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.  


A new synergy is born between the CDRSEE and EUROCLIO

A kick-off meeting of the CDRSEE and EUROCLIO project “ePACT - Education Partnership for Advocacy, Capacity-Building and Transformation” took place in The Hague on 18-19 February, sealing our cooperation and the creation of our common project.

CDRSEE Executive Director, Zvezdana Kovac, Programme Adviser, Antonis Hadjiyannakis and Project Adviser, Corinna Noack-Aetopulos met with EUROCLIO Director Jonathan Even-Zohar, Project Manager Judith Geerling and Project Assistant Romana Sijakovic to discuss the new project and contribute to its implementation through a fruitful dialogue.

Both the CDRSEE and EUROCLIO will tap their experience in ground-breaking educational programmes that fulfill the need for new approaches in history education.  In collaboration with our partners, civil society and educators, two different groups will be created, one focused on innovative didactics and the other on history education. More information and news is on the way, so stay tuned and do not miss our updates!

The project will be implemented with the financial support of the Austrian Development Cooperation as part of the initiative “NETUCATE-Networked education creating a skills web for participation and sensitivity.”



Station Networking meeting of the Editors in chief and TV partners of "Okruzenje"

Thessaloniki, 29 January 2016 – The Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe and the European Fund for the Balkans organised the Station Networking meeting of the Editors in chief and TV partners of the current affairs talk show "Okruzenje".

The editors reviewed the activities of the past season and discussed on the next steps of Okruzenje Season 5.

Building on the successful fourth season, the TV editors from the ten stations which broadcast “Okruzenje”, brought new ideas for expanding the visibility of the shows and pledged their commitment to not only maintaining the quality of the shows, but also improving it. The feedback from the viewers has been consistently very positive and thus the editors are dedicated to expanding the range of topics and viewer interest

The Editor in chief of Okruzenje and Executive Director of the CDRSEE, Zvezdana Kovac, hosted the meeting. She was joined by Branka Panic, Programme Manager of the European Fund for the Balkans, a partner of the Okruzenje project.

Season V of Okruzenje is again supported by the EFB as well as the German Federal Foreign Office.



24th Board Meeting and traditional pita cutting

Thessaloniki, 24 January 2016 - The 24th meeting of the Board of Directors of the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation convened in Thessaloniki this weekend, to discuss the migrant and refugee crisis and what the Center can do to help with integration of the refugees.

The Executive Committee as well nearly all the Board members were present, active and willing to discuss in depth the current activities of the Center and possibilities for future projects, tapping the CDRSEE’s experience and tools that could contribute to improving lives and conditions for all involved.

After the meeting, the CDRSEE held an annual traditional Greek pita cutting, in honour of our host country. Mr Nikos Efthymiadis, a member of the Executive Committee, found the lucky coin, which promises luck and prosperity for the new year.

Our best wishes for a prosperous year!