Assistant Minister of Education opens ePACT workshop in Belgrade

Belgrade, 31 March - 1 April 2017: The opening speech of Mr Aleksandar Pajić, Assistant Minister of Education in Serbia, strongly confirmed the excellent cooperation between the Ministries of Education in the six target countries within which the ePACT project is implemented and the two operating organisations - CDRSEE and Euroclio. Ms Kovac, Executive Director of CDRSEE, also highlighted that cooperation between the state authorities and the civil society organisations can benefit society as a whole more effectively than when they operate separately. Additionally, in her opening remarks, Ms Biljana Stojanovic, Head of Group for Planning and Programming Projects from the Ministry of Education mentioned the importance of such workshops for the improvement of the teachers skills and their training on new methodologies.

The 21 educators that participated in the training were comprised of teachers of elementary and secondary schools of both natural and social sciences, as well as school directors and inspectors. The team of trainers that participated in the two full-day Teaching for Learning workshop were Ms Stojanovic, Ms Jasminka Marković from the Center for Educational Policy and Ms Levkov - one of the Ministry’s most experienced trainers.  At the end of the workshops a positive feedback was received and some participants expressed their desire for follow-up trainings of the same high standard as this workshop.


The CDRSEE at the EIB in Luxembourg – Countering Extremism

At a seminar organised for the CDRSEE in Luxembourg by the European Investment Bank (EIB) together with the EIB Institute on 23 March 2017, our Executive Director Zvezdana Kovac raised the problems the Western Balkans faces once again and how it needs the EU now more than ever to counter extremism and deal with the refugee problem.

The presentation of the CDRSEE’s projects – out of the ordinary for an EIB audience of 70 people used to seminars of a more financial and economic nature -  triggered much enthusiasm and interest on how promoting tolerance and discussion in Southeast Europe can ease tensions and counter extremism.


Two ePACT trainings conducted, and more to come!

Positive feedback has been received by both the participants and trainers of the two workshops organised under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in Kosovo. After successfully completing two trainings in Montenegro in December 2016 - ePACT, a project co-organised by the CDRSEE and Euroclio with the support of the Austrian Development Agency, implemented another two 'Teaching for Learning' workshops in Kosovo.

The trainers, Ms Igballe Cakaj, Head of the Ministry’s Division for Teachers Professional Development and Mr Milazim Avdylaj, teacher and accredited trainer were impressed by the materials and the new methodologies and informed us that they were also well received by the trainees. Additionally, according to the participants, the student-centered approach of the method and its basis of educating democratic principles - fits perfectly with the new revised curricula introduced earlier this year in Kosovo and facilitates the transition phase from the old to the new reformed system. Moreover, as the two groups participating in the workshops were comprised of natural science teachers, Ms Cakaj expressed her desire to conduct more trainings with social science teachers in Autumn, if possible.

The first workshop took place on 10-11/03/2017 with 24 teachers and 4 school directors participating and the second one on 12-13/03/2017 at which 23 educators participated.

The next stop for ePACT workshops will be in Belgrade on 31/03 – 01/04 and followed by another workshop in Nis 03-04/04.


Exploring Communities in Greece

Making up over 56% of the total migrant population, the Albanian community is the single largest group of migrants in Greece, and one that has experienced both struggles and solidarity in settling and integrating in the country.

The project ‘Communities in Greece’ is a research initiative, carried out by the CDRSEE and a team of academics and researchers from Athens and Thessaloniki. The aims were to document and highlight the experiences of the Albanian community in Greece, with a view to finding practical ways to ameliorate the problems they face and also to share best practice and celebrate successes. 

Presented to the public of Thessaloniki on February 7, 2017 the research was outlined by the authors and the event was moderated by the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the CDRSEE, Mr Nikos Efhtymiadis.  Attending the event were a number of the research participants as well as the Consuls of Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The overall findings of the research reveal that while progress has been made over the past two decades in terms of acceptance and integration of Albanians in Greece, there are still obstacles to full social, legal, economic and political participation for many, including those who have been living in the country for 3 decades and those who are second generation.  The obstacles most frequently noted by the respondents are the following: legalisation, acquisition of citizenship by first and second generation immigrants and the assertion of social and welfare rights.

The event included a lively exploration of not only the research, but also the issues surrounding migration. Immigration is often regarded as a problem in Greece whereby foreigners are viewed as ‘the others’, instead of as people with common traits, Mr. Efthymiadis pointed out.  Dr Manos added that one of their findings identified that immigration is perceived in a negative manner in countries where there is a very high level of national homogeneity in terms of language, ethnicity and religion leading it to being viewed as ‘damaging’ to the identity of the nation. This perception is greatly heightened during a financial crisis. The discussion between the panel and those actively participating ended with the general conclusion that immigration is not a ‘problem’ but a phenomenon.

