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.




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: