REGIONAL COOPERATION DAY: "End of a tough year, what will 2016 be like?"

Sarajevo, 17-19 December 2015 --  The Regional Cooperation Council organised a constructive meeting for representatives of Civil Society as well a workshop for journalists of the region, looking ahead to the new year, and CDRSEE’s Michaela Zervidou was there to present the Center's current projects as well as ideas for 2016.

A recurring topic of the conference, titled "End of a tough year, what will 2016 be like?", was the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe, such as the effects on the region and how people can cope with those effects. 

Additionally, a panel discussed a number of EU reports and the progress in the EU accession process of the pre-selected countries. Civil Society Organisations were key participants in the conference, especially in the segment on improving the investment climate in the region. Their representatives stated that they will continue efforts to increase their role and impact on the public.

The event gave the opportunity for better networking among the participants as well as a promise for improved future communication and cooperation.



CDRSEE, European Academy Berlin, present seminar for Greek journalists

Athens, 7-8 December 2015,  -- The European Academy Berlin (Europäische Akademie Berlin) in cooperation with the CDRSEE presented in Athens a seminar for Greek journalists, with German and Greek politicians, researchers and academia discussing the European monetary crisis, the refugee issue as well what Greece expects from Germany and the role of both countries in Europe.

The goal of the seminar, attended mainly by regional media, was to foster a better understanding of bilateral relations and to help create mutual respect. Mr Costa Carras, a founding member of the CDRSEE Board of Directors, gave the welcome speech, and CDRSEE Executive Director Zvezdana Kovac and other staff members were on hand to assist at the event.

A common conclusion made by both Greek and German presenters was that the refugee issue connects the two countries, and that a common European solution must be found. Mr Michael Roth, a Member of the German Federal Parliament and Germany's Minister of State for Europe, highlighted that it is crucial that a new immigration law be proposed and implemented, and commented that Germany wants Greece to stay in the European Union and maintains the importance of the Schengen Agreement.

Dr Peter Schoof, Germany's Ambassador to Greece, added that the "Grexit issue belongs to the past” and that it is crucial for Greece to be supported as Europe attempts to rescue the Schengen Agreement.

Mr Yannis Mouzalas, Greece's Alternate Minister for Migration Affairs, called on Germany to support Greece, with human resources, infrastructure and “knowhow”.  He pointed out that approximately 750,000 refugees travelled through Greek borders and highlighted the need for a registry of NGOs that will be part of a national plan.

Mr Norbert Kopp, Mayor of the Steglitz-Zehlendorf borough of Berlin, and Mr Spyros Galinos, Mayor of Lesvos, analysed their local authorities’ roles in welcoming the refugees. Mr Kopp highlighted that the German state is interested in integrating the refugees by helping them to learn the language and by supporting them financially. Mr Galinos described the difficult situation on the island of Lesvos, with more than 420,000 refugees coming to the small island, and he reflected on the solidarity of the local people who are helping the refugees. He added that Europe should have a clear and stricter stance towards the smugglers who take advantage of the refugees.

Ms Annette Gruttner, Press Officer for Bundesbank, presented German policies for the future of the monetary union and said that the solution is to strengthen the European currency.

Prof Eckart Stratenschulte, Director of the European Academy Berlin, presented the conclusions of the seminar and warmly thanked the participants for exchanging their opinions and knowledge, in an effort to improve relations and understanding.



23rd Meeting of Board of Directors convened in Thessaloniki


Thessaloniki, November 25th 2015 -- The Board of Directors of the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe Board of Directors convened in Thessaloniki this weekend, welcoming its new members while reviewing the successes of the year and looking ahead to implementation of new projects and plans for the next steps for the current flagship ones.

Dr. Erhard Busek, Chairman of the Board, as well as the Executive Committee -- Mr. Nikos Efthymiadis, Mr. Costa Carras, Mr. Selcuk Erez -- were all present, as were nearly all the board members, contributing their ideas and suggestions. They welcomed new members Dr Hannes Swoboda, Mr. Guus Heim, Mr. Piro Misha and voted to appoint as a new member Mr. Yanis Tsorbatzoglou, Vice President for Operations & Planning at the American College of Thessaloniki.

