A group of young Slovenes has set about using their computer skills to help their fellow citizens who've moved to Brussels following Slovenia's membership of the EU in 2004. They've started Bruslov.net Michael Manske of Radio Slovenia International spoke to Dragan Barbutovski, one of the sites founders.
"Bruslov.net is a virtual meeting point for the Slovenian community in Brussels, both for those who are thinking of moving to Brussels or are just moving to Brussels. It has practical information on Brussels; we also try to help them find apartments and just give them basic information. That's one part. The other part is what's going on in Brussels. We post infomation on various events that take place in Brussels. Either there is a Slovene band playing or a Slovene artist exhibiting in Brussels or the vicinity. So, something that is interesting for them and can also serve as a meeting point for Slovenes. Those are the two chapters we have on the web site. We have about 400 Slovenes in our database -- those who live and work in Brussels. There are, according to our estimates, about 500 of them because, for example, for diplomats we don't have every single family member."
It's an unofficial organization just put together by Slovenes in Brussels. What's the relationship with the official Slovenian embassy?
"The web site is run by seven volunteers who work in various EU institutions, who just decided to donate their time and energy to this cause. Part of the reason this was established was that the Slovenian embassy is doing very little in gathering the Slovenian community together. So we decided to fill that gap. Our database is probably the best because we use unofficial channels. It's quite widely appreciated among the Slovenian community. We also try to have a gathering of Slovenes in Brussels at least twice a year: around Christmas and on the Slovenian national day in June. It's not only for Slovenes, to be honest. At least one of them we try to target to the international community in Brussels. We've done this to present Slovenia and its tourism, culinary delights, etc... We also have a physical meeting point. Bruslov.net is the virtual meeting point and the Slovene House is the physical meeting point."
"Primarily, they say their stay in Brussels is temporary - which, we'll see how long this »temporary-ness« is going to last. But, yes, Belgium has a completely different landscape than Slovenia does. And in this regard, every Slovene who is very sporty and like hiking, canoeing, camping... This is what they miss. They miss the sort of cosiness and smallness of Slovenia. And the landscape and nature. Because the quality of life we have in Slovenia is higher than we have in Brussels and Belgium. Belgium is a bigger country, more industrialized and also Brussels is a bigger city. So that puts a strain on the quality of life. So this is what Slovenes miss: the cosiness and smallness of the Slovenian environment."
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