CDRSEE kicks off new year with Uniting Differences Teacher Training event

9-10 January 2015 -- The CDRSEE opened the new year with a teacher training workshop in Sveti Martin, Međimurje County, Croatia, as part of a project to help integrate Roma children in Croatian schools.

As part of the Center's Uniting Differences project, 19 pre-school teachers took the opportunity to learn new methodologies for facilitating early learning in diverse classrooms, in particular where Croatian children learn side by side with their peers from the Roma community.

The workshop touched upon cultural awareness skills and trust-building with parents, and also elaborated on the specific challenges that language barriers pose.

Participants engaged in a role-playing game to help get a feel of how actions of the majority population feel from a minority point of view. Teachers also practiced children's games that contribute to establishing classrooms where all children feel welcome.

The teacher training session was the second in the project that is designed to provide teachers with tools to help keep Roma pre-school children from dropping out of Croatian public schools.


A Non-National Way of Looking at History Should be the Normal Way of Looking at History

16-18 December 2014 – CDRSEE Executive Director Zvezdana Kovac took part in an important international conference in Berlin on European Commemoration, sponsored by the German Federal Foreign Office, which focused on remembrance in societies.

The commemoratory conference recognized the Centenary of the First World War, and through that considered three central questions – the significance and aims of remembrance in societies, the major dividing lines in European memories, and strategies to support a joint dialogue on remembrance and European identity.

The overall theme was well expressed by Dr. Gunnar Dedio, producer of the documentary drama “14 – Diaries of the Great War”, a multinational production using pictorial material from 21 countries, presented via diaries and personal accounts from many individual perspectives. Dr. Dedio called for an effort to make a non-national way of looking at history the normal way of looking at history.

Prominent university history professors and representatives of many civil society organisations took part. The opening speech was given by Prof. Alan Kramer of Trinity College Dublin, University of Dublin, Ireland. Ambassador Andreas Meitzner, Germany’s Special Representative for the Events Commemorating the Start of World War I, and Ronald Grätz, Secretary General of the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (IFA), also spoke to participants.

The participants, including the CDRSEE, played a major role in the impact of the conference. As the German Federal Foreign Office said in its justification of the project, the particular background and experience of each participant indeed helped shape the understanding of the multitude of perspectives on the memory of the European war. The conference was a testament to the importance of taking an interdisciplinary approach to history, culture and politics.  


Uniting Differences: Teacher Training event

Dec. 12-13, 2014 Uniting Differences, the CDRSEE’s programme to help keep Roma children from dropping out of the mainstream Croatian school system, held its first Teacher Training Event in Medjimurje County, Croatia.

The workshop sparked much discussion about what can be done to help integrate children in schools. The Uniting Differences programme is a pilot project which targets pre-school children in paricular, as a smooth integration into the school system can help children remain in the education system for years to come. In Croatia, only an estimated 10 percent of Roma children complete primary school.

The Uniting Differences project is founded in a teaching methodology book as well as training events to help teachers model methods that will work in their own classrooms.

Two more teacher training sessions are scheduled for January 2015.




JHP II Teacher Training Seminar in Vukovar, Croatia

Dec. 5-7, Vukovar, Croatia - The CDRSEE held a successful and productive weekend teacher training seminar, attended by 27 teachers, which also served to tap teachers’ experience and ideas as the Joint History Project embarks on its next phase and the publication of two new books.

In the Teacher Training Workshop, Prof. Bozo Repe from the JHP editorial team presented the ideas behind the new volumes. Then, the moderator team, composed of Prof. Repe, Dr. Snjezana Koren and Mr. Kresimir Erdelja, all of the JHP’s History Education Committee, ran workshops during which teachers compared how the periods of the "Cold War" and the "Post-1989" eras are told in schools in Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia.

On the second day of the seminar, participants visited the Vukovar Hospital Museum and the Ovčara Memorial Centre and Memorial Cemetery. It was a weekend of intense discussion, which touched upon a difficult past that is still very fresh in the memories.

The seminar was the first of a three-part series planned to take place simultaneously with the production of the two new JHP volumes. This allows JHP developers to meet with teachers during the key production phase of the new books, facilitating the inclusion of teachers’ insights and perspective in the development process, while continuing with the training seminars that have been so successful in the first phase of JHP.

The CDRSEE just last month received European Union funding for the JHP to create and publish the new books, covering the Cold War and the period of transition in Southeast Europe, for the multi-perspective history teaching programme. The grant also includes funding to continue building the teacher trainers’ capacities for new trends in transnational history research through seminars such as this one.


Uniting Differences: 2nd Training of Trainers

Nov. 21-22, Medjimurje County, Croatia -- The Uniting Differences programme successfully held its second Training of Trainers workshop, as part of the project to help integrate Roma children into the Croatian public schools. 

The workshop was held in the border town of Sveti Martin na Muri, in Medjumurije County, just 10km from Slovenia and 15km from Hungary . A total of 16 teachers took part, all from from the County of Medjumurije but with different broadly different experience and background.  Teachers with 20 years in the classroom exchanged ideas and insights with teachers with just months of experience, and the dialogue was seen as productive.

Ms. Zsuzsanna Szabo from Hungary and Prof. Hristo Kyuchukov from Bulgaria were the experts on site guiding the workshop. Prof. Lorin Anderson, the American professor who edited the book that serves as the foundation of the programme, held a videoconference with the participants.

The teaching methodology manual gave the structure to the workshop and was disseminated to participant. Four specific activities were carried out during the workshop.

