Thessaloniki Open 2014 European Debating Tournament

The CDRSEE’s first foray into the world of competition debating was very successful, with participants from around the world who took part in the Thessaloniki Open 2014 European Debating Tournament praising the result.

Under the auspices of the European Youth Capital 2014, our hometown of Thessaloniki, the CDRSEE along with the Association for Democracy in the Balkans, the Debating Society of Greece and the Thessaloniki Debate Club, planned, organised and carried out an international debating tournament that brought together 35 teams from 15 countries.

The overall theme of the debate centered on the “Economic Crisis”, and different aspects of the theme were discussed and argued over the weekend of Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. The final round motion dealt specifically with “Youth Unemployment”.

The competition was carried out in British Parliamentary style. The international judges panel included not only esteemed judges but also champions of international debating tournaments.

Each team participated in five preliminary rounds, and the top teams proceeded to the semifinals. The top four teams then went on to the final round, which was held Sunday morning, Nov. 2, 2014, at the Alexandros Cultural Center in Thessaloniki. The final competition was open to the public and drew a full house.

The winners of the tournament were Helena Ivanov and Michael Shapira, who were consistently persuasive and passionate about the positions assigned to them to support.

The Thessaloniki Open was made possible by the contributions of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Erste Foundation, the European Youth Capital 2013 and DEI College of Thessaloniki.

Other sponsors of the tournament include Green Cola Company, Red Bull, Starbucks Coffee Co., Tsantali Vineyards and Wineries, Nera Kritis, Savvikos Restaurant, Haitoglou Bros S.A. Packaged Foods and Gatidis Fresh Bakery Patisserie.



Debaters ready to take on Thessaloniki

Judges, participants and volunteers for the Thessaloniki Open 2014 European Debating Tournament have begun arriving in the host city, getting ready to take over this year’s European Youth Capital while taking on major topics of critical importance.

Under the auspices of European Youth Capital 2014, the Thessaloniki Open 2014 is a debating tournament organized by the CDRSEE, the Association for Democracy in the Balkans, the Debating Society of Greece and Thessaloniki Debate Club.

The debates, which begin on Friday, Oct. 31 and culminate with the competition final on Sunday, Nov. 2, are open to the public and admission is free; please click here for the agenda.

The judges come from around the world and are all esteemed judges and international champions of Debating Tournaments. A total of 36 teams are taking part, arriving from 15 countries worldwide.

The judges, debaters and volunteers will enjoy Thessaloniki as well as the intense competition. Cultural activities and social events are planned all weekend after debate hours, to show off the European Youth Capital this year.




Uniting Differences holds major training in Croatia

The Uniting Difference project successfully completed one of five major training sessions of the programme, bringing the Teaching for Early-Learning Methodologies to teacher-trainers in Croatia and inspiring more action to help keep young Roma children in the public education system.

The Uniting Differences project is a pilot project to address equal access to education for the Roma children in Croatia. The goal is to train staff to help keep Roma children in mainstream schools, starting with preschool-aged children. The project also seeks to improve the broader education environment by providing training and materials on the newest and most effective teaching methodologies, which can be used in any classroom.

This session in particular was a training session on the Teaching for Early-Learning Methodologies publication and practices, so that the teachers in attendance can now provide workshops for other teachers who will use the material in their schools.

This first Training of Trainers workshop of the project took place in Sveti Martin na Muri, Medjimurje County, Croatia, with trainers Prof. Hristo Kyuchokov and Zsuzsanna Sabo. Prof Lorin Anderson, the editor of the methodology publication, addressed participants from South Carolina, U.S.A., via video conference. Corinna Noack-Aetopulos, CDRSEE’s Programmes Director, moderated and lead the workshop, which was on Oct. 24 and 25. A total of 16 teacher-trainers attended the workshop.

Workshop attendees called the weekend “inspiring” and said they now feel more in touch with how it feels to be in an “inferior position” in schools.  The workshop especially raised awareness about the importance of communication and the complexity of communication processes, teachers said.

“I picked up a very good idea here of how to involve parents,” one teacher commented. “I realised how difficult it is to put somebody else’s hat on.”

Much discussion centered on the dilemma of integration vs. assimilation. Teachers and workshop leaders had meaningful debates on ways to turn integration into two-way process, an enhancement for all those involved.

The next Uniting Differences training-of-trainers workshop will be held on November 21-22, 2014. 



European Debating Tournament -- Thessaloniki Open 2014

Oct. 31 - Nov. 2, Thessaloniki, Greece - As part of the European Youth Capital programme, young people from around Europe will gather to competitively debate the issues of today.

For more information, please visit: 









CDRSEE Board Meeting

Nov. 8 - 9, Thessaloniki, Greece - Board Members gather at our headquarters to critique the past year and look ahead to 2015. The plan for our key projects, new and in progress, will be determined. 



CDRSEE Board Member Nenad Sebek receives SEEMO award

CDRSEE Board Member and former Executive Director Nenad Sebek has been given the SEEMO 2014 Award for Better Understanding in South East Europe, which is presented in honour of CDRSEE Board Chairman Dr Erhard Busek who has worked for reconciliation in Southeast Europe for much of his career. Dr Busek, who sponsors the award, also serves as the Coordinator of the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI) and is Chairman of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe (IDM).

Sebek, who currently serves as spokesperson for the Regional Cooperation Council, accepted the award, thanking Dr Busek for his leadership and inspiration in working for reconciliation and understanding in the region.

