28th Meeting of the Board of Directors convened in Thessaloniki

The Board of Directors of the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe convened its annual at the premises of the Center in Thessaloniki on 27 November, 2017. Reviewing the successes of the past year the Board of Directors engaged in a productive dialogue on the progress of current projects, as well as on future initiatives of action in the area of Southeast Europe. Fundraising for the continuation of the current flagship projects and for the implementation of new ones was at the centre of the discussions with regard to the CDRSEE’s future steps.

Mr. Hannes Swoboda, Chair of the CDRSEE, chaired the meeting that was marked by the appointment of Mr. Ioannis Tsormpatzoglou as the new Treasurer of the Center, following Mr. Tzelepoglou’s resignation from the same position, in which  he has served for nearly 20 years.  Mr Tzelepolglou’s tireless contribution to the Center, his wise guidance and unwavering dedication were acknowledged by the Board. He will continue to serve as a member of the Board and adviser to the new Treasurer.

On the occasion of reviewing the Center’s activities of the past year, the Board Members reiterated that the work of the CDRSEE is vital for the future of the region, therefore, the Center should be supported by as many people as possible in our common European interest. In their shared approach, the Board Members reflected that the Center is in a unique position in Southeast Europe and its role is essential in many ways, thus it is essential that the work continues, develops and reaches more and more people  through its projects.

As 2018 draws near, the CDRSEE will celebrate 20 years of active presence and achievements in Southeast Europe. The Board of Directors are firmly convinced that the work of reconciliation in the Balkans is not yet finished, therefore the Center has still a lot to do in fostering dialogue and bringing the peoples of the Balkans together not only for the good of the region, but of Europe as a whole.



Joint History Project II Volumes launch in Slovenia

The JHP II’s series of regional launches was concluded in Ljubljana on November 22, 2017. The final ‘History of the Future’ event, held at the Museum of Contemporary History, was met with an overwhelmingly successful reception. With a diverse audience consisting of members of the diplomatic corps, international organisations, CSOs, NGOs, journalists, history teachers and students, the two new JHP volumes were presented to a Slovenian audience for the first time in the project’s history.

Mr. Max Brändle, Director of the Regional Office of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung  in Slovenia and Croatia commented in his opening speech on the importance of cooperative history teaching work as a major project of reconciliation and how this is essential for the democratic progress of the region in the present and the future.

This theme was continued by the expert speakers: “The Joint History Project workbooks are an example of how contemporary history should be taught in our region” said Prof. Peter Vodopivec, Historian from the Slovenian Institute of Contemporary History, during his evaluation of the two new workbooks.

The presentation continued with a roundtable of experts opened by Professor Božo Repe, member of the JHP History Education Committee and central contributor to the workbooks and the project. In an emotional speech, Professor Repe recounted how this bold initiative had started, by referring to the numerous experts who made a contribution throughout the years, the challenges they faced that brought them closer and how a mission that many considered impossible was accomplished. The roundtable panel, moderated by our ED Ms. Zvezdana Kovac, consisted of Professor Dubravka Stojanović, Vice Chair of the History Education Committee, and other Historians. Professor Neven Budak, also co-editor of Volume I of the workbooks Professor Alexei Kalionski, also co-editor of Volume II of the workbooks and Professor Snježana Koren, Pedagogical Consultant of both volumes completed the panel which was followed by questions and answers from the audience.

Panelists engaged in an insightful discussion on the history of the project and its distinguishing features, that render it an example of peace education and reconciliation through history teaching. Professor Stojanović talked in detail about the reasons that prompted the creation of the two new volumes. She, further, spoke about the collective endeavour behind the production of this alternative educational material, as well as the extended research and review of sources that preceded the selection of materials for inclusion in the books. Professor Budak answered questions with regard to the multi-perspective approach as a central characteristic of the JHP workbooks. He emphasised that the books display a broad and multilateral vision of history that opens discussion and gives room for differences in the interpretation of what has occurred.

