Homage to Dr Busek, our former Chairman

Apart from welcoming Hannes Swoboda as our new Chair, we would like to pay our respects to our outgoing Chairman, Erhard Busek, who has steered the CDRSEE for ten years. These ten years in the 18 year-old history of the CDRSEE have indeed been most fruitful and successful. As a civil society organisation, we went from adolescence into adulthood and established ourselves as a highly respected and relevant NGO in Southeast Europe, especially in Education and the Media fields.

They say that failure always has one parent, while success has many. These last years have been extremely successful for the CDRSEE and parents are aplenty – several generations of our project coordinators, our project partners, the state institutions we cooperate with. And, neither last nor least, our Board of Directors which has created the strategies and formulated our policies and activity fields. At the Center, we often compare ourselves to a ship’s crew which takes care of both the boat and cargo and ensures that it arrives safely into the designated harbour. We have always seen the Board of Directors as the owner of that ship managing the cargo and determining the destination. Luckily for the crew, the owners have always been an amazing group of people coming from different fields of life but with a common goal – to make Southeast Europe a better place for its citizens. On our Board we have had US Congressmen and Turkish doctors; Croatian political philosophers and Kosovar human rights activists; Greek businessmen and women and Dutch bankers. The human capital assembled in the CDRSEE Board has always been and is today an immense and a treasured pool of knowledge and experience from which we draw from. In such a pool, it is always difficult to single someone out, however Dr Erhard Busek does stand tall in that distinguished group.

So, what makes Erhard Busek so special? A former colleague of ours who worked closely with Dr Busek says it is his style of leadership: “A good leader makes sure that everyone feels included and taken care of. A great leader actually does care. A good leader is precise when telling you what needs to be done. A great leader inspires you to figure out what to do. A good leader does his/her job well and makes sure you do the same. A great leader creates an atmosphere in which everyone wants to give their best. A good leader offers and asks for respect. A great leader makes you want to earn and give that respect. Erhard Busek is a great leader.”

And there’s more... He was famous for working breakfasts at 7 am, occasionally his generous consent to have it at 7.30. Needless to say, coming from the Balkans, we had an issue with time, but we loved the opportunity for the challenging intellectual exchange which was always there. Erhard Busek also has that rare capacity to examine details but never to forget the big picture. To grasp the complexities of the Balkans and empathise with our sorrows, sins and pains. To work tirelessly for a better life in our region no matter what his current office was. For that, it is not just the CDRSEE which owes him a debt of gratitude, but the entire Balkan peninsular. And let us end a list which could go on and on by adding that he was kind, generous and great fun to work with. For all of this - and so much more - thank you Dr Busek.


Nomination of Dr Hannes Swoboda as new Chair of the CDRSEE’s Board of Directors

It is with great pleasure that we announce the nomination of our new Chair of the CDRSEE’s Board of Directors, Dr Hannes Swoboda. Dr Swoboda has been a member of the CDRSEE’s Board of Directors since 2014 and is currently also Chairman of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, President of the Vienna-based International Institute for Peace, and President of the Architekturzentrum Wien (AzW).

We would like to congratulate Dr Swoboda on his appointment and to applaud our previous Chairman, Dr Erhard Busek, for his exceptional representation and guidance of the CDRSEE during the past 14 years.


History of the future: JHP II - Launch of the two new workbooks (1944-2008)

‘It is high time to disarm history’ was the battle cry at the launch of the new Joint History workbooks at the European Parliament

The event which launched our JHP II workbooks at the European Parliament in Brussels on 15 November 2016 gathered more than 100 people and was hosted by Ms Ulrike Lunacek, Vice President of the European Parliament together with fellow MEPs Mr Eduard Kukan, Ms Tanja Fajon, Mr Knut Fleckenstein, Mr Giorgios Grammatikakis and Mr Ivan Jakovčić.

The attention of the audience was riveted by Mr Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations, who proudly declared that the European Commission funds provided to the CDRSEE for the books was money well spent for "building highways for education". He also explained how the JHP grew out of the contribution and stubbornness of citizens and scientists and congratulated their tremendous efforts.

He was followed by Mr Goran Svilanović, Secretary General, Regional Cooperation Council who expressed the belief that ‘business as usual’ is the wrong attitude where the sensitive topic of history is concerned. Mr Erhard Busek Chair of the Board of Directors, CDRSEE, and Executive Director of the CDRSEE Ms Zvezdana Kovač, both conveyed the urgent need for the project to continue. “We are not done yet” were their final catchwords.