The meeting, the CDRSEE's 23rd, took place on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. The board reviewed the Joint History Project’s draft versions of two new workbooks covering the Cold War and the Wars of the 1990s. The important issue of fundraising for local-language editions was also discussed.

The members praised Okruzenje/Vicinities media project and its special episode filmed in Vienna which achieved great visibility in the region.

Another topic of their discussion were the tremendous challenges facing Europe, such as the refugee crisis as well as conflicts, and how the CDRSEE can assist with those.


Vicinities Europe offered on the website of the European Association of Regional Television (CIRCOM)


The European Association of Regional Television recognised the CDRSEE's Vicinities Europe pan-European current affairs TV project by presenting it on CIRCOM's homepage and in its Media News, and offering the pilots to CIRCOM members across Europe for broadcasting.

Two pilot shows of Vicinities are currently available -- the first show on the "Migrant and Refugee Crisis in Europe", and the second, called "Quo Vadis, Europe?", about the future of Europe in the light of recent current events.

The shows are available free of charge to any interested CIRCOM member stations. 

CIRCOM included information about Vicinities Europe, as well as a link to the "Making of Vicinities Europe" video, to portray the professionalism and quality of the show.

A number of CIRCOM member stations have already chosen to broadcast the Vicinities Europe shows.  The pilots have been broadcasted on Radio and Television of Bosnia and Herzegovinian (BHT1), Bulgarian National Television (BNT), Radio Television of Croatia (HRT), Radio and Television Slovenia (TVSLO), and Radio Television of Serbia (RTS), as well as on other channels that are not CIRCOM members. 



International conference "The EU Strategy for the Danube Region and Its Potential to Tackle Crises in the Danube Region"


11 November 2015, Krems, Austria — The CDRSEE’s Executive Director Ms Zvezdana Kovac, participated in the international conference “The EU Strategy for the Danube Region and Its Potential to Tackle Crises in the Danube Region” for which academia and policy makers from across Europe gathered in Krems. Ms Kovac spoke on the panel dedicated to “Possible ways out of the crisis. The potential of education, know-how and civil society” and shared the CDRSEE’s long standing experience in Southeast Europe with participants.

Organisers of the conference were the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe (IDM), in co-operation with the Danube University Krems, ARGE Donauländer and Lower Austria. Main topics included the Political, economic , ecological and social crises as current challenges in the Danube Region. The conference questioned the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) as a possible solution and addressed current challenges and problems as well as potential alternatives, solutions and action spaces. Ms Kovac presented the CDRSEE’s Joint History Project, as an example for the opportunities that education offers for understanding crisis and its prevention.  Her speech was very well received by all the participants and initiated a very dynamic discussion. Mr Michael Ralph, Adviser to the Deputy Director General for Implementation in the Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy, European Commission commented that this exemplary initiative should be followed by other European countries as well.


JHP Source Committee moves forward on critical new JHP volumes


Oct. 28 - Nov. 1, Skopje --The Joint History Project's Source Committee made serious progress on the new JHP workbooks, compiling final drafts and reviewing the source material that has been collected, to ensure balance in perspectives, topics, and types of sources, so that the books are interesting and enlightening for students as well as teachers.

The Committee met in Skopje as part of the second phase of the CDRSEE's flagship JHP. This phase includes two new workbooks, which will cover the Cold War and the Wars of the 1990s. The meeting was led by Christina Koulouri, series editor, and Costas Carras, JHP supervisor and member of CDRSEE's Board of Directors.

Two sub-committees made significant progress on each book -- one on the volume "Cold War", and the other on the volume "Transition in Southeast Europe" -- as the initial hard copies took shape. As students across the Balkans will in the future, the participants discussed everything from the role of religion to the sensitive 1990s.

Two visitors, Jean Francois Berger, a journalist from Geneva, Switzerland, and Keiichi Kubo, a political scientist from Japan, were able to observe the meetings, and both found the project impressive and important.

