CENTER FOR DEMOCRACY AND RECONCILIATION IN SOUTHEAST EUROPE

News

13Dec

Vicinities a breath of fresh air amid alarming trends

December 4, 2013, Brussels – Despite the success of the cross-Balkans current affairs talk show Vicinities, the alarming trend in the region’s media is to feed prejudices and ignore opposing opinions, making support for Vicinities even more important, Fabrice de Kerchove, Project Manager at King Baudouin Foundation, told Members of the European Parliament and other dignitaries.

Speaking at an event organised by six Parliamentarians to highlight the importance and impact of Vicinities, Mr de Kerchove praised the show, the Balkan’s first to bring together guests from across the region to discuss sensitive and sometimes difficult issues. He called the talk show “a welcome breath of fresh air in TV news programmes”.

“Contrary to many programmes, Vicinities has no hidden agenda. In its own dynamic and creative way, it just manages to resume ties among neighbouring countries on the basis of a still common language, albeit increasingly nationalised,” Mr de Kerchove said, adding, “and this without falling into the trap of Yugonostalgia.”

Sadly, Vicinities is far from the norm. “On the contrary, it is striking to see how fragmented and inward-looking media audiences still are,” he said. “There is an ongoing trend to feed this attitude by fuelling prejudice and by highlighting (negative) incidents or simply by ignoring opinions from over the border.”

This highlights the importance of Vicinities, which is produced by the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe and the European Fund for the Balkans, with funding from the German Federal Foreign Office.

Hedvig Morvai, Executive Director of the EFB, called Vicinities a very important first-attempt at mending old wounds.

“The direct short-term results of Vicinities are visible: discourse on sensitive issues has begun on a regional level, and so far, to large acclaim,” she said.

The comments were made as part of a panel discussion at an event at the European Parliament in Brussels, organised as an exposé of Vicinities. Vicinities has just wrapped up its second season, and plans for the third are already underway. Seven television stations across the region carried the series, and others, in the Balkans and beyond, are interested as well.

“Vicinities is based on a return to classic journalistic values, to things that matter, to civilised dialogue, to crossing words not swords,” added Nenad Sebek, Executive Director of CDRSEE.
(To see others' talking points, click here)

Mr de Kerchove laid out two main reasons for the issues that are plaguing the media in the Balkans. First, legacy of the past, and second, politicisation.

In referring to the legacy of the past, Mr de Kerchove said the legacy of the previous state control of the media still applies to public TV stations. He added that the media is still affected by the legacy of the wars, and he cited Polish historian and newspaper editor Adam Michnik who said the wars in the Balkans “started in the newspapers, radio and TV stations”.

More recently, the media is influenced by politics. “Today, most of Balkan press is more an extension of politics than a representative of public opinion,” he added.  “Media, and especially public TV stations, are more shaped by politics than politics are shaped by the media.”

And this is why supporting shows like Vicinities is so important. The King Baudouin Foundation, for example, is supporting a Brussels-based media NGO called SEE-TV Exchanges, which produced seven short films, all highly regarded as balanced, about issues in Kosovo such as border management, energy provisions and education, and the impact of these issues at the community level. But, Mr de Kerchove said, NGOs can do just so much with their efforts to seed reconciliation.

“More is needed, especially on behalf of the EU institutions,” Mr de Kerchove said.

13Dec

Regional Conference, 13-15 December 2013, Thessaloniki

13-15 December 2013, Thessaloniki – Policy makers, history teachers, social scientists, journalists and many more from Southeast Europe and beyond are gathering in Thessaloniki, Greece, this weekend for a regional conference on the power of history education in promoting reconciliation and resolving unfinished disputes in the region.

The conference, entitled “His Story or History: Europe in the Trap of Populism”, has been organised by the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe. More than 50 influential and concerned educators and policy makers, among others, will come together to take an honest look at the state of history education in Europe, especially Southeast Europe, its impact, and how it can be improved to promote reconciliation and integration.

