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”. Â 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.