Sebek started his career as a journalist, covering the region, including during times of conflict, for the BBC and other media, always with the goal of improving communication and understanding. Twelve years ago he switched his focus to non-governmental agencies, working to build bridges and send a message of tolerance and understanding through education and media projects. Most of his experience is with the CDRSEE, where he was instrumental in the success of the Joint History Project and “Okruzenje”, or “Vicinities” in English, and many other programmes.

The presentation was part of the South East Europe Media Forum (SEEMF), held Oct. 16-18, 2014, in Skopje. The conference strived to answer the question, “Media in South East Europe: Not enough or too much information?” Speakers and panelists, including policy makers, editors and journalists, attorneys and many others, came from across the region to address the media and politics, effects on EU integration, media integrity, access to public information, data and source protection, censorship, reporting during wartime, as well as other timely topics.



Okruzenje impresses, top journalists vow to cooperate


The CDRSEE’s current affairs talk show Okruzenje, “Vicinities” in English, kicked off another season with a transformative roundtable discussion on regional cooperation of the media and a major press conference including diplomats, partner executives and editors in chief from the largest media outlets in the Balkans.

The event, held Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014, in Belgrade, was standing-room only and brought together some of the most influential people of the region to discuss a topic that is of importance personally to the participants as well as on a broad public level. The cooperation of the media, across borders and within cities, is key to covering and exposing many of the stories that affect the region, the participants agreed.  But doing so in an institutionalised manner remains difficult.

Specifically, Vicinities is an example of cooperation that is working, as it is broadcast on eight TV channels in seven countries during this, its third season. Journalists pointed out that individual media outlets would not have the resources to do what Vicinities does weekly during its season.

“It is not enough to have good political relations on a higher level,” said Mr. Heinz Wilhelm, Ambassador in Belgrade of the Federal Republic of Germany, one of the sponsors of the Vicinities. “It’s important to bring together the people, to achieve reconciliation in a region where many wounds are still open, maybe even bleeding. That is why we have been and keep supporting this initiative.”

The Vicinities team took the opportunity to present the show and its new season. This season the team produced 14 episodes, covering topics that range from corruption and organised crime to renewed nationalism, and traditional theatre to the debate on whether the mutually understood languages of the region are distinct or one in the same.

The panel that presented the show included the German Ambassador as well as Dr. Erhard Busek, Chairman of the CDRSEE, Ms. Hedvig Morvai, Executive Director of CDRSEE’s partner in Vicinities, the European Fund for the Balkans, Mr. Nenad Sebek, Spokesperson of another partner, the Regional Cooperation Council, and Ms. Zvezdana Kovac, Executive Director of the CDRSEE.

The Ambassadors of Croatia and Albania in Belgrade, the Counsellors of the Embassies of Romania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and attaches from the Embassies of Belgium, Bulgaria and Slovenia also attended the event, which was held in Mikser House, a popular restored warehouse-turned cafe in the center of Belgrade.

The panel discussion was moderated by Mr. Sebek and Ms. Kovac, the hosts of Vicinities. The discussion was lively, and often returned to the fact that personal cooperation exists among journalists, but the region is missing organised cooperation. That cooperation, however, is difficult given the commercial aspect of the media in the region and around the world.

Still, the journalists were intent on continuing to try, for their own good and the good of the region.

“Time will show that whoever wants to survive, needs cooperation,” said Vladan Micunovic, editor in chief of TV Vijesti of Montenegro.

Zarko Joksimovic, Director of TV Kosovo 2, a TV station that is just a year and a half old, said that cooperation is key to the station’s growth. “We do not want to be kept at the local level. That is why we need cooperation.” 

Presenting and then participating in the discussion were the Editors in Chief of TV BiH (Sarajevo), TV Vijesti (Montenegro), TVK2 (Pristina), TV SLO (Ljubljana), and RTS (Belgrade), as well as journalists and editors from the weekly magazines Vreme (Belgrade), Dani (Sarajevo), Jutarnji list (Zagreb).


CDRSEE takes leading role in EWI conference

CDRSEE takes leading role in EWI conference
CDRSEE takes leading role in EWI conference
CDRSEE takes leading role in EWI conference
CDRSEE takes leading role in EWI conference
CDRSEE takes leading role in EWI conference

CDRSEE Executive Director Zvezdana Kovac was a lead discussant in the EastWest Institute’s conference focusing on managing conflict in Europe, presenting the CDRSEE’s work and its impact as well as ideas for what more can be done in conflict management. She was joined by CDRSEE Board Member Dr. Dusan Reljic who also serves as Head of the Brussels Office of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

EWI gathered numerous policy makers, international ambassadors and members of the press on Sept. 25, 2014, for a morning dedicated to finding ways to reduce and manage conflict in its region and its neighbourhood. The idea was to look at how conflict was addressed in the Balkans, and use that experience to reflect on the current situation in Ukraine. In addition the group addressed European tools and instruments for conflict management, focusing on violent extremism.

Ms. Kovac was a lead discussant in the first session, which discussed “Ethnic and National Conflict: The Case of the Western Balkans.” The second session took the cases studied in the first and looked at the current crisis in eastern Ukraine, reflecting on the role that Europe and the EU have played there in the recent months.

Finally, Ambassador Martin Fleischer, Vice President and Director of Regional Security of EWI, moderated a discussion regarding Europe as a whole, called “Conditions for Successful Conflict Management in Europe: Tools for countering Violent Extremism and Managing Conflict”. This session involved all participants, many of whom brought up lessons learned in previous conflicts and warnings for dealing with current conflictive areas.