Hungary, early to mid april, 2004……when various leaflets and radio broadcasts announced that all throughout the country rejoicing and shouts of gladness should mark the streets for the historical joining of 10 new countries to the European Union on May 1st, 2004, we thought to ourselves:
“Hmm i wonder what is happening in Serbia at the moment?”
A transeuropean picnic had been announced – yet at quite different places – that would take an oblong look at this new joining together of things. Not necessarily for or against the EU, it would offer debate as well as art performances and hopefully a nice picnic on a sunny first day of May.
Perhaps a novel idea – to stride past the borders of the EU in order to decidedly glare back. anyways happy to go south, we packed our bags and headed for the Suburban train station, which would take us to the outskirts and good hitch-hiking terrain.
The ‘Trans-European Picnic’ was a three-day electronic media arts and culture gathering that brought together artists, theoreticians and media practitioners from Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Georgia.
The search for the picnic
In our attempt to reach the Picnic performances night on 30 of April, we ended up in a student graduation party, held in a beautiful old fortress in Novi Sad. We drank beer with a few young musicians. They told us how hard it is for them to get (tourist) visa for EU-countries, for example to visit family in Netherlands, or to get some necessary guitar gear unavailable in Serbia.
I knew it can be hard for musicians and artists in Georgia, Caucasus to get their necessary equipment. But it was striking me that even so close to the EU border people face the same (practical) frustrations, which makes it hard for them to interact with, reach and keep up at the same level as colleagues in EU countries.
This rather small guitar example only already proved to me the necessity and value of international meetings for young people, like this Trans-European Picnic. Good personal contacts and cooperation between individuals and grassroots organizations across the (new) borders are needed, in order to develop new alternatives.
… and finally it is found …
The next day, the First of May, we finally managed to find the Picnic participants. They were in a village outside of Novi Sad, waiting in the bus that was just starting to leave to the place of the actual picnic outside. Most of them were sleeping during the 1,5 hour ride.
An older Serbian couple also liked the idea of getting a free bus ride and joined the colorful, international group of young people to the dacha in the forest, not knowing anything about the event.
The man with a dark big moustache, not speaking a word English, poured me my drinks like a real gentleman, his wife calmly sitting next to him, smiling and watching the strange people around them, us.
Organizational Chaos and a Good Meal
The hangovers were many and the organizational chaos as well, but the atmosphere was pleasant. We had a good meal and spoke with some of the participants and organizers of the event, before we also went to sleep in the bus back to Novi Sad, listening to the sound of thunder and rain that finalized this sunny, exhausting, important day.
When we crossed the Serbian/Hungarian border in opposite direction the 2nd of May, we found long queues to enter the new EU. Border controls had become much stricter in one day time.
About Serbia and KUDA, the organizers of the The Trans-European Picnic (from the Kuda.org website):
‘After the political changes in 2000, the society of Serbia and Montenegro found itself in a turbulent process of redefinition of values at all levels. Now, after three years, new parliament elections have been held, with a great revival of right oriented political options. This step back is followed by permanent political struggle, personal settlements and prosecutions in public, which involved ordinary people in it. Unfortunately, in some cases, basic human rights and social justice became marginalized.’
‘Some initiatives, including Kuda.org, represent one of the segments of the process of accepting new social values, at the same time developing a critical attitude towards them. Hence, a series of questions have been raised, related to general social changes and at the same time taking care of the existence of the individual and his/her basic human freedoms. Kuda.org insists on the culture of dialogue and basic human rights by providing free use of communication technologies, which is still unfamiliar to people in Serbia after the period of media and information censorship.
Some of the main issues are interpretation and analysis of the history and significance of information society, the potential of information in itself and its influence on political, economic and cultural relations in contemporary society.’