CDRSEE takes part in a multi-stakeholder project on remembrance education

We are delighted to announce our participation as project partners in the upcoming initiative ‘RETHINK-Remembrance Education for Thinking Critically’, due to start in January 2018. The EU-wide initiative, funded under the Erasmus + programme will be coordinated by CIEP (Centre International D’Etudes Peadagogiques) in Paris and the project consortium comprises prestigious academic and education organisations across the EU. The work of the project will focus on creating and sharing best practice about how education on remembrance is conducted (with a particular focus on the Holocaust) and how educators can counteract the manipulation of memorialisation for nationalistic purposes. The CDRSEE brings its considerable expertise in the area of history education to be applied more specifically to remembrance and we look forward to contributing to the body of knowledge in this exciting, and vital, area of work.  

The kick-off meeting of all the partner organizations will take place in Paris on January 29-30, 2018. 

Find more information about the project on the links below: 


Taking a closer look at history education in Southeast Europe

Brussels, 18 December 2017: Do the Balkans produce more history that it can consume? What does it actually mean when a society ‘consumes’ history? How can responsible history education be promoted in the region? How can history teachers in the Western Balkans approach sensitive and controversial issues in the classroom?

All these topics and many more were addressed on December 18 at a public debate hosted by the House of European History in Brussels, and co-organised by the European Association of History Educators (EUROCLIO) and the Centre for Democracy and Reconciliation in South East Europe (CDRSEE), in partnership with the International Students of History Association (ISHA).

Participants proposed ways forward for history educators and other stakeholders to deal with the history of the wars of the 1990s in Yugoslavia through a number of compelling presentations. Our very own Mr Costa Carras, Special Rapporteur to the Joint History Project and CDRSEE Board Member discussed history education through the lenses of the Joint History Project, a groundbreaking initiative that transformed history teaching in the region of Southeast Europe (you can find the full text of his speech here).

The findings of the Needs Assessment Survey that was conducted within the framework of ePACT, were compiled in a Research Report under the title "Teachers on Teaching" and presented for the first time during the conference by the researchers Ms Dea Maric and Mr Rodoljub Jovanovic. The full report is available in English here

The conference was marked by lively debates with selected international guests reflecting the most pressing issues and challenges related to history education in the region. Thoughtful debates about the reality of teaching sensitive history and the needs of the teachers which are faced with such a challenge took place throughout the one-day conference that offered a space for sharing best practices and connecting stakeholders working on history education as a tool for reconciliation.

The event was organised in the framework of the Education Partnership for Advocacy, Capacity-Building and Transformation (ePACT) project.



CDRSEE contributes to discourse on human rights and challenges

Thessaloniki, 16 December 2017: Contributing to the discourse in civil society in Southeast Europe, the CDRSEE participated in the conference convened by the Navarino Network on ‘EU and Southeastern Europe: Democracy and Human Rights Challenges’ on December 16th in Thessaloniki. Under the auspices of the ‘Kalliopi Koufa Foundation for the Promotion of International and Human Rights Law’, the conference brought together scholars and practitioners in the field from across Southeast Europe to engage in dialogue on the diverse human rights issues facing the region at a time of change in the wider Europe.

The CDRSEE’s Development Officer, Ruth Sutton, spoke about the importance of critical thinking education in bolstering the capacity of individuals and societies in countering and resisting populism and the return of ‘strong man politics’. “We are sleepwalking towards dictatorships” she stated. “No one is taking away our rights in Europe; rather we are handing them over and undermining our own democracies by voting for autocrats in search of easy answers and perceived security in an increasingly complex and confusing world”. On a panel including distinguished analysts Dr Dusan Reljic (Head of Brussels Office, SWP – German Institute for International and Security Affairs), Remzi Lani (Executive Director of the Albanian Media Institute), and Dr Dimitris Triantafyllou (Associate Professor, Kadir Has University, Director, Center for International and European Studies), the CDRSEE emphasised the need for media literacy education and for educators to encourage questioning and independent research among students- in order to foster a civil society capable of countering anti-democratic trends and guarding against ‘The return of the strong man’.


Promotion in Tirana: "Okruzenje is perfectly placed to link regional initiatives with the people living in the Western Balkans”

On 15 December, 2017 ‘Okruzenje’, Balkans’ unique democratic media initiative, celebrated its 6 years of broadcast across the region in a momentous promotional event and episode filming in Tirana. The event, organized for the first time ever in Tirana, gathered numerous visitors, including members of the diplomatic corps, media representatives, longtime friends of the series, former Albanian guests of the show, and media & communication students from Albanian universities.