Are myths more popular than facts, despite unprecedented levels of access to information? Is social science, and especially history education, being underrepresented in academic curricula? How can education policies convey more evaluation and critical-thinking skills? Can Europe seek financial integration while education remains a national holy grail? These are just some of the questions that the participants will take on.

Participants will be welcomed on the evening of Friday, December 13, at the Mediterranean Palace in Thessaloniki, our venue for the weekend. Keynote speeches, moderated by Nikos Efthymiadis, Chairman of the REDESTOS Efthymiadis Agrotechnology Group and Vice Chairman, CDRSEE Board of Directors will kick off first thing Saturday morning. The keynote speakers are Dr. Erhard Busek, Former Vice Chancellor of Austria and the Chairman of the CDRSEE Board of Directors, and Dr. Dusan Reljic, of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs and the CDRSEE Board of Directors.

Saturday includes two panel discussions. The first will be moderated by the award-winning author and journalist Tim Judah of The Economist, addressing “History as a Battlefied”. The second, moderated by Costa Carras, Vice President of Europa Nostra, a member of the CDRSEE Board of Directors and our Joint History Project Supervisor, will look for answers as to how education can stimulate critical-thinking skills and make society less vulnerable to populism.

Sunday, December 15, will be dedicated to working groups, which will then pull together conclusions under the guidance of moderator Aleksandra Joksimovic, Executive Director of PFZ - Zepter Holding, and a member of the CDRSEE Board of Directors. On Monday, the CDRSEE Board of Directors will meet to assess the outcomes of the conference, which will play a role in determining the future goals and focus of the organisation.

11Dec

Second Successful Teacher Training Workshop in Struga

 

7-8 December 2013 – Another successful Teacher Training Workshop was held in Struga, the second in the city, at Hotel Drim as part of the CDRSEE’s Joint History Project. A tight-knit and highly motivated group of 19 teachers from across the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia took part in the 4th workshop in this country.

During the two-day advanced workshop, the educators further developed their teaching skills, as they were constantly challenged by the passionate trainers. The workshop took place in a friendly and intellectually stimulating atmosphere and fostered a sense of unity among the participants.

The willingness of the teachers to engage in constructive debate about teaching methodologies and history was encouraging and boded well for the success of the overall project. Upon completion of the seminar, certificates were handed out to the participants in recognition of their participation and commitment.

The trainers leading the workshop were Violeta Petroska-Beshka, Petar Todorov, Isamedin Azizi and Darko Stojanov.

10Dec

Uniting Differences - Inception Roundtable in Cakovec, Croatia

 

26-27 November 2013 – “Uniting Differences” is a new initiative of the CDRSEE that targets pre-school education and aims at fostering tolerance from an early age on. The project is part of a wider programme, “Integration of disadvantaged groups in regular education system”, which is managed by the Agency for Vocational Education and Training and Adult Education of Croatia and financed by the European Union under the IPA and ESF programmes. 

Together with our Croatian partner, The Center for Peace, Legal Assistance and Psychosocial Support, the CDRSEE organised a roundtable in Cakovec to discuss and coordinate the upcoming project activities with actors in the field of inclusive preschool education in Medjimurije County.  Taking part in the consultation meeting were amongst others Mr Branko Sušec, who has set an example with the integrated school “Orehovica”; Ignac Dragan, from the Association for Roma Education (Udruga „Uzor“); Ivačić Višnja, of the Municpality of Cakovec; Josip Balog, President of the Roma Association of Medjimurije; Dragutin Golubic, from the County Administration of Medjimurije; Tena Skvorc, Professional Advisor at the Croatian Employment Service; and Tin Gazivoda, from the Open Society Foundation.  Also present were two experts -- Zsuzsanna Szabo from Hungary, who is an expert in the field of Preschool education, and Prof Hristo Kyuchukov, who is an expert in the field of Psycholinguistics.  

