CDRSEE takes multiple roles in Vienna WB6 Summit

July 27, Vienna – The Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe will play multiple key roles in the Vienna Western Balkans Summit, known as the Vienna WB6 Summit, to be held on Aug. 25 to 27, 2015, to discuss ways to bring the EU Enlargement process to the forefront once again.

CDRSEE Executive Director Zvezdana Kovac is one of only three representatives of Civil Society Organisations taking part in the Summit, which will be attended by the heads of state of the countries of the Western Balkans, Germany, host-country Austria, and others, as well as by many high-ranking diplomats and Civil Society representatives.

The Summit will be preceded by the initial Civil Society portion of the Vienna WB6 Summit, which brings together leaders from many CSOs from across Southeast European countries to find and articulate ways that Civil Society must take part in the region's integration into the EU. The Civil Society event will result in proposals for the full Summit.  

This is the most important event of the year in regards to the Western Balkans and its aspirations for accession in the European Union. The first summit took place in 2014 in Berlin, and the Austrian government has organized the follow-up 2015 event. This year the event is even more dynamic, as Civil Society organizations play a bigger part in the summit and the plans, giving a closer connection to the citizens.

The Summit will wrap up with a special edition of the CDRSEE's current affairs talk show, "Okruzenje" ("Vicinities"). Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia, joined by Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council, Goran Svilanović, will discuss the "Union of Youth of the Western Balkans Initiative" that the two heads of state are spearheading to increase cooperation and raise quality of life in the region.



International round table discussion with think-tanks and VP of the EC Ms. Federica Mogherini

July 23, Sofia – Vice-President of the European Commission Ms. Federica Mogherini and 30 representatives from European and Western Balkans' institutions and civil society organisations came together in Sofia, Bulgaria, for an international roundtable to discuss EU Enlargement, with a dynamic discussion ensuing on migration, the EU spirit and maintaining positive cooperation with the Western Balkans. 

The EU in a changing global environment: What next for EU’s Neighbours” was the topic put forth for the roundtable in the framework of the EU’s Global Foreign Policy Strategy Review. Ms. Mogherini, who is also the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, also spoke about the state of the European Neighbourhood Policy.

There was a dynamic and inspiring exchange of opinions among Ms. Mogherini, representatives of European and Western Balkans’ institutions and the Civil Society organisation leaders. CDRSEE Executive Director Zvezdana Kovac took part in the conference.

Ms. Mogherini pointed out that there is still no financial framework, and concrete actions have yet to be implemented in relation to the Western Balkans and the Eastern Neighbourhood. Regarding the relationship between the European Union and the Western Balkan countries, she said that a continual working relationship must be established with EU keeping the enlargement process alive, while the WB countries for their part must have a more positive approach towards the enlargement procedure, convincing the EU that their intentions are honest. A change in mentality is needed in the Balkans countries, she said, as there is a lack of EU spirit.

The discussion turned to the migration crisis in the EU. Ms. Mogherini spoke about need for the EU to create new strategies on migration and help to the immigrants’ countries. The European Union must work on finding the causes before any consequences appear. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also highlighted the importance of respecting the emigrants as human beings and not considering them as burdens.

The conference ended with an equally interesting discussion on energy. “Beyond the pipeline knot: The future of energy sector in the wider Europe region” was the topic, and experts on energy policies talked about thinking about energy in terms of interconnectedness, and the goal of sharing overproduction on the basis of transparency, solidarity and trust.


Joint History Project editors meet again, make progress on sources and topics

Belgrade -- 6-8 July 2014 -- The key editors of the upcoming Joint History Project workbooks met for a second time to debate topics to be covered in the volumes addressing recent history, bringing to the table everything from the split of Yugoslavia to the emergence of the Facebook culture.

Prof. Christina Koulouri, Prof. Dubravka Stojanovic, Prof. Neven Budak, Prof. Bozo Repe and Prof. Alexei Kalionski, accompanied by the CDRSEE's Director of Programmes Corinna Noack-Aetopulos, made great progress in the Belgrade meeting, organizing and sourcing the two innovative workbooks, which are part of the second phase of the CDRSEE's Joint History Project.

Ideas covered a vast range and showed the various perspectives of the wars of the 1990s, the Cold War, the Cyprus crisis and many other sensitive topics.  In addition, experiences with transition and lifestyle topics such as new technologies, the Youth Culture, the emergence of smart phones, and the importance of social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are under consideration.

The Joint History Project is the CDRSEE's multi-perspective history education programme, fostering understanding and reconciliation in the Western Balkans for the past 16 years. Four workbooks are currently available in 11 languages. The second phase of the JHP covers the history of the past 60 years.