Professor Kalionski discussed the reasons and the complexity of the process of selecting contemporary issues to be addressed by the new books. He, further, explained to the audience why the experts chose to set the beginning of the chronological scope of the project at the period of the Ottoman Empire and not the Medieval Period. Professor Koren, focused on the methodological approach introduced in the books, one that promotes critical thinking and helps students develop critical and analytical skills by being able to select and assess the information they receive. All of the contributors reiterated the books’ potential in making a difference for history education and highlighted the need for the subsequent translation of the books into more of the languages of the region.

The event drew a wide array of media attention, with various local media outlets covering the presentation and interviewing the guests. The JHP books were warmly welcomed by Slovenian teachers and students, who showed great interest in the evolution of the project, the critical thinking and multi-perspective methodologies integrated in the educational materials. The attendees further expressed their support in the translation of the books into Slovenian.

The event was organized with the support of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.


CDRSEE participates in the EU-Western Balkan Media Days

On 9-10 November, 2017 the EU – Western Balkans Media Days, organised by the European Commission, brought together more than 250 representatives of media and policymakers from the Western Balkans and the EU in Tirana, to exchange forward-looking ideas and innovative experiences leading to the sustainability of professional journalism.

The event kicked off with welcome speeches by Albanian Prime Minister Mr Edi Rama and by the Commissioner for the European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Mr Johannes Hahn, who both underlined that freedom of expression is a fundamental right and “inextricably linked to the further progress on path to the EU”. In his opening speech, Commissioner Hahn supported Mr Rama’s connection between free expression and EU principles and affirmed that media freedom is a non-negotiable condition in the EU accession process and “a true driver of the reform- and transformation process, which will be decisive to make the European perspective of your countries come true.”

Following the opening remarks, the first grand panel convened featuring esteemed panelists Nigel Baker, Klaus Schweighofer, Ilva Tare, Genoveva Ruiz Calavera and our very own Executive Director, Zvezdana Kovac. Moderated by Tim Judah, the panelists discussed the role of media as a transformative power in the EU accession process and shared interesting perspectives on the challenges regional media and journalists face. In this light, Ms. Kovac emphasised the need for media literacy in the region in order to fight against lack of media freedom and pluralism and stressed the importance of education.  “Media in the Western Balkans is not free.  To overcome this, we should focus on education; educating both journalists and consumers of media to filter sources and be aware of manipulation. We should introduce media literacy as a subject in schools and continue having public discussions on the freedom of media”.

She further highlighted that support and protection of freedom of media can be enhanced though a cooperation between media and civil society, as our very own ‘Okruzenje’ media project has proved.

The opening expert panel was followed by two blocks of parallel workshops covering contemporary topics on media and journalism. Interesting discussions took place during the ‘media café’, an open space where media professionals exchanged thoughts and experiences on a wide spectrum of media-related issues. The CDRSEE presented ‘Okruzenje/Vicinities’, the only regional current affairs talk show that stands as a unique example of free, independent, democratic journalism in a challenging landscape.

The second day of the conference continued with Grand Panel 2, where experts discussed the ways forward based on the conclusions of the workshops. Vreme journalist Ms Tamara Skrozza appealed to EU officials to use their influence in the negotiation process and prevent further collapse of the media scene and conditions for the work of the media. “Nothing is ok” she stated firmly and directly; “EU representatives must make us believe in their messages that media freedom is a priority in the process of European integration" she said in an emotional speech.

Participants engaged in a result-oriented dialogue, concluding, inter alia, that freedom of media in the region is at risk when faced with the challenges of an unstable economic and political situation and a threatening digital media expansion.

The event was closed by Commissioner Hahn who pointed out that conclusions shouldn’t be drawn until after all the views discussed in the conference are digested.  Yet he made it clear that EU pledges to work along media partners from the Western Balkans, governments and citizens in making independent voices being heard.



