Responsible education about the past for a democratic present and inclusive future

With the aim of cooperating on planning for history education approaches which empower young people to engage critically in today’s complex society, teachers, civil society groups, academics, diplomats and international organisations met in Belgrade on Friday 23 March, 2018 within the framework of Euroclio and the CDRSEE’s ePACT project.  

The event not only launched the ePACT research report ‘Teachers on Learning’ and the report ‘Making Sense of the Past that Refuses to Pass’, but also brought together the relevant stakeholder to reflect on the various initiatives and achievements in the field of responsible history education in the Western Balkans and to suggest a regional strategy for future work on regional cooperation.

The roundtable of stakeholders was organised by Euroclio within the framework of ePACT, an education partnership for advocacy, capacity-building and transformation in the formal schooling system of the countries of Western Balkans, implemented by the CDRSEE in partnership with Euroclio.

Representatives from more than 20 associations, NGOs, diplomatic missions and educational institutions attended the dialogue on the achievements, challenges and opportunities of regional cooperation of civil society initiatives, moderated by Jonathan Even-Zohar, Director of Euroclio.

Ms Snjezana Koren, Professor of the University of Zagreb and Member of the JHP History Education Committee, presented her report on ‘Making Sense of the Past that Refuses to Pass’.  She highlighted in her presentation that "the role of history teachers is not just to teach about the past and its topics. It is vital for fostering social engagement for the present".

The CDRSEE, represented by Development Officer Ms Ruth Sutton, contributed to the discussion by presenting the achievements of the long-standing, multi-national initiative, the Joint History Project, a successful programme that has been fostering the emergence of critically thinking, socially active citizens through multi-perspective history education.  Ms Sutton discussed the need to support teachers in utilising multi-perspective, participative and critical thinking methodologies. Echoing Professor Koren’s sentiments, she further emphasised that the JHP is a vital ‘tool’ in not only understanding the past, but also in building abilities in students that will effectively assist them in recognising fake news, media manipulation, propaganda and in democratic, respectful discussion; all essential skills in today’s complex social environment.

The stakeholders all agreed that despite significant progress in the field of education, history teachers in the area of Southeast Europe, to a large extent, lack the proper tools,  resources and support to respond to the challenges raised by the dominant one-dimensional historical narratives, designed to indoctrinate and manipulate rather than promote a student-centred, democratic, multi-perspectival approach to historical knowledge.

Moreover, they all discussed ideas and made recommendations on how civil society organisations can work together and with the EU delegations to improve the quality and raise the impact of the projects implemented in their areas of action.


Looking to the future of the 'Vicinities': first meeting for the 'Okruzenje' team in Belgrade

On 7 March, 2018 the creative and production team of 'Vicinities' met to review the activities of the past season and discuss the next steps of Season 7. Building on the successful sixth season, the production team, brought new ideas for expanding the visibility of the show and pledged their commitment to not only maintaining the quality of the show, but also raising the production standards and setting higher goals that will lead the show to new levels. The feedback from the broadcasters and viewers has been consistently very positive and thus the crew is dedicated to expanding the range of topics with a view to ensure a far-reaching impact to a wider regional audience.

'Vicinities' welcomes Season 7 with a new addition to its team. Distinguished television & film director, producer and screenwriter, Mr Stanko Crnobrnja will be directing the show's episodes from behind the camera. Throughout his career, Mr Crnobrnja has directed more than 1,500 televisions shows, series and three feature films. Mr Crnobrnja is a theoretician  and lecturer in the field of mass communication and television theory and serves as a professor at the Faculty of Media and Communication of the Singidunum University in Belgrade.


CDRSEE's 2018 pita cutting

On 23 February, 2018 the traditional new-year cutting of vasilopita (St Basil’s cake) took place, as it has done every year, at the premises of the CDRSEE in Thessaloniki. CDRSEE board members, staff and distinguished guests gathered to celebrate the advent of 2018 and exchange blessings for a prosperous and successful year for the Center and its projects. CDRSEE Vice-Chair Mr Nikos Efthymiadis, Treasurer Mr Rigas Tzelepoglou and Board Member Mr Ioannis Tsormpatzoglou represented the Board of Directors. The Center had also the honour of sharing this year’s vasilopita with the Consul General of Serbia Mr Sinisa Pavic, the Consul General of Bulgaria Mr Chavdar Agayn, and the Consul General of the FYR of Macedonia Mr Zlatko Kotevski.

