“Set clear boundaries!”

27. Januar 2021

You have a very international academic profile: born in Montenegro, studied in Bulgaria, holding a PhD in International Studies from Cambridge and working at different universities such as the University College of London or the University of Edinburgh. Now you are a professor at European University Institute (EUI) in Florence. What do you love about being a professor and about being a scholar?

This is a kind of job you have to love in order to be completely dedicated to it. Since finishing my BA at the American University in Bulgaria I have been drawn to the academic world and felt very passionate about research. This passion has been driving me from the very beginning of my academic career. The endless enthusiasm for addressing and investigating the complex processes of our world and the will to never stop learning make me love this job very much. Further, contributing to knowledge every day is a privilege I really enjoy.

When did you decide to become a professor?

In light of the troubling 1990s in the Balkan states, I started an initiative with a couple of friends aimed at promoting diversity among different communities, religions and ethnicities in my native Montenegro. This initiative made me realise that I wanted to go further in that direction: I aspired to thoroughly study, learn and understand more about how people of different ethnicities, religions and cultures interact and how these processes impact states. I have always been very interested in the question of national belonging and wanted to investigate it. A few years later, in the last year of my BA studies, I was fascinated by the rise of nationalism and the mechanics of it and systematically examined that topic. After I started working at the University of Edinburgh, I became involved in different research projects related to this topic, including the CITSEE project led by Jo Shaw and the Symbolic Nation-building in the Western Balkans directed by Pål Kolstø. But to be honest: I never really decided to become a professor, it was rather a natural evolution of something I have been doing very passionately in the past. Luckily, I have met great female scholars, such as the late Cosmia Tanasoiu, Anne Lonsdale, and above all Jo Shaw on my academic path that supported me in becoming in what I am now.

Your book „The Global Market for Investor Citizenship“ (published in 2019 by Palgrave Macmillan) is considered as a leading study in the field of citizenship. How did you come across this remarkable topic that has been devoted comparatively little attention to that date?

Back in 2010, a major scandal in my native occurred: due to his multimillion investment in the Montenegrin industry, the former prime minister of Thailand Shinawatra, accused of corruption and abuse of power in his home country, was granted a Montenegrin passport. A year later, the government passed a programme for the sale of passports. Interestingly, at the same time, a very similar instance occured in Austria. Fascinated by these two cases, I started to examine this topic. I could not believe that citizenship has become a good that can be bought and sold! When conducting research, I found out that there is a global market for investor citizenships that has not been properly covered yet. In order to get more insight into this phenomenon, I started looking into the different states’ practices. This also later led to my collaboration with the European Commission. One day, I got an e-mail of Palgrave Macmillan (an academic publishing company) asking me whether I have an interesting research proposal I can present to them. Since I have gained so much knowledge about investor citizenship, I was convinced that I could write a whole book about it. Therefore, I made a research proposal about the sale of passports which the commissioning editors of Palgrave Macmillan liked very much.

Which challenges did you face when writing about such a contested topic?

Though I had the book’s structure in mind at the very beginning of the writing process, there were two major challenges I was confronted with. First, since it was a highly controversial topic that has not been addressed yet, getting the right information and getting to know the right people was very challenging. Second, presenting it in a balanced way was pretty difficult, too. Though I personally disagree with the sale of passports and the way citizenship is granted in this way by governments, I had to write about it as objectively as possible. Further, it is important to bear in mind that writing a monograph like this is not a linear, but a time-consuming and thought-consuming process that one needs to handle.

You are also a co-director of GLOBALCIT. What is this programme about?

The Global Citizenship Observatory (GLOBALCIT) is based at the Global Governance Programme at the Robert Schuman Centre at European University Institute (EUI) in Florence. It is an online observatory and research network providing all kinds of resources, such as publications, webinars, databases or book reviews in the field of citizenship. We have established country profiles of over 177 states and our users can get detailed information on how citizenship legislation came into being and how it is implemented in each of these countries. In the future, we aim to cover every country in the world and address the global diversity of citizenship laws and policies. In general, GLOBALCIT shows that citizenship status is a very powerful resource through which national governments define who belongs to the people and who is consequently eligible to participate in the political system. GLOBALCIT is a wonderful initiative and I am very happy about being one of the co-directors.

How do you organise all your tasks as a professor and as co-director of GLOBALICT?

Since I am not obliged to teach, I can completely focus on my research and the tasks for GLOBALCIT. Luckily, my own research is very much related to GLOBALCIT which facilitates managing all the tasks. Usually, I set one or two days a week in which I do not respond to any e-mails and just focus on my own research. I think it is essential to set boundaries! You do not need to be available for others all the time. Further, I aim to finish all my tasks until 7 pm in order to have freetime in the evening. In my opinion taking time for oneself is a must for every scholar. In this sense, I also recommend to rest one day a week at least in order to have a healthy work-life-balance.