The research was an opportunity for Albanian immigrants to describe in their own words, their experience, perceptions and general opinion on life in Greece, immigration and identity. The aim of the research itself was to document the complex issues of integration from the points of view of the Albanian and Greek community and to identify areas that were in need of improvement. The innovative style of this pioneering research focused on enabling subject voices to be ‘heard’ and its findings disseminated to decision-makers, state and municipal civil service personnel and community organisations in order to improve integration.

The project was funded by Foundation Open Society Institute in cooperation with the OSIFE of the Open Society Foundations.  The research team was led by Dr Ioannis Manos (Assistant Professor in Social Anthropology Department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki) and was composed of Dr Dora Papadopoulou (Social Researcher, PhD in Sociology); Ms Vassiliki Makrygianni (Researcher, PhD Candidate in Architecture (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki)); and Mr Konstantinos Kolovos Social Researcher, Anthropologist.

The report on the research findings is available for download in Greek (, and in English and Albanian will be available by the end of the month.


Joint History Project - a good investment for EU funds in education

2017 kicked-off with another two regional launches of the new JHP workbooks in Zagreb on 17 January and in Sarajevo on 19 January.

With an audience consisting of members of the Diplomatic Core, International Organisations, CSOs, NGOs and history teachers, the two new JHP volumes were presented in Sarajevo. After introducing the books as a tool for students to sharpen their critical thinking skills thereby preparing them to become future active citizens who use dialogue in order to avoid future conflicts, Ms Zvezdana Kovac, Executive Director of CDRSEE gave the floor to panelists who began a fruitful discussion: “History should not be in the hands of politicians and teachers should be supported given their difficult task of teaching the recent past in a balanced and fair way”, said Ms Mirella Rašić, Head of the team for Political reporting and Policy Analysis from the European Commission Representation in Croatia. Mr Hannes Swoboda, Chair of the Board of Directors of CDRSEE, highlighted the importance of the workbooks in promoting dialogue on this period, while Prof. Neven Budak, University of Zagreb, Member of the History Education Committee of the CDRSEE and co-editor of the new JHP Workbooks, characterized the project as a peace initiative that doesn’t aim to relativize history but to promote critical thinking among students and the general public. Mr Krešimir Erdelja, Secretary of the Croatian Association of History Teachers – HUNP, spoke of the beneficial cooperation between the HUNP and the CDRSEE that made it possible for eight workshops to be implemented in Croatia and a regional conference to be organized in Vukovar.

At a symbolic venue - the History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo - the launch of the new workbooks took place in a room packed with journalists, members of many international and civil society organizations, diplomats and teachers. Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, Head of the EU Delegation to BiH and EU Special Representative, reminded the audience that the people of the region have much more in common than they believe and that all stakeholders should provide more support for the next stage of the project, in particular, support for the translations of the workbooks into the local languages and support for the training of teachers. Dr Katz, Senior Research Fellow in the Institute for History University of Sarajevo and Source Committee Member, praised the team spirit that prevailed among those who produced the books and stressed its importance in overcoming difficulties. Mr Ibričić, History Teacher and Source Contributor, highlighted the importance of the regional JHP workshops organized by the CDRSEE given how they improve the skills of teachers and provides them with the opportunity to interact with counterparts from other countries in the region. Mr Tuzlić, Journalist and Coordinator for Joint History Project in BiH, expressed his appreciation of being a member of the JHP since its inception and urged all stakeholders to support the project given its potential in making a difference for future generations in Bosnia and throughout Southeast Europe. Lastly Ms Kovac, after providing a brief background on the JHP, expressed the importance of the Ministry of Education’s support and cooperation and how these are both indispensable for the running of the project.



Hrvoje Klasic recognised for improving Croatian Serbian relations

Starting our new year with some good news, the CDRSEE wishes to congratulate Croatian historian Hrvoje Klasić, member of the JHP source committee, on being the recipient of the ’Svetozar Pribicevic’ award for the improvement of Croatian-Serbian relations.

The award was given during the annual Christmas reception of  the Serb National Council, a body acting as a self-governing authority for  Serbs in the Republic of Croatia concerning the issues of their identity, civil and national rights.

During the reception speech Mr Klasić addressed the participants and said:

"In my hometown Sisak, as well as in Zagreb and Belgrade, I did not have Croat or Serb friends, but just friends. I have always succeeded in that. I'm glad that my friends from the SNC recognised these efforts, but for me it is more important to include in this quest as many people as possible. I am an historian, history cannot be changed, but we can learn and prevent the inhuman from repeating itself and recognise what is human. There were times we need to be ashamed of, during which inhumanity won, but there were many more times where we behaved like humans. I took two Bibles, one in Cyrillic and one in Latinic. I found neither the term ‘Croat’ nor  ‘Serb’ in either one, but I came across the term 'man'. I would be pleased if all Christians took in hand the Bible and began to read it with understanding”.