Vice-Chair of the CDRSEE Mr Nikos Efthymiadis undertook to cut the traditional vasilopita, upon presenting the multi-faceted work of the Center in the region of Southeast Europe and thanking all those present for their individual and collective contribution to the Center’s objectives. Along with Executive Director Ms Zvezdana Kovac they shared their confidence in new opportunities opening up for the CDRSEE in 2018, in the hope that this year’s 20th anniversary of the CDRSEE will be marked with new successes, record highs and achievements in the area of SE Europe.

All the attendees shared a traditional Greek vasilopita, a sweet cake symbolic of appreciation and thankfulness for what we have. Vasilopita is not a simple cake, but it comes with a hidden trinket inside. The recipient of the piece of cake containing the trinket is assured a good year.

The winner of this year’s trinket was the Consul of the FYR of Macedonia Mr Zlatko Kotevski!

Wishing everyone health and prosperity!


RETHINK project gets underway

Sevres, 29-30 January 2018: With an interesting and busy project kick-off meeting successfully concluded on 30 January 2018, the RETHINK project has got off to a great start.  Hosted by CIEP (Centre International d'Etudes Pedagogiques), the consortium leaders, in Sevres, the meeting brought together the project partners from all over the EU:  Shoah Memorial (France),  Euroclio (based in the Netherlands), The Living History Forum (Sweden), The House of the Wannsee Conference (Germany), Kazerne Dossin (Belgium) and CESIE (Italy), all leading names in remembrance education, history education or educational methodology for critical thinking.  On behalf of the CDRSEE Programme Adviser Mr Antonis Hadjiyannakis and Development Officer Ms Ruth Sutton attended the launch of the new project.

The project aims to utilise and harness the capacities of remembrance education practices to prevent radicalisation and violent extremism through critical thinking education.  RETHINK will bring together programmes and approaches that have been developed in remembrance education and make them more easily accessible to teachers who will be assisted in dealing with critical and controversial issues and to students who will be prompted to develop critical thinking skills towards prevalent prejudices in history education.

The project will run for 3 years and the first phase will entail research on best practices in both the formal and non-formal education sectors to build up a database which can be used by educators in a multitude of settings (schools, museums, memorial sites, training government officials etc).


CDRSEE takes part in a multi-stakeholder project on remembrance education

We are delighted to announce our participation as project partners in the upcoming initiative ‘RETHINK-Remembrance Education for Thinking Critically’, due to start in January 2018. The EU-wide initiative, funded under the Erasmus + programme will be coordinated by CIEP (Centre International D’Etudes Peadagogiques) in Paris and the project consortium comprises prestigious academic and education organisations across the EU. The work of the project will focus on creating and sharing best practice about how education on remembrance is conducted (with a particular focus on the Holocaust) and how educators can counteract the manipulation of memorialisation for nationalistic purposes. The CDRSEE brings its considerable expertise in the area of history education to be applied more specifically to remembrance and we look forward to contributing to the body of knowledge in this exciting, and vital, area of work.  

The kick-off meeting of all the partner organizations will take place in Paris on January 29-30, 2018. 

Find more information about the project on the links below: 


Taking a closer look at history education in Southeast Europe

Brussels, 18 December 2017: Do the Balkans produce more history that it can consume? What does it actually mean when a society ‘consumes’ history? How can responsible history education be promoted in the region? How can history teachers in the Western Balkans approach sensitive and controversial issues in the classroom?

All these topics and many more were addressed on December 18 at a public debate hosted by the House of European History in Brussels, and co-organised by the European Association of History Educators (EUROCLIO) and the Centre for Democracy and Reconciliation in South East Europe (CDRSEE), in partnership with the International Students of History Association (ISHA).

Participants proposed ways forward for history educators and other stakeholders to deal with the history of the wars of the 1990s in Yugoslavia through a number of compelling presentations. Our very own Mr Costa Carras, Special Rapporteur to the Joint History Project and CDRSEE Board Member discussed history education through the lenses of the Joint History Project, a groundbreaking initiative that transformed history teaching in the region of Southeast Europe (you can find the full text of his speech here).

The findings of the Needs Assessment Survey that was conducted within the framework of ePACT, were compiled in a Research Report under the title "Teachers on Teaching" and presented for the first time during the conference by the researchers Ms Dea Maric and Mr Rodoljub Jovanovic. The full report is available in English here

The conference was marked by lively debates with selected international guests reflecting the most pressing issues and challenges related to history education in the region. Thoughtful debates about the reality of teaching sensitive history and the needs of the teachers which are faced with such a challenge took place throughout the one-day conference that offered a space for sharing best practices and connecting stakeholders working on history education as a tool for reconciliation.

