First successful step for setting up the public-private partnership ePACT

The kick off meeting, on 9-11 June in Vienna brought together 12 policy makers, 27 members of civil society, 3 members of Academia and 2 participants from intergovernmental organisations working in the Western Balkans to establish a public-private partnership for the development of history education and innovative pedagogical methodologies. Members of the Special Working Groups met for the first time to set an Agenda for cooperation activities planned for the next three years within the ePACT project.

It was agreed that ‘development of education’, was a much more appropriate wording than ‘reform’ taking into account that the project wants to build on existing best practice and complement approaches that can address remaining gaps.

The meeting was organised into two specialist working groups. A regional working group that will focus on strengthening the implementation of learner centered teaching/learning approaches that, despite endorsed by all countries on the policy level, still can rarely been identified in classrooms of the region. And the second group that will focus exclusively on history education and conduct a wide-ranging needs assessment that will shed light and increase understanding on areas and ways of making history teaching more relevant and constructive.

The meeting started with a key note address by Prof. Andreas Demetriou from Cyprus on “Learning how to think, learn, and reason“, about how intelligence is measured and how it can be nurtured in primary and secondary schools. An expert panel, comprised of Janet Looney from the Institute of Education and Social Policy and John Hamer from the Council of Europe gave an overview of the wider international context before the working groups started with discussions in their specific areas.

As a result of the meeting, a Partnership Memorandum will be crafted between participants, which will outline details of the public-private partnership and set common agendas. A common area on “Basecamp” a platform that enables cost-efficient and effective online cooperation has been opened. Materials, ideas and experiences can be shared and close cooperation can take place virtually on a daily basis via chats and other communication tools.

The next steps are a preparatory meeting in Montenegro for the Needs Assessment and the planning of accredited Pilot Seminars for building capacities amongst school directors, inspectors and curriculum designers for a more committed implementation of learner centered teaching/learning approaches in schools.


First cycle of Okruzenje shootings has been completed

The first six episodes of the fifth season of Okruzenje, CDRSEE’s current affairs talk show, were shot at the beginning of June in Belgrade. More than twenty eminent experts from different fields discussed issues of common interest for the region. The topics of the first six episodes were: “Is terrorism a threat to the Balkans and how to fight against it”, “Bilateral disputes”, “(Dis) trust towards neighbors”, “Why there are fewer and fewer of us (white plague)”, “Debt slavery (over-indebtedness of countries and citizens)” and “Tabloidization of public life”. In addition to the guests, our satirists Enver Kazaz, Balsa Brkovic and Voja Žanetić, as well as the alumni of the European Fund for the Balkans, expressed their opinions on each on the aforementioned topics.

The fifth season of Okruzenje will be aired in October.


Serbia and Albania - A step towards a European Future

“Despite animosity, unresolved issues, prejudice and stereotypes, the cooperation of the two countries is possible” Ms Kovac said, attracting the spotlight at the conference ‘Serbia and Albania - Towards a European Future’.

The conference, hosted by the European Movement Serbia, in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, was a great opportunity for participants to discuss issues concerning  Serb-Albanian relations.

The Executive Director of the Albanian Institute for International Studies Tirana, Mr Albert Rakipi,  commented that “there is no issue between 2 countries that needs third-party mediation”. Mr  Gazmend Turdiu, Deputy Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council Sarajevo, said, “What had caused the relations of the two countries to falter, was the inability to agree to disagree”.

The representatives of  National Youth Council of Serbia, the National Youth Congress Albania and Youth Forum of the European Movement in Serbia discussed and agreed on the need to meet each other and exchange experiences. 

The lack of knowing each other and the lack of opportunities for more intensive contact and for working together seem to be the main obstacles standing in the way of normal and fruitful relations between the two countries. The process of cooperation and mutual understanding and support between the two countries is developing and the outcome will have strategic importance for the European integration of  the  Western  Balkans.

Here you can find the media coverage of the conference.


Towards the Western Balkans Paris Summit in July 2016

The Civil Society Forum held in Vienna in August 2015 as part of the Western Balkans Summit was the framework for Civil Society representatives to assemble and engage in dialogue with political decision makers.

Heading towards the Western Balkans Paris Summit in July 2016, the European Fund for the Balkans and ERSTE Stiftung hosted the Civil Society Forum in Belgrade on May 11-13. The CDRSEE’s Executive Director participated and shared the CDRSEE’s experience, contributing to the conclusion of this conference which will be compiled into a set of messages to be communicated at the Western Balkans Paris Summit.

Civil society organisations gathered with the intention of strengthening their visibility and impact, discussing issues such as youth cooperation, the migration crisis, environment/climate change agenda and bilateral disputes in the region.

Read the conclusions (pdf document, 90 kb)


Serbian Education Minister says JHP books are an example for history textbooks

CDRSEE Executive Director Zvezdana Kovač took part in an influential conference on the role of education in preventing conflict, one of the foundations of the CDRSEE, as part of the 20th anniversary commemoration of the OSCE's The Hague Recommendations Regarding the Education Rights of National Minorities.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) organised in The Hague a two-day event on April 20-21, which opened with introductory words by Ms Astrid Thors, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, as well as OSCE's Special Representative, Mr. Gernot Erler.

