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: 









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).