CDRSEE Executive Director Zvezdana Kovac and Director of Programmes Corinna Noack-Aetopulos assisted the Committee as it continued to push ahead with the project. The first editions of the volumes will be available in English in April 2016. The JHP has the explicit support of six Ministries of Education in the region.

The Source Committee wrapped up the meeting with a sight-seeing excursion to the Church of St Panteleimon at Nerezi.



'Us' and 'Them'- CDRSEE contributes to the NECE Conference 2015


22-24 October 2015, Thessaloniki -- The CDRSEE shared its experience and expertise in the field of divided and polarised societies with this year's NECE Conference, with Prof. Christina Koulouri, Chair of the CDRSEE's History Education Committee, delivering a keynote speech and Corinna Noack-Aetopulos, Director of Programmes, taking part in a panel discussion session on “Where now for Europe” and a workshop on “Othering and Identity”.      

Christina Koulouri, in her keynote, explained the Greek discourse on immigration and citizenship from a historical perspective and showed how the identity of “being Greek” was defined. In her presentation, Prof.  Koulouri captured the polarised public debate in Greece and showed examples of open nationalism. But, she also conveyed interesting self-reflections, such as those expressed in graffiti in Athens stating, “Our grandparents were refugees, our parents were immigrants, and we are racists”. 

The panel on “Where now for Europe” sparked a thought-provoking discussion on the Greek/German crisis as well as on expectations for the European model to stand out again on the global stage and deliver on its promise to establish an inclusive and social market ecomomy. Ulrike Guerot from the European Democracy Lab compared the current situation in Europe to the “Weimarer Republik”, and Loukas Tsoukalis from ELIAMEP said, “Europe has lost its shine”.

Fifteen parallel workshops followed, and the CDRSEE contributed to “Othering and Identity”, which offered a deep theoretical analysis of what we mean when we speak of identities and how they differ from roles. Step by step, guided by Michalis Kakos from Leeds Beckitt University, participants developed awareness of how we need the “other” to define ourselves, and how our need for “recognition” plays an important role in building our identities. 

The group also discussed interviews that Prof. Ross Alistair conducted with youth around Europe and the Western Balkans. Led by Prof. Alistair, the participants analysed a selection of examples, where secondary students expressed their identities and what they identify with, and the group explored the external conditions that led to single statements. 

NECE, the organiser of the conference, is a non-institutionalised initiative for networking citizenship education in Europe, working towards the creation of a European general public. It offers a forum that allows a variety of stakeholders involved in citizenship education to interact with one another for promoting the Europeanisation of citizenship education. 

The NECE Conference in 2015 focused on conflicts in and around Europe and dealt with the question of “how to reimagine and define the role of citizenship education in increasingly divided and polarised societies”.



CDRSEE contributes to a workshop of Columbia University

October 18-19, 2015, Thessaloniki -- Ms. Zvezdana Kovac, the Executive Director of the CDRSEE, took part in a Columbia University workshop, in which prominent historians, sociologists and professors pointed out the need for civil society to collaborate and take part in creating conditions for constructive political dialogue between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, at odds over the name of the latter. 

The event was organised by the Program on Peace-building and Rights, part of Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, and moderated by the Program's director, Mr. David Phillips. The workshop’s main subject was relations between the two countries.

Ms. Kovac presented the CDRSEE's flagship Joint History Project history education workbooks to an exclusive group of prominent professors of international law, historians and sociologists as an example of the potential impact of civil society organisations in the region.   

The guests called for more collaboration and for civil society to help create conditions for a more constructive political dialogue. They pointed out that it was generally admitted in society that stereotypes must be identified by both sides. 

The workshop also highlighted that billions of euros are being exchanged between the two countries in trade, and that the countries maintain a very strong educational relationship, with student exchanges initiated by both. In essence, participants said, relations between the two countries are very good with the exception of the name issue.

During the workshop, tasks focused on Shared History, Sociological Research, Opportunities for Cooperation between Law Faculties and Opportunities for Cooperation in the Study and Practice of Conflict Resolution.