The Uniting Differences programme is aimed specifically at giving teachers tools and strategies to help keep Roma pre-school children in mainstream Croatian schools.


CDRSEE fields panel on World War 1 history education at Univ. of Graz

Nov. 22, Graz, Austria -- The CDRSEE organised a history education panel on "Teaching World War I", as part of the University of Graz's Centre for Southeast European Study's conference on Histories of 1914, Debates and Use of the Origins of World War One in Southeastern Europe.

The panel included members of the CDRSEE's History Education Committee, and was moderated by CDRSEE Programmes Director Corinna Noack-Aetopulos. The panel was informative and well received, and various social websites brought up the conclusions of the discussion.

One interesting conclusion of the overall conference was that the time fame of WW1 remembrance, from 1914 to 1918, does not apply equally to all countries. In Southeast Europe in particular, conflicts right before and immediately after these dates are more relevant in public memory.

The representatives who took part in the discussion were:

  • Halil Berktay (Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey), Progressive Politics, Retrogressive Textbooks: A Turkish Paradox;

  • Vassiliki Sakka (University of Peloponnese, Greece), "WWI through a Greek Perspective: Echoes from the trauma of "National Division";

  • Snjezana Koren (University of Zagreb, Croatia), The First World War in Croatian and Serbian Textbooks since 1918;

  • BozoRepe (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia), First World War in the Slovene Consciousness and in the Teaching of History.



Board of Directors convenes in Thessaloniki for 22nd Meeting

The Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe Board of Directors gathered in Thessaloniki this weekend, celebrating the successes of 2014 and mapping out the future as the CDRSEE embarks on new projects and expands its flagship programs.

Nearly all board members were in attendance, including founding members Mr. Matthew Nimetz, Mr. Nikos Efthymiadis and Mr. Costa Carras. Dr. Erhard Busek, Chairman of the Board, led the meeting with the support of Executive Director Zvezdana Kovac.

The board officially convened on Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014, and successfully carried out all necessary official business. Members focused on the new phase of the Joint History Project, which will culminate in the publication of two more multi-perspective history books, covering the Cold War and the period of transition in Southeast Europe, including the Wars of the 1990s. The board also supported the continued expansion of Okruzenje, or Vicinities in English, the current affairs TV talk show, in the region and beyond. The board was pleased with the success of the other CDRSEE’s projects: Teaching for Learning, Uniting Differences, Hands on the Balkans and the Thessaloniki Open 2104 -- European Debating Tournament. The Board fully supports the creation of other similar projects, as they target youth and are based on the fundamentals of democracy.

The meeting wrapped up with a visit by the Serbian news agency Tanjug, which carried a story on the CDRSEE projects and mission. The first story and interviews can be found here:

Interviews with our first chairman, Mr. Matthew Nimetz, and our current chairman, Dr. Erhard Busek, as well as with other board and staff members, will be posted by Tanjug in the near future.



CDRSEE signs important new contract for next phase of JHP

The Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe has signed a 600,000 Euro contract with the European Union, enabling the CDRSEE to move ahead with one of the most important projects in its 16-year history and sealing the future of its flagship Joint History Project.

The new contract, under the European Commission’s EuropeAid, allows the JHP to embark on the next, most challenging but critically important stage of the programme. It will provide major funding for the research, writing and publication of two new history workbooks covering the Cold War and the period of transition in Southeast Europe, including the Wars of the 1990s. It is a project that has been on the minds of the CDRSEE and the programme’s History Education Committee for many years, and it can now finally become a reality.

The Ministries of Education of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo* and Serbia are associates in the new project. And the Swiss foundation Pro Victimis has also provided a grant of 36,000 Euro.

The JHP is a history education programme that provides multi-perspective history workbooks and training for teachers, in order to foster reconciliation and an understanding of history from many viewpoints. The JHP currently has four workbooks in 11 languages, and has trained more than 2,000 teachers on tailoring the coursework to their curricula.

The new phase will begin immediately and run for 24 months, culminating with the publication of the two workbooks. The JHP hopes to reach out to 7,000 teachers through online dissemination of the material. The new phase also includes direct training of teachers via teacher-training sessions, and other guidance through training of trainers conferences and teacher association workshops and activities.

The JHP, over the years, has developed close working relationships with most of the region’s Ministries of Education and Teacher Associations. JHP workbooks are currently in use in the Western Balkans, and some half a million students so far have been touched by the JHP over the years.

In addition to the Ministries of Education of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo* and Serbia, other associates in the new project include the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research and EUROCLIO, the European Association of History Educators. Partners include the history teacher associations of Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia, the Film Festival Pravo Ljudske in Bosnia, the Kosovo Education Center and the Association for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

These relationships will be critical in this new phase of the JHP, which is arguably the most important, and certainly the most challenging. In particular, the books will cover 60 years of recent history and will also address the devastating wars of the 1990s, which are still fresh and painful for many of the teachers, their students and their families.

The workbooks, the foundation of the program, will be published in October 2016. The new titles, “Cold War” and a volume on “Transition in Southeast Europe”, will be written and edited by the CDRSEE’s History Education Committee, a group of more than a dozen esteemed historians from this region, including JHP Supervisor Mr. Costas Carras and Committee Chair Prof. Chrstina Koulouri. The entire HEC is dedicated to the concept that showing various perspectives to events that are oftentimes taught from a one-sided point of view will help foster critical thinking, understanding and reconciliation in the region.

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.