Participating in the promotional event were Mr Hannes Swoboda (Chairman of the CDRSEE), Ms Anke Holstein (Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Albania), Mr Agim Fagu (former diplomat), and Mr Engjëll Ndocaj (Deputy Director General of RTSH) who shared their views on the importance of the initiative for the region.

Quoting former French President François Mitterrand, Hannes Swoboda said that “nationalism means war” but reconciliation with a country’s own past and with its neighbours is the remedy for war. “As Vicinities has been the only TV programme that has been fostering reconciliation through cooperation in the media sector, it is a permanent commitment to keep the show alive for a long time” he added. Taking the floor, Ms Anke Holstein said she was “delighted by the idea of putting together the countries of the region at one table trying to overcome disputes, starting to build more of a common than a divided region”.

Agim Fagu emphasized that in light of worsening media standards and lack of ethical journalism initiatives such as ‘Okruzenje’ encourage the acceleration of the democratic process in the region. For Engjëll Ndocaj ‘Okruzenje’ is a way of communication for people living in democratic societies, therefore, he called for the initiative to continue for as long as possible. He also mentioned that the fascinating topics and the great achievements of the show, convinced Albanian broadcasters to embrace the series.

Following the promotional event, the live audience had the opportunity to attend and participate in the live recording of the special episode ‘Balkan Media: Fighting for Truth’ featuring Mr Stanko Crnobrnja, director, screenwriter, publicist and mass media theorist, Mr Lutfi Dervishi, journalist, columnist and political comentator, Ms Lejla Turčilo, associate professor at the Department of Journalism, Sarajevo University, Ms Adelheid Feilcke Deutsche Welle-Director of the Western Balkans Department and moderated by Ms Zvezdana Kovač, CDRSEE’s Executive Director.

The four media experts engaged in a lively dialogue on contemporary media topics such as the phenomenon of fake news, the influence of the internet on traditional media, issues of regulation of journalism in the Western Balkans and many more. Guests received questions from the audience and from facebook users who were making comments live on the facebook pages of ‘Okruzenje’ and the CDRSEE.

This unique media event became reality thanks to the collaboration of production teams and crews from Albania and Serbia that achieved reconciliation beyond simple rhetoric. Albanian media demonstrated a great interest in covering the event and got exclusive interviews from the distinguished guests. The event was hosted by Tirana International Hotel and organized with the kind support of the European Fund for the Balkans and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For more information visit the Okruzenje website and social media pages


28th Meeting of the Board of Directors convened in Thessaloniki

The Board of Directors of the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe convened its annual at the premises of the Center in Thessaloniki on 27 November, 2017. Reviewing the successes of the past year the Board of Directors engaged in a productive dialogue on the progress of current projects, as well as on future initiatives of action in the area of Southeast Europe. Fundraising for the continuation of the current flagship projects and for the implementation of new ones was at the centre of the discussions with regard to the CDRSEE’s future steps.

Mr. Hannes Swoboda, Chair of the CDRSEE, chaired the meeting that was marked by the appointment of Mr. Ioannis Tsormpatzoglou as the new Treasurer of the Center, following Mr. Tzelepoglou’s resignation from the same position, in which  he has served for nearly 20 years.  Mr Tzelepolglou’s tireless contribution to the Center, his wise guidance and unwavering dedication were acknowledged by the Board. He will continue to serve as a member of the Board and adviser to the new Treasurer.

On the occasion of reviewing the Center’s activities of the past year, the Board Members reiterated that the work of the CDRSEE is vital for the future of the region, therefore, the Center should be supported by as many people as possible in our common European interest. In their shared approach, the Board Members reflected that the Center is in a unique position in Southeast Europe and its role is essential in many ways, thus it is essential that the work continues, develops and reaches more and more people  through its projects.

As 2018 draws near, the CDRSEE will celebrate 20 years of active presence and achievements in Southeast Europe. The Board of Directors are firmly convinced that the work of reconciliation in the Balkans is not yet finished, therefore the Center has still a lot to do in fostering dialogue and bringing the peoples of the Balkans together not only for the good of the region, but of Europe as a whole.



