Okruzenje amongst the best!

Okruzenje honoured at a European level.

Recognising the value, commitment and innovative effectiveness of Okruzenje’s work, the European Citizenship Awards 2016, honoured the initiative with a special mention in the ‘Media’ category.

The Awards celebrate the democratic and civic engagement of individuals and organisations which give substance to European values and improve the lives of communities in terms of participation, democracy, rights and social justice.

Organised by the European Civic Forum and Volonteurope, the awards are bestowed based on a public voting and jury deliberation; demonstrating that not only experts in the field appreciate the work of Okruzenje, but also that the general public recongises and understands the value of the initiative, beyond the viewership of Southeast Europe.

An award ceremony, hosted by the Mayor of London, will be held in on September 12th, 2016 and will include a roundtable to discuss issues on civic engagement, which the CDRSEE will attend.

This joint initiative of the CDRSEE and the European Fund for the Balkans continues to go from strength to strength, with a 5th series underway (due to be broadcast in the Autumn throughout the Western Balkans) comprising high-level guests discussing timely topics.




Okruzenje to the finals for the European Citizenship Award 2016!

There is a saying in Greek that good things come after hard work. And here we are to prove it! Through our continuous and persistent work on our media project ‘Okruženje’ (‘Vicinities’ in English) we are one of the four nominees for the European Citizenship Award 2016 in the category “Media Initiative of the Year”.

With our project having just entered its fifth season, we still believe that discussion and sharing ideas  can be a driving force for wounds of the past to be healed and for true reconciliation to be sustained.

In this journey we would like to have you as supporters and vote for us in the category “ Media Initiative of the Year”, so that we will have more and more people supporting  our initiative to bring together nations through education and dialogue!

It only takes a minute to vote!  Please find the link here: (‘Okruženje’ is the third nominee in the section “Media Initiative of the Year”).


The Western Balkans: Hijacked Democracies or Future EU Members?

“The future of the Western Balkan countries’ accession to the EU will depend on how the latter will cope with challenges such as the refugee crisis and BREXIT”. “The inevitable changes that the digital technology and the social media have brought  to the modern  world have been quite beneficial but carry a lot of dangers too”.

These were only a couple of the many insightful remarks that emerged from the spirited discussion during the roundtable which took place in Athens on June 15 th, entitled “Towards a different media culture in the acceding countries of the Western Balkans: Investing in raising media standards and media transparency”. Organised by the CDRSEE in cooperation with  DG NEAR (European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations), this event is the first in a series of 3 roundtables to be held in Greece aimed at raising awareness of how accession by the Western Balkan nations is beneficial to the current EU Member States. .

The speakers at the event contributed a range of different angles, knowledge and experience to the discussion, which was attended by journalists, diplomats, international consultants and NGOs.

Mr Bouras, photojournalist and documentarian, spoke about the change of the media terrain in the digital era, as well as its consequences not only for journalists and media professionals, but also for states and their abilities to control the information flow.  Former member of the European Commission and economic adviser to the Greek government, Mr Wallden, provided an analysis of the EU in connection to the progress of the acceding countries of the Western Balkans. He was followed by Mr Sebek, who examined the meaning of the European Integration both for the Western Balkan countries and the EU within a framework of media issues. The closing speaker was Mr Ordanoski who highlighted the lack of democracy in the Balkan region as well as the state control over the media.

The CDRSEE’s Executive Director Ms Kovac was the moderator of the roundtable. On noting that the event had set an extremely high standard of public discourse on the issues, she guaranteed to implement more fruitful roundtables in the Autumn, at which the enlargement procedure will be examined through the lens of economic cohesion and  social integration. 


First successful step for setting up the public-private partnership ePACT

The kick off meeting, on 9-11 June in Vienna brought together 12 policy makers, 27 members of civil society, 3 members of Academia and 2 participants from intergovernmental organisations working in the Western Balkans to establish a public-private partnership for the development of history education and innovative pedagogical methodologies. Members of the Special Working Groups met for the first time to set an Agenda for cooperation activities planned for the next three years within the ePACT project.

It was agreed that ‘development of education’, was a much more appropriate wording than ‘reform’ taking into account that the project wants to build on existing best practice and complement approaches that can address remaining gaps.

The meeting was organised into two specialist working groups. A regional working group that will focus on strengthening the implementation of learner centered teaching/learning approaches that, despite endorsed by all countries on the policy level, still can rarely been identified in classrooms of the region. And the second group that will focus exclusively on history education and conduct a wide-ranging needs assessment that will shed light and increase understanding on areas and ways of making history teaching more relevant and constructive.

The meeting started with a key note address by Prof. Andreas Demetriou from Cyprus on “Learning how to think, learn, and reason“, about how intelligence is measured and how it can be nurtured in primary and secondary schools. An expert panel, comprised of Janet Looney from the Institute of Education and Social Policy and John Hamer from the Council of Europe gave an overview of the wider international context before the working groups started with discussions in their specific areas.