The members of the History Education Committee concluded the event with a few words from Prof. Dr. Christina Koulouri, History Professor, Chair of the History Education Committee and Series Editor of the workbooks, who declared that it was "time to disarm history" followed by Mr Costas Carras, Historian, Rapporteur to the CDRSEE Board for the JHP, who stressed the importance of critical and analytical thought - the founding principles of the Joint History Project - when reading history and how the books themselves should be read with distrust - a natural qualification that every student should possess.


Support for the Joint History Project from the High Representative Vice President of the European Commission

It was a great honour for the CDRSEE to receive a letter of support from Ms Federica Mogherini, High Representative Vice President of the European Commission. As the day of our JHP’s new workbooks’ launch approaches, an encouraging letter like this motivates us to continue promoting the need for moving forward by re-examining the past.

Embarking on a new phase for our Joint History Project, it is our pleasure to share an excerpt of Ms Mogherini’s letter:

“This project will, I am sure, recognise both the shared suffering and the achievements of the region. In this way, I believe it can provide a valuable contribution to overcoming the painful legacies of the past, and to helping newer generations understand the importance of moving forward together towards the EU.

We believe that the EU perspective is the driving force for reform and stability in the region. Many Western Balkan countries have clearly shown willingness to embark upon these fundamental changes. However, alongside and linked with the political process, the human perspective is equally important. Perceiving history more  positively does not mean we should deny its painful memories and violence but instead that we open an opportunity to put an end to the destructive narratives of each other’s histories.

Creating a common historic language and strengthening ties amongst the people in the Balkans is therefore extremely important and a valuable means to continuously improving co-existence in the region.”


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Upcoming launch of the two new JHP workbooks

The two new workbooks of the Joint History Project are due to be launched on November 15 in the European Parliament, Brussels.

Ms Ulrike Lunacek, Vice President of the European Parliament together with fellow MEPs Mr Eduard Kukan, Ms Tanja Fajon, Mr Knut Fleckenstein, Mr Giorgios Grammatikakis and Mr Ivan Jakovčić will host the event at which a new phase of the Joint History Project will start.

With the keynote speakers Mr Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations, Mr Goran Svilanović, Secretary General, Regional Cooperation Council and Mr Erhard Busek Chair of the Board of Directors, CDRSEE, the event will include an open discussion, moderated by the Executive Director of the CDRSEE Ms Zvezdana Kovač.

The members of the History Education Committee will participate in the presentation of the two new workbooks and discuss the process of preparing these books with historical sources from all the countries of the Balkan region.

We will keep you updated about our upcoming event!



#CDRSEE at the #WorldDemocracyForum

Two days of the World Democracy Forum were dedicated to citizenship, democracy and education and all the possible ways that education can bridge inequalities instead of perpetuating them. CDRSEE’s Executive Director Ms Zvezdana Kovac attended workshops between 7-9 November 2016, that addressed all the common challenges for humanity in today’s divided world.

Working with the Joint History Project and now entering the second phase, it was crucial to listen and exchange opinions on how education is instrumental in the process of community-building and the shaping of national identity and is a vital factor in building social cohesion and a sense of belonging to society.

The ‘Pop-Up Agora’ which took place during the Forum had as an aim, to reimagine public space as an arena for democratic debate and decision-making. A unique gathering space was set for debate and speeches in an informal setting.

It is through dialogue and conversation that new and innovative ideas can be born for the future.


The CDRSEE welcomes Commissioner Avramopoulos

As the CDRSEE’s work is becoming more well known in the region and our projects are increasingly recognised as creative and practical responses to current issues, we had the honour of hosting the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Mr. Dimitris Avramopoulos at our premises. Together with Mr. Andreadis, Chairman of The Cultural Society of Entrepreneurs of Northern Greece and Mr. Efthymiadis, Vice Chair of the CDRSEE, Mr. Avramopoulos visited the CDRSEE to discuss the complex issues of refugee integration.   

During his visit we had the opportunity to talk about our current projects and discuss in detail our plans to embark on new projects on social inclusion of refugees and community acceptance, through education.


The transformative power of the EU and social inclusion

Different opinions on the same subject and different approaches to a complex problem always make a roundtable more interesting.  Hosted by the Journalists’ Union of Macedonia & Thrace  on October 13th, Ms Daliborka Uljarevic from Montenegro, Mr Arjan Dyrmishi from Albania and Mr Vasilis Tsartsanis from Greece discussed the role of Civil society in the Western Balkans and how a possible accession of the countries would affect the social integration of people who are seeking refuge in the EU.

One of the most crucial topics of discussion was how civil society takes the responsibility that the state does not and other controversial issues that are  important in order to sustain a stable society.

As interesting questions were raised during the event, the speakers concluded that the accession of the Western Balkan countries  would help support the refugees as it  would provide assistance on how to better help and integrate people. They all agreed that the countries of the region should establish a better cooperation between them.