The CDRSEE team also met with the Roma Education Fund, and further consultations will take place.

For further information contact antonis@cdsee.org

05Dec

Members of the European Parliament get a feel for Vicinities

 

December 4th 2013, Brussels - More than a hundred dignitaries gathered to experience first hand “Vicinities”, as part of an event sponsored by European Parliamentarians to highlight the impact of the first current affairs talk show broadcast across the Balkans that prompts sincere communication and makes way for true reconciliation in the region.

Vicinities is not just another talk show and this was not just another event. The Vicinities crew kept the evening in sync with the show’s hard-hitting yet quirky ways. A panel discussion centered on freedom and quality of the media but it took place only after the Members of the European Parliament and other dignitaries were welcomed with traditional baklava and treated to a comedic “diagnosis” of the diseases affecting the mainstream media across the region.

“We do not have such a TV show in Europe,” Ms Ulrike Lunacek, a Member of the European Parliament and the lead sponsor, told guests at the event. “Vicinities contributes to reconciliation, changing people’s mindsets.”

Ms. Lunacek and four other Members of the European Parliament sponsored the event, “Confronting the Past and Looking Towards the Future: Highlighting the Impact of the TV talk show Vicinities”.  Mr Othmar Karas, vice president of the European Parliament, gave the opening remarks for the event, which took place on the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, in Brussels.

Guests included MEPs, the diplomatic corps and the European Commission. They saw highlights of the talk show, which just wrapped up its second season, and experienced how the show’s makers bring in knowledgeable and open-minded guests to address difficult subjects, such as War Crimes, National Identity, and Violence Among Youth, in an open way that fosters communication and reconciliation far beyond the show’s set.

“What you are doing is much more than we can do from the European Parliament,” said Eduard Kukan, a Member of the European Parliament and the Chairman of the Delegation for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo.

At the event, a panel of six guests took their turns discussing a challenging topic -- “Regional Cooperation in South East Europe: Freedom and Quality of the Media giving the MEPs a feel for the success and importance of Vicinities.

“Vicinities is the link between the past and the future,” Fabrice de Kerchove, a Project Manager with the King Baudouin Foundation, said during the panel discussion. “It is difficult to promote reconciliation through media, and that is important to support.”

Vicinities is the product of a partnership between the CDRSEE and the European Fund for the Balkans. Five pilot shows were aired last year, and this season included 12 shows, with an expanded list of topics and many improvements. The German Federal Foreign Office provides support as well.

MEP Lunacek moderated the event’s panel discussion. The complete list of international panelists is as follows:

  • Erhard Busek - Jean Monnet Professor and Chairman of the Board of Directors, CDRSEE
  • Fabrice de Kerchove - Project Manager, King Baudouin Foundation
  • Eduard Kukan - Member of Parliament, Chair of the Delegation for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo
  • Goran Svilanovic - Secretary General, Regional Cooperation Council
  • Hannes Swoboda - Member of Parliament, President of S&D Group
  • Doris Pack - Member of Parliament, European Parliament

MEP Jelko Kacin and Joost Korte, Deputy Director General, DG Enlargement, provided the post-debate commentary.

Mr Svilanovic thanked the courageous TV stations that have dared to broadcast Vicinities, recalling Konstantinos Kavafis’ poem Ithaca, which emphasizes the beauty of the journey to reach the final destination, not just the destination.

The representatives of the partner TV stations present were:

  • Nikola Mirkov, acting Director General, RTS, Radio Television Serbia
  • Olivera Dodig, acting Director, TV BiH, Television of Bosnia Herzegovina
  • Vladan Micunovic, Editor in Chief, TV Vijesti, Montenegro
  • Hamdi Rashiti, Director of Programmes, TV Alsat-M, FYR of Macedonia 
  • Rajko Radovanovic, acting Director General, TV RS, Television of Republika Srpska
  • Vlasta Bartolec, Programme Editor, HRT, Croatia
  • Anamari Repic, deputy Director General, RTK, Kosovo

“There is no other European talk show -- we have only the Eurovision song contest,” Dr. Busek said during the panel discussion. “Vicinities is the voice of the herald.”