Dubravka Stojanovic honoured with French National Order of Merit

Belgrade - June 2015 -- CDRSEE's Joint History Project historian Dr. Dubravka Stojanovic has been awarded one of the most distinguished honors of the French Republic, the National Order of Merit (Ordre National du Mérite), for her accomplishments as a historian and writer.

Dr. Stojanovic is the vice chair of the JHP's History Education Committee.

"Dubravka has been one of the most persistent, enthusiastic and capable 'founding mothers' of the JHP, and is also an outstanding historian and writer in her own right. The CDRSEE is happy and proud to have one of its team receive such recognition, and wishes Dubravka even more success in the future."

The ceremony will take place at the French Embassy in Belgrade on Thursday, June 25, 2015. The award is presented to recognize distinguished civil or military achievements. The President of the French Republic is the Grand Master of the Order and appoints all other members of the Order, by convention, on the advice of the government.


Civil Society Organisations must be tapped

Belgrade - 25 May 2015 -- Civil society should be consulted on policies and projects that affect the region, including the gathering of information on and the monitoring of the region, according to participants of the "Culture of Regional Cooperation" workshop, an event organised in the framework of the newly launched “Civil Society Initiative of the Vienna Western Balkans Summit” on 26 May 2015 in Belgrade. 

Presenting the Joint History Project, the CDRSEE's flagship multi-perspective history workbooks, and  "Okruzenje" ("Vicinities"), a current affairs TV talk show broadcast across the Balkans on mainly public TV stations, CDRSEE Executive Director Zvezdana Kovac spoke about how civil society organisations can carry out meaningful projects, many that local governments would not dare to do.

While new and innovative ideas are to be welcomed, Ms. Kovac also showed that proven, existing projects must be supported as well, as to not lose progress made in the areas influenced by these projects.

The Workshop, a joint project of ERSTE Foundation, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and Karl Renner Institute, in close cooperation with the European Fund for the Balkans, was the first of three in a series, ahead of the Vienna Western Balkans Summit in late August. The next will take place in June in Sarajevo, and address Freedom of Expression.


"Uniting Differences" finds improvement in Roma education, but more needed


Medjimurje - 19-20 May 2015 -- While access to pre-school education for Roma children in Medjimurje has been visiblly improving in the past decade, segregation remains a huge challenge to be overcome, as discussed at the final assessment roundtable of the CDRSEE's Uniting Differences project. 

Employment opportunities for Roma who have been successful in their education is another important missing link for closing the cycle of integration, explained  Držan Srpak, the mayor of Mursko Središće, who took part in the assessment event.

A roundtable discussion, part of the evaluation event, was organised by the CDRSEE in Sveti Martin on 20 May 2015. Many good results were achieved with the Uniting Differences project, but important problems remain unresolved, as was discussed by local authorities, pre-school principals and teachers, as well as Roma representatives, local NGOs and international organisations, such as UNDP and the Open Society Institute. 

All Roma representatives pointed out that opportunities for Roma to access education in their mother tongue is one of the most urgent educational needs in order to prevent a negative assimilation. Another suggestion was to introduce training for young Roma in proposal writing and project management. This would enable them to form NGOs, which however would also imply that funds are available that do not rely on the pre-financing of projects and that keep bureaucracy to the bare minimum. 


CDRSEE contributes to the AFS centennial celebration for peace and reconciliation

Trento, 1-4 May 2015 -- The American Field Service, in celebrating its 100 years of service, brought together hundreds of government officials, academics and NGOs, including the CDRSEE, to talk about peace and reconciliation, and the need for each and every person to take a role in promoting peaceful, pluralistic societies worldwide.

The conference, "Learning to live together: Humanitarianism, reconciliation, education for plural societies", was organised by Intercultura, the Italian chapter of the American Field Service (AFS). The AFS was celebrating 100 years of work for a more human world and intercultural understanding around the globe through worldwide student exchanges and educational programmes.

CDRSEE's Director of Programmes, Corinna Noack-Aetopulos, joined the event, presenting the Center's work with educators in the Western Balkans, where the CDRSEE empowers teachers to become active in raising awareness and fostering skills for reconciliation and democracy building in the young generation. During her two-hour workshop, entitled "What a teacher can do for the development of pluralist societies", participants developed school projects that can be exemplary for an education that prepares students for real-life challenges and includes diversity and respect for cultural values as key priorities.


The star of the event was the Ambulance SU78, which is one of the three remaining ambulances used by the AFS to rescue the wounded during WWI. For the event, The Bell of Peace, placed on Miravalle hill in the city of Rovereto, rang 100 times, reminding participants of the horrors of war and the duty that each of us has to promote peace.


The CDRSEE's participation in the event was featured in the Corrierre della Sera newspaper.  (You can see the press clipping by clicking here!)



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.