Uniting Differences project wraps up, participants look to the future

Roma Community members, pre-school teachers and local authorities, NGOs, CSOs, local trainers and international experts are preparing to gather in Sveti Martin na Muri, Croatia, for a final evaluation of the CDRSEE's "Uniting Differences" project, aimed at helping keep Roma children from dropping out of school.

The event will include an assessment roundtable and press conference about the project, including many of the principal leaders. It will be held on Wednesday 20 May 2015, in Sveti Martin na Muri, located in Medjimurje County, Croatia.

After 21 months of work, including training sessions with 45 pre-school teachers in Medjimurje County, the pilot project is wrapping up. CDRSEE, along with its partners, the Center for Peace, Legal Advice and Psychosocial Assistance in Vukovar and the Preschool Teachers Association in Medjimurje “Krijesnice udruga odgajatelja” will present the evaluation. The participants will discuss the success and multiplier potential of the pilot teacher training workshops, best advocacy and monitoring methods, as well as good practices.

The future situation of the Roma community, sustainable methods of cooperation, policy recommendations on teaching methodologies for disadvantaged groups, and plans for future collaboration by school representatives will be some of the other issues on the agenda.

Every end is a new beginning; the CDRSEE believes that with this inspiring project, doors have opened for Roma children in Medjimurje County, and we remain committed to building on this pilot project to work for equal access to education for all children.


CDRSEE launches new Europe-wide TV current affairs show

The CDRSEE is launching a new TV current affairs talk show, "Vicinities Europe", which leverages the impact and experience of the very successful "Okruzenje" ("Vicinities") project but focuses on Europe as a whole.

The idea came from the presentation of the Balkans-focused Okruzenje to the European Parliament. Impressed by the talk show series, various Members of the European Parliament pointed out that Europe would benefit from a show like Okruzenje, which brings together diverse guests from different countries to talk about important topics.

The ERSTE Foundation has agreed to support the production of two pilot programmes, to be filmed in September 2015. The pilot shows will be broadcast on television stations and the Internet, and are expected to help secure funding for full seasons.

The Vicinities Europe pilot shows will bring together influential and opinionated guests from at least four countries of Europe to discuss in front of a live audience of alumni of the programmes of European Alternatives, a partner in the project. European Alternatives has a vast network of young people who are well versed in many subjects and have first-hand experience in Europe.


Editors review the first selection of sources for two new history workbooks 1945-2008

Athens, 14-15 April 2015 — A first selection of historical documents for the two new Joint History Project volumes was made last week in Athens.  Invited by series editor Prof. Christina Koulouri, the three co-editors, Prof. Neven Budak (Zagreb), Prof. Bozo Repe (Ljubiljana) and Prof. Alexei Kalionski (Sofia), as well as the editorial consultant Prof. Dubravka Stojanovic (Belgrade), reviewed historical sources that were put forward by 23 historians from across Southeast Europe.

Selected sources will now be refined and re-discussed with all contributing historians and consultants. The second selection process is scheduled for June 2015, and the final publication of books is planned for May 2016.

Two new volumes, which will cover the period from 1945-2008, will be the latest addition to the successful series “Teaching Modern Southeast European”, a collection of historical sources from the Ottoman Empire to the Second World War.

The ambitious aim of the project is to portray the shared history of the region, with both controversial and common features, and provide two new high-quality source books that are widely accepted amongst the people of Southeast Europe.  

Before publication, the books will undergo several evaluation processes by historians and teachers of the region, which together with the Ministries of Education of the region form the strong team that has embarked on this challenging endeavor.


History teachers gather in Bujanovac and discuss recent sensitive past

March 27-29, 2015, Bujanovac —Thirty-five history teachers from the Western Balkans and beyond gathered in Bujanovac, Serbia, to compare and discuss how the history past 1945 is taught in their classrooms and to visit historical sites together and share experiences of their own.  

The weekend was the third of three Joint History Project seminars that not only challenged history teaching and brought together teachers at sites of historical importance, but also allowed teachers to provide input for the two upcoming JHP workbooks, which will address history of the Cold War and during the Wars of the 1990s. 

The teachers were from Athens, Sofia, Skopje, Tetovo, Kumanovo, Istanbul, Bujanovac, Vranje, Presevo, Subotica, Nis, Jagodina, Valjevo, Belgrade, Leskovac, Zagreb and Ljubiljana. The meeting was opened by Biljana Stojanovic from the Ministry of Education of Serbia, who welcomed participants warmly in the Dom Kulture, which also hosts the first tri-lingual faculty and which is an encouraging example of successful inter-community, inter-institutional and cross-border cooperation to the benefit of Southeast European youth.

As in the previous JHP series seminars in Mostar and Vukovar, where teachers from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Romania worked in multi-ethnic groups, the seminar in Bujanovac provided important information for the second phase of the CDRSEE's JHP.
On the second day, participants visited the Monastery of Prohor Pcinjski, which since its foundation in the 11th century repeatedly played an important role in conflicts of the region.

It was a weekend of connecting across borders, discovering similar as well as competing pieces of contemporary national history teaching. Teachers who attended the seminar put in challenging days, and in the evening enjoyed singing songs that are a common heritage in all involved countries.  

The JHP materials in development will extend CDRSEE's proven tool for reconciliation to the sensitive recent history of Southeast Europe. Many teachers said this kind of seminar allows them to broaden their perspective, offer unique insights into the work of their peers across borders and allow of more cross-border contacts to grow.