Lighting up the dark history of Southeast Europe: JHP presented at American Universities

“History teaching can play two opposing roles. On the one hand it can contribute to the reproduction of conflict if it hushes up the dark sides of the past, by propagating a one-sided teaching of the controversial dramatic events. On the other hand, history teaching can be used as a tool for healing traumas and overcoming painful memories” argued Professor Christina Koulouri, Chair of the History Education Committee of the Joint History Project. Professor Koulouri addressed the second aspect of history education in a workshop entitled ’Sharing Dark History in Southeast Europe’, that took place on October 6, 2017, at Princeton University. The workshop focused on the pivotal role of history education in the construction of national memory in light of the controversial historical events, following the Yugoslav wars, that triggered the so-called ’memory wars’.

By presenting the Joint History Project workbooks as a paragon to be replicated in history teaching, Professor Koulouri attempted to answer questions such as “Can history teaching contribute to the reproduction of the conflict? Or might it be used as a tool for healing traumas, for overcoming painful memories and for reconciliation between former enemies? How could history teaching function as part of a major project of peace education? Ultimately how efficient could such a project be in a region ‘suspicious’ of nationalism?” As part of the workshop, the Joint History project was used as an example of alternative education material produced and disseminated in 13 countries across Southeast Europe; a concrete manifestation that high quality historical research and multi-perspective history teaching can act as a shield against deep-rooted animosities, stereotypes and blind nationalism.

The event was organised by the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies at Princeton University, where Professor Koulouri currently serves as a Visiting Research Fellow. Historian Professor David Bell, Director of the Center for Collaborative History joined Professor Koulouri on the panel.

On October 11, 2017 Prof. Koulouri gave a second lecture entitled “Teaching History in Post-Conflict Society: The Case of the Balkans”. In her speech, Prof. Koulouri elaborated on the importance of creating alternative educational material in post-communist Balkans and especially in the states which emerged after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. By introducing the Joint History Project as a significant contribution in the reform of history education in the region, Prof. Koulouri explained how educational reform functions as a precondition for democratization and a long-term policy of conflict prevention. In a region ‘suspicious’ of nationalism, the revision of history teaching is also embodied in the reconciliation process and has been promoted through bilateral, multilateral/regional and international projects. The underlying assumption behind this activity was that a change in the teaching methods of history might have a long-term effect on the way neighbouring people see one another. On the other hand, contesting memories – a global phenomenon of the last decades- generated fierce disputes and even violent confrontations related to the traumatic historical experiences of the recent past. The victims have claimed the ‘duty to remember’ as part of their identity, also aiming at a moral recompense via history.

The lecture, which was met with great success, was also attended by fellow historian and Chair of the JHP Academic Committee Prof. Maria Todorova as well as a number of academics from the Balkans. The event took place at the Linguistics Department of the University of Illinois and was co-sponsored by the European Union Center, the Program in Modern Greek Studies and the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation. 


Filming on Okruzenje VI is wrapping up

The production team of ‘Okruzenje/Vicinities’ is back in the studio for the recording of the last episodes of Season 6. The carefully selected thought-provoking topics are expected to prompt new memorable debates that will enlighten the show’s audience by offering fresh insights into the questions addressed.

This time our guests will grapple with everyday issues such as: “How to consume history”, “Does a Balkan entrepreneurial spirit exist?”, “The cost of labour in the Balkans”, and “Going digital”.

Host by the CDRSEE’s Executive Director Ms. Zvezdana Kovac and aired in 10 national channels,  the new season’s broadcast will start on September 6.

Following the show’s traditional format the episodes will be opened by ‘Vicinities’ satirists Balsa Brkovic, Voja Zanetic, Renato Baretic and Enver Kazaz and attended by a live audience actively engaging in the debates.

Don’t miss our live Q&A on the ‘Vicinities’ and CDRSEE facebook pages.