Joint History Project II Volumes launch in Slovenia

The JHP II’s series of regional launches was concluded in Ljubljana on November 22, 2017. The final ‘History of the Future’ event, held at the Museum of Contemporary History, was met with an overwhelmingly successful reception. With a diverse audience consisting of members of the diplomatic corps, international organisations, CSOs, NGOs, journalists, history teachers and students, the two new JHP volumes were presented to a Slovenian audience for the first time in the project’s history.

Mr. Max Brändle, Director of the Regional Office of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung  in Slovenia and Croatia commented in his opening speech on the importance of cooperative history teaching work as a major project of reconciliation and how this is essential for the democratic progress of the region in the present and the future.

This theme was continued by the expert speakers: “The Joint History Project workbooks are an example of how contemporary history should be taught in our region” said Prof. Peter Vodopivec, Historian from the Slovenian Institute of Contemporary History, during his evaluation of the two new workbooks.

The presentation continued with a roundtable of experts opened by Professor Božo Repe, member of the JHP History Education Committee and central contributor to the workbooks and the project. In an emotional speech, Professor Repe recounted how this bold initiative had started, by referring to the numerous experts who made a contribution throughout the years, the challenges they faced that brought them closer and how a mission that many considered impossible was accomplished. The roundtable panel, moderated by our ED Ms. Zvezdana Kovac, consisted of Professor Dubravka Stojanović, Vice Chair of the History Education Committee, and other Historians. Professor Neven Budak, also co-editor of Volume I of the workbooks Professor Alexei Kalionski, also co-editor of Volume II of the workbooks and Professor Snježana Koren, Pedagogical Consultant of both volumes completed the panel which was followed by questions and answers from the audience.

Panelists engaged in an insightful discussion on the history of the project and its distinguishing features, that render it an example of peace education and reconciliation through history teaching. Professor Stojanović talked in detail about the reasons that prompted the creation of the two new volumes. She, further, spoke about the collective endeavour behind the production of this alternative educational material, as well as the extended research and review of sources that preceded the selection of materials for inclusion in the books. Professor Budak answered questions with regard to the multi-perspective approach as a central characteristic of the JHP workbooks. He emphasised that the books display a broad and multilateral vision of history that opens discussion and gives room for differences in the interpretation of what has occurred.

Professor Kalionski discussed the reasons and the complexity of the process of selecting contemporary issues to be addressed by the new books. He, further, explained to the audience why the experts chose to set the beginning of the chronological scope of the project at the period of the Ottoman Empire and not the Medieval Period. Professor Koren, focused on the methodological approach introduced in the books, one that promotes critical thinking and helps students develop critical and analytical skills by being able to select and assess the information they receive. All of the contributors reiterated the books’ potential in making a difference for history education and highlighted the need for the subsequent translation of the books into more of the languages of the region.

The event drew a wide array of media attention, with various local media outlets covering the presentation and interviewing the guests. The JHP books were warmly welcomed by Slovenian teachers and students, who showed great interest in the evolution of the project, the critical thinking and multi-perspective methodologies integrated in the educational materials. The attendees further expressed their support in the translation of the books into Slovenian.

The event was organized with the support of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.


CDRSEE participates in the EU-Western Balkan Media Days

On 9-10 November, 2017 the EU – Western Balkans Media Days, organised by the European Commission, brought together more than 250 representatives of media and policymakers from the Western Balkans and the EU in Tirana, to exchange forward-looking ideas and innovative experiences leading to the sustainability of professional journalism.

The event kicked off with welcome speeches by Albanian Prime Minister Mr Edi Rama and by the Commissioner for the European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Mr Johannes Hahn, who both underlined that freedom of expression is a fundamental right and “inextricably linked to the further progress on path to the EU”. In his opening speech, Commissioner Hahn supported Mr Rama’s connection between free expression and EU principles and affirmed that media freedom is a non-negotiable condition in the EU accession process and “a true driver of the reform- and transformation process, which will be decisive to make the European perspective of your countries come true.”

Following the opening remarks, the first grand panel convened featuring esteemed panelists Nigel Baker, Klaus Schweighofer, Ilva Tare, Genoveva Ruiz Calavera and our very own Executive Director, Zvezdana Kovac. Moderated by Tim Judah, the panelists discussed the role of media as a transformative power in the EU accession process and shared interesting perspectives on the challenges regional media and journalists face. In this light, Ms. Kovac emphasised the need for media literacy in the region in order to fight against lack of media freedom and pluralism and stressed the importance of education.  “Media in the Western Balkans is not free.  To overcome this, we should focus on education; educating both journalists and consumers of media to filter sources and be aware of manipulation. We should introduce media literacy as a subject in schools and continue having public discussions on the freedom of media”.