The event was organised in the framework of the Education Partnership for Advocacy, Capacity-Building and Transformation (ePACT) project.



CDRSEE contributes to discourse on human rights and challenges

Thessaloniki, 16 December 2017: Contributing to the discourse in civil society in Southeast Europe, the CDRSEE participated in the conference convened by the Navarino Network on ‘EU and Southeastern Europe: Democracy and Human Rights Challenges’ on December 16th in Thessaloniki. Under the auspices of the ‘Kalliopi Koufa Foundation for the Promotion of International and Human Rights Law’, the conference brought together scholars and practitioners in the field from across Southeast Europe to engage in dialogue on the diverse human rights issues facing the region at a time of change in the wider Europe.

The CDRSEE’s Development Officer, Ruth Sutton, spoke about the importance of critical thinking education in bolstering the capacity of individuals and societies in countering and resisting populism and the return of ‘strong man politics’. “We are sleepwalking towards dictatorships” she stated. “No one is taking away our rights in Europe; rather we are handing them over and undermining our own democracies by voting for autocrats in search of easy answers and perceived security in an increasingly complex and confusing world”. On a panel including distinguished analysts Dr Dusan Reljic (Head of Brussels Office, SWP – German Institute for International and Security Affairs), Remzi Lani (Executive Director of the Albanian Media Institute), and Dr Dimitris Triantafyllou (Associate Professor, Kadir Has University, Director, Center for International and European Studies), the CDRSEE emphasised the need for media literacy education and for educators to encourage questioning and independent research among students- in order to foster a civil society capable of countering anti-democratic trends and guarding against ‘The return of the strong man’.


Promotion in Tirana: "Okruzenje is perfectly placed to link regional initiatives with the people living in the Western Balkans”

On 15 December, 2017 ‘Okruzenje’, Balkans’ unique democratic media initiative, celebrated its 6 years of broadcast across the region in a momentous promotional event and episode filming in Tirana. The event, organized for the first time ever in Tirana, gathered numerous visitors, including members of the diplomatic corps, media representatives, longtime friends of the series, former Albanian guests of the show, and media & communication students from Albanian universities.

Participating in the promotional event were Mr Hannes Swoboda (Chairman of the CDRSEE), Ms Anke Holstein (Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Albania), Mr Agim Fagu (former diplomat), and Mr Engjëll Ndocaj (Deputy Director General of RTSH) who shared their views on the importance of the initiative for the region.

Quoting former French President François Mitterrand, Hannes Swoboda said that “nationalism means war” but reconciliation with a country’s own past and with its neighbours is the remedy for war. “As Vicinities has been the only TV programme that has been fostering reconciliation through cooperation in the media sector, it is a permanent commitment to keep the show alive for a long time” he added. Taking the floor, Ms Anke Holstein said she was “delighted by the idea of putting together the countries of the region at one table trying to overcome disputes, starting to build more of a common than a divided region”.

Agim Fagu emphasized that in light of worsening media standards and lack of ethical journalism initiatives such as ‘Okruzenje’ encourage the acceleration of the democratic process in the region. For Engjëll Ndocaj ‘Okruzenje’ is a way of communication for people living in democratic societies, therefore, he called for the initiative to continue for as long as possible. He also mentioned that the fascinating topics and the great achievements of the show, convinced Albanian broadcasters to embrace the series.

Following the promotional event, the live audience had the opportunity to attend and participate in the live recording of the special episode ‘Balkan Media: Fighting for Truth’ featuring Mr Stanko Crnobrnja, director, screenwriter, publicist and mass media theorist, Mr Lutfi Dervishi, journalist, columnist and political comentator, Ms Lejla Turčilo, associate professor at the Department of Journalism, Sarajevo University, Ms Adelheid Feilcke Deutsche Welle-Director of the Western Balkans Department and moderated by Ms Zvezdana Kovač, CDRSEE’s Executive Director.

The four media experts engaged in a lively dialogue on contemporary media topics such as the phenomenon of fake news, the influence of the internet on traditional media, issues of regulation of journalism in the Western Balkans and many more. Guests received questions from the audience and from facebook users who were making comments live on the facebook pages of ‘Okruzenje’ and the CDRSEE.

This unique media event became reality thanks to the collaboration of production teams and crews from Albania and Serbia that achieved reconciliation beyond simple rhetoric. Albanian media demonstrated a great interest in covering the event and got exclusive interviews from the distinguished guests. The event was hosted by Tirana International Hotel and organized with the kind support of the European Fund for the Balkans and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For more information visit the Okruzenje website and social media pages