Priority given by stakeholders in Podgorica and Belgrade for the translation of the new JHP workbooks into local languages

Two Regional Launches of the new JHP Workbooks were held in Podgorica on 8 December, 2016 and in Belgrade on 20 December, 2016. Both were held in the respective Ministries of Education with representatives from the diplomatic core, international organisations, history teachers associations and other NGOs and CSOs participating in each of them. The panelists all agreed that the main aim of teaching history in schools should be to promote democracy, foster dialogue, and in so doing - overcome conflicts and promote peace. With the new JHP workbooks and its multiperspective teaching methodology which helps develop critical and analytical skills, students should be able to select and assess information they receive and, therefore, no longer be the victims of political and ideological manipulation.

In Podgorica, the panel consisted of Mr Radovan Popović, Director - Ministry of Education, Mr Emile Mabita, Head of Financial and Contract Section of the EU Delegation in Montenegro, Mr Dragutin Papović, Historian and member of the History Educational Committee and Mr Rade Vujović, President of the Montenegrin History Teachers' Association. In Belgrade, keynote speakers were Mr Mladen Šarčević, Minister for Education, Science and Technological Development, H.E. Ambassador Michael Davenport, Head of EU Delegation in Serbia, Prof. Dubravka Stojanović, Vice President of the History Education Committee and Mr Aleksandar Todosijević, President of the Association for Social History – EUROCLIO. As in the previous launch events, Ms Kovač was the moderator of the panel.

As the books are currently only produced in English, all stakeholders expressed the importance of translating the books into local languages - the next logical step in the project - so that teachers can be trained in the new teaching methodology and materials and given the opportunity to use them in classrooms.


The Okruženje’s show ‘Balkan states’ European Dreams’ and promotional event resonate loudly throughout the region

Belgrade, 14 December 2016:  The recording of the last show of the fifth season of ‘Okruženje/Vicinities’ enjoyed unprecedented publicity and media coverage. The special episode entitled ‘Balkan states’ European Dreams’, which concluded the fifth season of Okruženje, featured the former president of Yugoslavia and Croatia, Stjepan Mesić, former Prime Minister of Montenegro Milo Djukanović, the Chairman of the CDRSEE, Hannes Swoboda and Executive Director of the European Fund for the Balkans, Hedvig Morvai.

Okruženje wrapped up its 5th season with a look at the EU and the European aspirations of the Balkan states. In the show, the guests discussed the future of the European Union; whether in the following years the crisis within the bloc will deepen, how can Europe restore its unity and vitality and whether the countries of Southeast Europe are tired of Brussels’ ‘enlargement fatigue’.

The live recording was open to the public and journalists and the positions taken by the participants of the shows were ’prominent’ news items on almost all the media in the region. The media attention has exceeded our own record (which was also a Southeast European record)  when in the final episode of the 4th season of Okruženje for the first time ever, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama came together in the same studio.

Before the live recording of the show, the promotional event which celebrated five successful seasons of ‘Okruženje/Vicinities’, (the recent recipient of the Jury Award in the ‘Media Initiative of the Year’ category at the European Citizenship Awards 2016), took place.

The path undertaken by Okruženje so far was presented in front numerous guests who were able to see how Okruženje developed and took shape over five years of broadcasting from an initial limited production to today’s high-value broadcast, from a few broadcasters to the current 11 public and commercial television broadcast today, from the regional Okruženje to the Vicinities Europe up until the award for media initiative of the year at the ’European Citizenship Awards’.

Participating in the promotional event, were Mr Axel Dittmann (Ambassador of Germany to Serbia), Mr Hannes Swoboda (CDRSEE Chairman), Ms Hedvig Morvai (Executive Director of the European Fund for the Balkans), Ms Zvezdana Kovač (Executive Director of the CDRSEE) and Mr Vladimir Šestović from the European Civic Forum.

Hannes Swoboda, said he was looking forward to the new episodes of Okruženje and hoped that in future we would be able to say that the concept of Okruženje was a good way to bring the region closer to the European Union.

For Hedvig Morvai, Executive Director of the European Fund for the Balkans, which has been supporting Okruženje for the past five years, this project is a real civil society initiative which was able to open the large doors of the media, to step through that door and establish itself in the region and beyond as something truly valuable because, as she pointed out, the quality always finds its way.

The German Ambassador to Serbia, Axel Dittmann said he would be happy to continue supporting Vicinities, as he considers it an excellent format where people discuss  all issues, not with the intention of convincing each other of their point of view but to examine and understand different perspectives, in order to reach a compromise. "Regional cooperation is not something based solely on the efforts of governments and international institutions, but it is vital that people talk to each other, and that there are exchanges between civil societies, which is of crucial importance," said Dittmann.

The promotional event was also attended by Vladimir Šestović, member of the jury for the ’European Citizenship Awards’, who pointed out that many members of the jury outside the region voted for Okruženje and that this initiative contributes to mutual understanding through dialogue, and that such programmes are necessary not only here, but also throughout Europe.