17.11.2016, at NLB CIP
Duel with Sonja Šmuc and Lousewies van der Laan
On Thursday November 17th, the SDBP – Slovene Dutch Business Platform – introduced a new type of event, a so-called duel. During this duel two speakers, Sonja Šmuc (Managing Director at Slovenian Managers Association) and Lousewies van der Laan (Board member at ICANN and former political leader in Dutch and European parliament) discussed a number of currently highly relevant topics. These included: inequality, nationalism, woman’s place in society, polarization of society, entitlements of the Slovenian youth and resulting passiveness. During these discussions, the ladies “dueled” by creating their own questions and remarks for the other, rather than a fully moderated discussion. After the duel people had the chance to get to know each other through an extensive networking session.
Before the actual duel took place, ambassador of the Netherlands to Slovenia H.E. Bart Twaalfhoven, expressed his full support for the new SDBP cause and its programme for 2017 which was also presented on the occasion. After that State Secretary Franc Matjaž Zupančič briefly commented on the transition from the old SDBP to the new bilateral-focused SDBP.
Lousewies opened the duel by saying she observed Slovenians feeling distant from their politicians. She went on to saying that the people see the political climate almost as a “contagious disease” from which it is best to stay far away of. Sonja confirmed this perception and suggested the sudden transitioning from a closed political system to a democracy might have caused this. She continued that politicians that took advantage of the opening of political and economic systems, together with media influence made politician a “dirty job”.
The second main topic was regarding passiveness of Slovenian youth and society in general. Lousewies thinks that the youth is so passive because life is much too “easy going” for them, due to the huge entitlements of students in Slovenia. She often compared Dutch youth’s protests and involvement in political issue. Sonja also thinks that students are spoiled too much, which prevents them from being critical of national issues. However, she also believes that after having joined EU and NATO, Slovenia lacks a national dream which also causes passiveness. She thinks that Slovenia has the potential to become Switzerland of Eastern Europe not just of the Balkan.
The last major topic of the duel included nationalism, political correctness and causing secret opinions of citizens. Lousewies mentioned the Dutch anti-islam Freedom party and its leader Geert Wilders. She believes we need to discuss “painful” issues openly instead. People with different views should not be ignored as it will result in more nationalism and single-issue parties. Both ladies brought the issue to a larger scale, namely the unexpected victory of Donald Trump in the US elections. Polls were so incorrect because people had to hide their opinions, which resulted in the unexpected outcome.
The duel gradually transitioned into an open discussion with questions and opinions from the audience’s side. The audience pointed out that Democtratic party did not select the most likeable candidate, which proofs again voters were not listened to. In reaction to previous topics it was said that Slovenia suffers from a great clash of identities which divides the population. Thijs Zoontjes, president of AIESEC Slovenia, confirmed from his own experience that the Slovenian youth is hard to motivate. He pointed out that there is not one Slovenian member of the AIESEC Slovenia’s leadership. After these discussions guests engaged in an interactive networking session.