A cocktail reception followed, giving Vicinities Editor In Chief and show co-host Zvezdana Kovac, CDRSEE Executive Director and co-host Nenad Sebek, and European Fund for the Balkans Executive Director Hedvig Morvai, the opportunity to speak personally with MEPs and other guests and answer any questions they might have had about the show and its impact. Plans are already underway for Season 3 of Vicinities.

27Nov

Teacher Training Workshop in Skopje, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

 

23-24 October 2013 - Another 20 history teachers successfully completed a Teacher Training Workshop, as part of the CDRSEE’s Joint History Project, and are ready to take their knowledge and insight back to their own schools and students.

On Nov. 23 and 24, 2013, the teachers gathered in Skopje, at the Hotel Continental, for two days of advanced coursework that prepared them to tailor the JHP materials for their own classrooms and that gave them an up-to-date review of the latest teaching methodologies.

The trainers leading the workshop were Violeta Petroska-Beshka, Petar Todorov, Isamedin Azizi and Darko Stojanov.

26Nov

CDRSEE organizes in cooperation with the European Academy of Berlin Seminar for Greek-German relations during the economic crisis period

 

Between the 23rd and 24th of November 2013, the seminar for Greek-German relations during the economic crisis period brought together 30 journalists from the Macedonia and Thrace regions. The seminar was organised by the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast  Europe (CDRSEE) in cooperation with the European Academy of Berlin (Europäische Akademie Berlin). The aim of the two days seminar was to engage the journalists with a first-hand experience of German economic policy, including philosophy and decision making processes.

Prominent German experts on the topic were among the speakers, but were also keen listeners to the opinions of the Greek journalists. Mr. Michael Georg Link, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, was among those present, and he helped explain the role of European and national institutions in further growth and development of Europe. Mr. Link went on to state that he is in support of the political union of Europe and of the creation of a federation with pure European characteristics.

The general consul of Germany in Thessaloniki, Mr. Info Von Voss, and the Vice President of the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe, Mr Nikos Efthymiadis, were also among those present at the seminar. They were highly active in sharing their insights in the discussions that followed the lectures.

22Nov

JHP Modeled at History Education Reform Conference in Braunschweig

 

Braunschweig - November 21st, 2013 - The CDRSEE’s work was presented at a conference that gathered researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to discuss the specific character of external education interventions in post-conflict contexts. The conference was held at the Georg-Eckert-Institute in Braunschweig, Germany between November 20th and 22nd, 2013.

Participants congregated to share their experiences from interventions in different areas of education throughout the counties of South Eastern Europe. They discussed strategies and were able to critically reflect on the diverse challenges that interventions present, such as collaboration and communication between international agencies and local actors. One of the key aims of the conference was to comparatively asses the outcomes amongst various interventions as well as to contrast best practices and common challenges.

The CDRSEE’s Nenad Sebek spoke during the second panel that was focused on educational reform in South East Europe. Among his co-panelists were Melisa Foric of EUROCLIO-HIP Bosnia, Jonathan Even-Zohar of EUROCLIO Netherlands, Milija Marjanovic of the Institute for Pedagogy in Banja Luka, and Marko Suica of the University of Belgrade, who also gave the keynote speech. The panel was chaired by Karatina Batarilo-Henschen of the Georg-Eckert-Institute.  Nenad highlighted some of the key aspects of the Joint History Project and underscored its accomplishments in reforming history education. In particular, he emphasized how this unprecedented regional initiative has not only provided history workbooks for students to deliberate various and multi-perspective interpretations of historical events, but has also engaged more than 1,500 teachers in JHP workshops, equipping them with novel and more productive methods of history teaching.  He went on to point out that the JHP’s workbooks have been translated into 10 languages and include content that reaches the Second World War.