She further highlighted that support and protection of freedom of media can be enhanced though a cooperation between media and civil society, as our very own ‘Okruzenje’ media project has proved.

The opening expert panel was followed by two blocks of parallel workshops covering contemporary topics on media and journalism. Interesting discussions took place during the ‘media café’, an open space where media professionals exchanged thoughts and experiences on a wide spectrum of media-related issues. The CDRSEE presented ‘Okruzenje/Vicinities’, the only regional current affairs talk show that stands as a unique example of free, independent, democratic journalism in a challenging landscape.

The second day of the conference continued with Grand Panel 2, where experts discussed the ways forward based on the conclusions of the workshops. Vreme journalist Ms Tamara Skrozza appealed to EU officials to use their influence in the negotiation process and prevent further collapse of the media scene and conditions for the work of the media. “Nothing is ok” she stated firmly and directly; “EU representatives must make us believe in their messages that media freedom is a priority in the process of European integration" she said in an emotional speech.

Participants engaged in a result-oriented dialogue, concluding, inter alia, that freedom of media in the region is at risk when faced with the challenges of an unstable economic and political situation and a threatening digital media expansion.

The event was closed by Commissioner Hahn who pointed out that conclusions shouldn’t be drawn until after all the views discussed in the conference are digested.  Yet he made it clear that EU pledges to work along media partners from the Western Balkans, governments and citizens in making independent voices being heard.



Lighting up the dark history of Southeast Europe: JHP presented at American Universities

“History teaching can play two opposing roles. On the one hand it can contribute to the reproduction of conflict if it hushes up the dark sides of the past, by propagating a one-sided teaching of the controversial dramatic events. On the other hand, history teaching can be used as a tool for healing traumas and overcoming painful memories” argued Professor Christina Koulouri, Chair of the History Education Committee of the Joint History Project. Professor Koulouri addressed the second aspect of history education in a workshop entitled ’Sharing Dark History in Southeast Europe’, that took place on October 6, 2017, at Princeton University. The workshop focused on the pivotal role of history education in the construction of national memory in light of the controversial historical events, following the Yugoslav wars, that triggered the so-called ’memory wars’.

By presenting the Joint History Project workbooks as a paragon to be replicated in history teaching, Professor Koulouri attempted to answer questions such as “Can history teaching contribute to the reproduction of the conflict? Or might it be used as a tool for healing traumas, for overcoming painful memories and for reconciliation between former enemies? How could history teaching function as part of a major project of peace education? Ultimately how efficient could such a project be in a region ‘suspicious’ of nationalism?” As part of the workshop, the Joint History project was used as an example of alternative education material produced and disseminated in 13 countries across Southeast Europe; a concrete manifestation that high quality historical research and multi-perspective history teaching can act as a shield against deep-rooted animosities, stereotypes and blind nationalism.

The event was organised by the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies at Princeton University, where Professor Koulouri currently serves as a Visiting Research Fellow. Historian Professor David Bell, Director of the Center for Collaborative History joined Professor Koulouri on the panel.

On October 11, 2017 Prof. Koulouri gave a second lecture entitled “Teaching History in Post-Conflict Society: The Case of the Balkans”. In her speech, Prof. Koulouri elaborated on the importance of creating alternative educational material in post-communist Balkans and especially in the states which emerged after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. By introducing the Joint History Project as a significant contribution in the reform of history education in the region, Prof. Koulouri explained how educational reform functions as a precondition for democratization and a long-term policy of conflict prevention. In a region ‘suspicious’ of nationalism, the revision of history teaching is also embodied in the reconciliation process and has been promoted through bilateral, multilateral/regional and international projects. The underlying assumption behind this activity was that a change in the teaching methods of history might have a long-term effect on the way neighbouring people see one another. On the other hand, contesting memories – a global phenomenon of the last decades- generated fierce disputes and even violent confrontations related to the traumatic historical experiences of the recent past. The victims have claimed the ‘duty to remember’ as part of their identity, also aiming at a moral recompense via history.

The lecture, which was met with great success, was also attended by fellow historian and Chair of the JHP Academic Committee Prof. Maria Todorova as well as a number of academics from the Balkans. The event took place at the Linguistics Department of the University of Illinois and was co-sponsored by the European Union Center, the Program in Modern Greek Studies and the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation.