– Slovenia –
Officially Slovenia does not count as one of the countries of the Balkan. However, it used to be one of the six Yugoslav republics. A past difficult to handle for Slovenes.
Slovenian language is very similar to the rest of the languages of the Balkan region. You can buy burek and ćevapčići at almost all the street corners of Slovenia. With a rich and diverse culture this tiny country at the very western end of the Balkan Peninsula overlaps in different aspects with that of the other Balkan states. However, Slovenes, strongly dominated by the Habsburgs, have always belonged above all to the Central European cultural and political space. Only in 1918 with the creation of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, Slovenia came closer to the Balkans. Nevertheless, surrounded by Italy and Austria it tried to preserve its Central European character. Before 1991 the whole of Yugoslavia was considered to be part of the Balkans, meaning that Slovenia was also considered as a Balkan state. Today the EU defines the Western Balkans as the republics of the former Yugoslavia and Albania, “minus Slovenia”, currently the only country of the former Yugoslavia being a member state of the EU.
A stigma hard to carry
As the Slovenian Prime Minister, Janez Janša, visited the U.S. President George Bush in 2006, The Washington Times described Slovenia as a Balkan country instead of Central European. Slovenes around the world sent letters to the Washington Times claiming that Slovenia is not a part of Balkan. The journal responded that the definition of Slovenia as a Balkan state was a geographical definition which was not meant as an insult. Nevertheless, those reactions show that in the eyes of Slovenes the Balkan region remains negatively seen. Not knowing where Slovenia is can be perceived as less serious than claiming that Slovenia belongs to the Balkans.
However, contradictory, even if Slovenes want to take distance from what happened in the past, the “brotherhood and unity” of ex-Yugoslav people remain seen at different occasions. An example of this is the Eurovision Song Contest where countries of the Balkans, including Slovenia, mutually attribute each other the highest points when voting. The song or the artists do not matter.