As the aim of the conference was to emphasize the role of education in preventing conflict, the event brought together government representatives, teachers, education professionals and non-governmental actors amongst them. Ms Kovač was an active participant, as the CDRSEE has played a major role in this area with its Joint History Project history education programme, and it continues to expand. She discussed the Joint History Project, and the Serbian Minister of Education, Mr Srđan Verbić, praised the JHP workbooks. He said, "We all should follow this example and start working on joint textbooks!" This was a great honour for the CDRSEE. In fact, the JHP was praised by everyone at the conference as innovative educational material.

Ms Thors highlighted the importance of avoiding repetition, as the European history has been marked by conflicts in the past. She talked on the important role of education in preventing conflict and on the promotion and management of diversity, how state education budgets are more retroactive than proactive and how education is often forgotten in peace agreements. With that in mind, she discussed ways that education should be added to mediation processes.

Mr Erler spoke of national minorities and the ongoing need to build bridges. He mentioned Germany and Finland as examples, after conflicts in recent decades.

On the second and final day, Ms Inga Niehaus, Research Coordinator of the Georg Eckert Institute, said that even where there is a multi-perspective approach built into curricula, but textbooks don't reflect that (or vice versa at time). She
also recommended that the heritage of Islam in Europe should be given more attention, as the textbooks tend to emphasise incompatibility with Islam.


CDRSEE in Madrid to participate in the YouthCAN Initiative

Extremist narratives and counter-extremism activism in the Mediterranean region were among some of the topics raised in the Regional Youth Innovation Lab that took place in Madrid on the 17th of March. CDRSEE Project Coordinator Michaela Zervidou and Project Assistant Sofia Avgitidou were also there to contribute and discuss ways of countering violent extremism and hate speech. Together with more than 30 activists and creative professionals from France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, the experience proved to be both interesting and fruitful.

The meeting, organised by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, was held in Facebook’s Headquarters in Spain and provided a forum for participants to cooperate, share ideas and construct a basis for exciting new projects and future collaborations. Participants also had the chance to discuss with representatives of Facebook and learn more about how Social Media Platforms can be used to support a campaign. After the first sessions on alternative activism and proactive solutions to countering violent extremism, participants worked in groups and started to build their own counter-narrative campaigns from scratch and also shared their plans on how these new initiatives will move forward to action. Our team came up with the campaign “Meet your neighbours” and we are looking forward to its implementation. Stay tuned!


CDRSEE launches migrant community integration research project

Honoured and proud, the CDRSEE officially launched its new research project on integration of minorities on March 15, called “Communities in Greece”.

The project which is being funded by the Open Society Initiative in Europe, will contribute to a better understanding of the integration policies implemented by the state and the local authorities in the case of the Albanian community in Greece.

The research will be conducted by a team including prominent academia members and researchers who will explore previous policies regarding this particular community in relation to the health, education and labor sectors, but will also suggest new and more effective policies on both state and local level.

By contacting both the Albanian and Greek communities, the CDRSEE will have the opportunity to conduct a survey and understand various opinions, as well as the interaction and the role of each of the communities in relation to their coexistence.

With this project we aim to enhance the possibilities for participation of the immigrant communities in Greece. Also, through the findings of our final report, which will be published on the CDRSEE website we will strive to suggest innovative and substantive ideas for future integration policies around the Europe.


Regional Conference in Podgorica, 26-28 February 2016: History Educators welcome the new Teaching Materials covering Southeast European history 1944-2008.

During the two-day conference, organised by the CDRSEE in partnership with HIPMONT- the Association of Montenegrin history teachers-participants from across the region separated into groups and discussed 10 draft chapters of the new workbooks. Topics included amongst others “The Disintegration of Yugoslavia, Economy, Culture, Times of Crisis and Migration”.  Each group offered suggestions and presented how they would teach their topic using the source material offered by the new JHP volumes and a fruitful exchange of opinions followed. The first session focused on the Teaching of the Cold War, and the second on the Transition in Southeast Europe. Finally the participants were the first to see and review the final drafts of the new JHP volumes, which cover the sensitive recent history, from 1944 to 2008.

Zvezdana Kovač, the Executive Director of the CDRSEE, explained in her welcome speech, that the JHP stays committed to empowering the critical-thinking capabilities of students, as opposed to offering them pre-made conclusions on the history. The two new volumes are important for peace building and unique in that so far, no compilation of source material has been published that offers a regional perspective on the sensitive time period at stake.

The conference was attended by representatives of the ministries of education of 6 countries of the region. The CDRSEE is grateful to all of those present for their constructive participation, support and contribution. The long term partnerships established within the Joint History Project, have already helped to turn history teaching into a means for raising empathy and facilitating the reconciliation process in the region.