Connecting the Balkans: Summer school looks beyond the pride and pain of history

Focusing on innovative approaches to history education, the CDRSEE together with EuroClio and the Anne Frank House,  co-organised a summer school as part of the ePACT project in Llogora, Albania on 18-23 July, 2017.  

Bringing together around 80 history educators, NGO representatives and officials from the Ministry of Education from the region, the summer school celebrated the diversity of the Western Balkans, while working on how to teach sensitive histories in a multi-perspective manner and sharing the findings of the needs assessments survey on history education. CDRSEE Programmes Adviser, Antonis Hadjiyannakis participated in the event as a panelist, discussing the work of the CDRSEE’s Joint History Project and its role in promoting innovative history learning for mutual understanding.

Experiences of teaching difficult pasts were shared and educators were trained in the use of new techniques and materials.  The summer school included workshops, presentations, panel discussions and intercultural events, with country groups making plans about how to continue the work of the summer school in their respective countries and networking for future cooperation and development.


CDRSEE launches new collaboration with “Dealing with the past”

Brought together by a shared vision for the area of Southeast Europe, the CDRSEE and the resource platform “Dealing with the past” are joining forces to promote a culture of peace and reconciliation in the Balkans.

“Dealing with the past” is a regional website that fosters initiatives aimed at helping societies in the Western Balkans coming to terms with their turbulent past. To this purpose it offers a large database of articles, reports, news and individuals or collective projects related to issues pertaining to memory, history, transition, reconciliation, intercultural dialogue et al.

Available in four languages the website is addressed to a wide audience from people representing the civil society and academia, to journalists, multiple stakeholders and ordinary citizens.

The CDRSEE is pleased to be among the actors that support this initiative and is looking forward to a fruitful collaboration with DwP in the future.

You can now find all our publications and news on


'Okruzenje' makes history in Trieste

Western Balkans leaders on ’Okruzenje’, July 12, 2017, Trieste: The special episode of ‘Okruzenje/Vicinities’ enjoys unprecedented success and extended media coverage on both a regional and European level.

Making history once again, the CDRSEE’s  ‘Okruzenje’ television show brought together Western Balkan leaders to discuss issues of accession and EU integration, as part of  the Civil Society Forum, organised within the framework of the 4th intergovernmental Summit of Western Balkans and EU countries. In another groundbreaking achievement, the show featured the Prime Minister of Albania, Mr Edi Rama, the Prime Minister of the F Y R of Macedonia, Mr Zoran Zaev, the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, Mr Ivica Dačić, and the Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council Mr Goran Svilanović on the same panel.

In a rare televised roundtable, the Balkan leaders, joined by Mr Svilanović, reflected on how the promotion of regional cooperation within the so-called ’Berlin Process’ could bring economic stability and new perspectives to the enlargement process of the six Western Balkan countries.

On the set, guests discussed issues such as the potential benefits from the creation of a Western Balkan Common Market, as well as new possibilities for cooperation in the field of infrastructure and economic development. The guests further assessed the efficiency of the initiatives taken so far and endorsed efforts to strengthen cooperation in the region.

On the sidelines of the 4th Western Balkans and EU countries Summit, this special edition of the ‘Okruzenje’ talk show surpassed all expectations, bringing  together, for the second time in its six years of broadcasting,  two sitting Prime Ministers, and one Deputy Prime Minister  and Minister of Foreign Affairs  in the same studio, at the same time. The historic televised meeting, almost unthinkable for most other regional or even European TV stations, attracted a wide range of  attention from the media both in the region, and beyond.

This joint initiative of the Center of Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe and the European Fund for the Balkans was made possible by the generous support of both the ERSTE Foundation and the Regional Cooperation Council alike, and was once again hosted by CDRSEE Executive Director Ms Zvezdana Kovač.

The special episode will be broadcast on 10 national channels across the Western Balkans within the coming days.

Follow our Facebook and Twitter pages for more updates on the broadcast calendar.