It is not by accident that the second Western Balkans Summit of the Berlin Process (this year held in Vienna) highlighted the importance of Civil Society. With the exception of Slovenia and Croatia, which are both EU members, all other countries are queuing up in EU’s courtyard. Democratic processes, unemployment, regional cooperation, freedom of speech and media freedom are only a few of umpteen areas that have to be improved and brought to the level that can guarantee genuine peace and the coveted EU membership. On their journey to the desired destination, Western Balkans countries have been passing through some very discouraging, and yet others quite encouraging, paths.
The August summit was clearly one that brought back hope, despite the fact that there will be no new EU member states at least until 2020. Hope, however, should not be the only ally on the accession journey. The Summit, bringing the Western Balkans into the focus of EU attention, may not have been enough, since there is still no concrete framework as to how the enlargement process will continue. Let me recall a famous poet’s verse and question his claim that it is “the journey, not the destination that counts”. It would appear to me that the Western Balkans countries lack the allure in their journey, and even doubt whether their destination will ever be reachable. Or do they doubt their own capability to get “that far”? Can Civil Society be the key that opens the door? Not only and not necessarily to EU membership sooner rather than later, but to stable democracy and true reconciliation?
What is sure is that the CDRSEE’s projects and all the efforts of its team are aimed directly at the destination of genuine peace.
We strongly believe that Civil Society is able to approach local governments, gain their support and encourage them to do what they don’t dare to do on their own. With the support of most of the Western Balkans countries' governments, we are about to complete the first draft of the second set of Joint History Project (JHP) books, which address the Cold War and Wars of the 1990s. As the memories of the devastating wars in the geographical heart of Europe are still fresh, and peace in the Western Balkans still fragile, these two new volumes will attract significant attention, and we are certain that our team, consisting of the most respected historians from the region, will not fall short of the high expectations. The books will firstly serve the science of history and thus will help as a genuine reconciliation tool. Facing the truth and admitting the crimes committed are prerequisites for every reconciliation process, and still missing in the region.
While the JHP is our flagship project, right next to it is our TV project "Okruzenje" ("Vicinities" in English), which after its third season inspired our team to embark on a pan-European version called “Vicinities Europe”. In the following newsletter, you can find more about the development and progress of our projects. As the head of the wonderful CDRSEE team, I am proud to say that our organisation is playing a most important role in, I dare to say, the fields that are crucial to genuine democracy and reconciliation: education and media. Case in point, bringing together in Okruzenje’s studio the Prime Ministers of two countries with no record of collaboration for more than half a century-- which as far as we know, happened for the first time in TV history -- makes us believe that the power of Civil Society, which for some reason has been neglected, must be “set free”.