The seminar was the final event in a series of three. The next event for history teachers of the region will be organised in early 2016 in Montenegro, for evaluating the draft versions of the two new Joint History Project’s volumes.

Updates and communication can be viewed on the Facebook page of the Joint History Project’s community


ACT students debate and create CDRSEE visibility plan

March 2015 -- A group of students from the American College of Thessaloniki - ACT- brainstormed and worked together to come up with several unique plans to raise the visibility of the CDRSEE, as part of an ACT extra-curricular activity for students from a variety of majors who are interested in NGOs.

The CDRSEE took part in the case-study activity as part of its own marketing plan. The Center staff appreciated the youthful ideas, and was also happy to share their projects and goals in hopes of inspiring the students to work for democracy and human rights in any part of the world.

Three CDRSEE staff members and 20 ACT students came together for five hours to tackle the issue of CDRSEE's visibility in Thessaloniki.  In the past, the CDRSEE has maintained a low profile locally, while working and becoming well known abroad for its education and media projects. The goal is to play a more important role in the local community as well.

After a brief presentation about the organization and its ongoing projects, there was a lively discussion and analysis of the actual problem. The students were then divided in six groups and debated ideas and solutions.

They engaged in active dialogue -- a key to the CDRSEE's projects and programmes -- and came up with various inspiring ideas for raising the Center's visibility.

Finally, votes were placed and the three most-voted ideas were discussed further by the group as a whole and analysed as to how they could be practically implemented by the Center.

The case-study activity was an exciting opportunity to interact with students. The students were able to practice transforming abstract ideas into concrete actions, in a pleasant, encouraging atmosphere.

The American College of Thessaloniki (ACT) is the tertiary division of Anatolia College, an institution with a long and prestigious history that dates back to 1886.


Japanese newspaper cites JHP's work "on common understanding"

March 13, 2015 -- The major Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, based in Tokyo with a daily circulation of about 8 million, featured the CDRSEE and its Joint History Project in a recent series on history education around the world, citing "the goal to prevent the wounds from the past from becoming deeper and to work on common understanding".

The Asahi Shimbun correspondents visited the CDRSEE last month, speaking with Executive Director Zvezdana Kovac and Programmes Director Corinna Noack-Aetopulos about the project and its impact.

They went on to Kosovo, and spoke with educators who count on the JHP materials in their classrooms. JHP workbooks are in use in many schools in Kosovo and supported by the local Ministries of Education.

The reporters also visited a school in Bujanovac, where the teacher there uses the JHP books "with the goal to prevent the wounds from the past from becoming deeper and to work on common understanding", the newspaper said.

To read an English-language translation of the portion of the article that refers to the CDRSEE's work,please click here.



History teachers, together in Mostar, discuss conflictive past

March, Mostar -- Twenty-eight high school history teachers from across the Western Balkans came together in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, to discuss the conflictive past, as part of the CDRSEE's project to create multi-perspective teaching materials that cover the history of the region.

The meeting was an important step in the second phase of the CDRSEE's Joint History Project, which will provide workbooks for teaching the history after the Second World War and during the Wars of the 1990s.

The teachers spent the weekend of March 6 to 8, 2015, in Mostar for a training seminar on the existing JHP alternative history education materials, which are used in schools across the region, but also to provide insights and suggestions for the upcoming workbooks.

The teachers and trainers, from Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo, Cyprus and Romania, worked in multi-ethnic groups to provide feedback and insights, and to make suggestions from personal experience for using the multi-perspective materials in the classroom. A representative of the Federal Ministry of Education of Bosnia and Herzegovina also took part in the seminar, as the Ministry is an associate in the project.

During the seminar, the participants went together to visit the Division Line between the Croat and Bosniak areas of the city, as well as many sites around Mostar. Participants had the opportunity to speak with the people of the city who were first-hand witnesses and lived through the Wars of the 1990s. It was a weekend of intense discussion, which touched upon a difficult past that is very fresh in the memories.

Participants from Albania and Romania shared their experiences during the Cold War, which will also be covered under the new teaching materials.

The teachers who attended the seminar said it was especially thought-provoking to discuss and compare with teachers from different countries, calling it a "unique" and "interesting" experience.

The JHP materials in development will extend CDRSEE's proven tool for reconciliation to the sensitive recent history of Southeast Europe. Many teachers said they enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to come together to compare history teaching in the different countries.

The seminar was the second in a series of three. The first took place in December 2014 in Vukovar, Croatia, and the final will take place on March 27-29, 2015, in Bujanovac, Serbia.



European TV association highlights "extraordiniary success" of Okruzenje

March, 2015 -- The Association of Commercial Television in Europe praised the CDRSEE's regional current affairs talk show "Okruzenje" ("Vicinities") for its "extraordinary success", featuring the show as an example of the positive impact that TV can have in the world.

For its monthly newsletter to members and politicians, ACT interviewed CDRSEE Executive Director and Okruzenje co-host Zvezdana Kovac about the show, the subjects discussed, and the impact it is having. 

"(I)n this edition we are changing the subject somewhat, to remind ourselves and our readers of the powerful positive impact of the medium of television by featuring the extraordinary success of the show ‘Okruzenje’, or ‘Vicinities’," ACT said in introducing the interview.

The show, about to launch its fourth season, is still exciting and meaningful for all those involved. "(A)lready the impact on reconciliation and cross-border communication in the region has been significant, in fact very exciting! People from the region are talking with one another. And that is the point -- to get people talking," Kovac told ACT.

The full article, "Vicinities: can a TV show build bridges across borders?", can be found at: