to stop observing from the sidelines and get involved personally. After trying my hand with various left-wing civil society organizations, and a brief stint at Radio Študent, Slovenia’s oldest alternative media outlet, I found my home within Mladi forum.

3. What are the most valuable lessons you learned through political activism? What skills and knowledge helped you to acquire?

While there are various competencies I can point to – from policy analysis to public relations to graphic design – the two most important things politics taught me are perseverance and conviction. An online saying that I came across applies to politics especially: “Life is like a video game: if you keep running into resistance, it means you’re going in the right direction.”

4. Share with us one memory, anecdote, or a story from your political experience that you cherish the most.

On the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Mladi forum planted a statue of a woman holding a flag of Ukraine with a raised middle finger in front of the Russian embassy in Ljubljana. Even though the act seemed a little on the nose to me, it was met with enormous acclaim by the Ukrainian community in Slovenia. It goes to show that even seemingly banal actions can make a positive impact on the lives of people we’ll never personally meet.

5. Why did you decide to join the Political Youth Network? Have you previously had experience in regional cooperation? What does regional cooperation mean to you?

I came in touch with the network through my work as Mladi forum’s regional coordinator for the Western Balkans. Our decision to join the PYN reflects our commitment to internationalism and cross-border cooperation. With regards to former Yugoslavia specifically, Mladi forum is a founding member of the SD9 network, which connects social democratic youth movements from the region.

Although some claim that Slovenia must distance itself from its time as a member state of Yugoslavia, we believe that our common history and cultural roots tie us just as much to the Balkans as they do to Central Europe. Furthermore, it is plainly obvious that some of the struggles young people face in Slovenia – such as skyrocketing housing costs and the worsening climate crisis – are essentially one and the same as those faced by our peers in the Western Balkans region.

6. Nowadays we are faced with global challenges that require much solidarity and responsibility. What is your desired vision for the region in the next 10 years? What message do you have for young politically active young people in the region?

While this is obviously a pipe dream, in ten years, I would like to see the Western Balkans as member states of a green, social, and truly democratic European Union, with a commitment to equitable and sustainable development and opportunities for all.

As for the real world we are all slogging through, I’ve found that activism and politics are difficult, exhausting, and often soul-crushing endeavors. Real systemic change seems impossible, but in times like this, it’s important to look back and see how things have changed over the course of the past 50 years, for better or for worse. The current depressing state of the world is a product of specific policies and socioeconomic factors, and invisible forces of history will sweep it away just like all the other epochs. All we have to do is be ready to seize the opportunities that change will bring. And to be ready, we must organize, organize, and organize!

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