As a result of the meeting, a Partnership Memorandum will be crafted between participants, which will outline details of the public-private partnership and set common agendas. A common area on “Basecamp” a platform that enables cost-efficient and effective online cooperation has been opened. Materials, ideas and experiences can be shared and close cooperation can take place virtually on a daily basis via chats and other communication tools.

The next steps are a preparatory meeting in Montenegro for the Needs Assessment and the planning of accredited Pilot Seminars for building capacities amongst school directors, inspectors and curriculum designers for a more committed implementation of learner centered teaching/learning approaches in schools.


First cycle of Okruzenje shootings has been completed

The first six episodes of the fifth season of Okruzenje, CDRSEE’s current affairs talk show, were shot at the beginning of June in Belgrade. More than twenty eminent experts from different fields discussed issues of common interest for the region. The topics of the first six episodes were: “Is terrorism a threat to the Balkans and how to fight against it”, “Bilateral disputes”, “(Dis) trust towards neighbors”, “Why there are fewer and fewer of us (white plague)”, “Debt slavery (over-indebtedness of countries and citizens)” and “Tabloidization of public life”. In addition to the guests, our satirists Enver Kazaz, Balsa Brkovic and Voja Žanetić, as well as the alumni of the European Fund for the Balkans, expressed their opinions on each on the aforementioned topics.

The fifth season of Okruzenje will be aired in October.


Serbia and Albania - A step towards a European Future

“Despite animosity, unresolved issues, prejudice and stereotypes, the cooperation of the two countries is possible” Ms Kovac said, attracting the spotlight at the conference ‘Serbia and Albania - Towards a European Future’.

The conference, hosted by the European Movement Serbia, in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, was a great opportunity for participants to discuss issues concerning  Serb-Albanian relations.

The Executive Director of the Albanian Institute for International Studies Tirana, Mr Albert Rakipi,  commented that “there is no issue between 2 countries that needs third-party mediation”. Mr  Gazmend Turdiu, Deputy Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council Sarajevo, said, “What had caused the relations of the two countries to falter, was the inability to agree to disagree”.

The representatives of  National Youth Council of Serbia, the National Youth Congress Albania and Youth Forum of the European Movement in Serbia discussed and agreed on the need to meet each other and exchange experiences. 

The lack of knowing each other and the lack of opportunities for more intensive contact and for working together seem to be the main obstacles standing in the way of normal and fruitful relations between the two countries. The process of cooperation and mutual understanding and support between the two countries is developing and the outcome will have strategic importance for the European integration of  the  Western  Balkans.

Here you can find the media coverage of the conference.


Towards the Western Balkans Paris Summit in July 2016

The Civil Society Forum held in Vienna in August 2015 as part of the Western Balkans Summit was the framework for Civil Society representatives to assemble and engage in dialogue with political decision makers.

Heading towards the Western Balkans Paris Summit in July 2016, the European Fund for the Balkans and ERSTE Stiftung hosted the Civil Society Forum in Belgrade on May 11-13. The CDRSEE’s Executive Director participated and shared the CDRSEE’s experience, contributing to the conclusion of this conference which will be compiled into a set of messages to be communicated at the Western Balkans Paris Summit.

Civil society organisations gathered with the intention of strengthening their visibility and impact, discussing issues such as youth cooperation, the migration crisis, environment/climate change agenda and bilateral disputes in the region.

Read the conclusions (pdf document, 90 kb)


Serbian Education Minister says JHP books are an example for history textbooks

CDRSEE Executive Director Zvezdana Kovač took part in an influential conference on the role of education in preventing conflict, one of the foundations of the CDRSEE, as part of the 20th anniversary commemoration of the OSCE's The Hague Recommendations Regarding the Education Rights of National Minorities.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) organised in The Hague a two-day event on April 20-21, which opened with introductory words by Ms Astrid Thors, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, as well as OSCE's Special Representative, Mr. Gernot Erler.

As the aim of the conference was to emphasize the role of education in preventing conflict, the event brought together government representatives, teachers, education professionals and non-governmental actors amongst them. Ms Kovač was an active participant, as the CDRSEE has played a major role in this area with its Joint History Project history education programme, and it continues to expand. She discussed the Joint History Project, and the Serbian Minister of Education, Mr Srđan Verbić, praised the JHP workbooks. He said, "We all should follow this example and start working on joint textbooks!" This was a great honour for the CDRSEE. In fact, the JHP was praised by everyone at the conference as innovative educational material.

Ms Thors highlighted the importance of avoiding repetition, as the European history has been marked by conflicts in the past. She talked on the important role of education in preventing conflict and on the promotion and management of diversity, how state education budgets are more retroactive than proactive and how education is often forgotten in peace agreements. With that in mind, she discussed ways that education should be added to mediation processes.

Mr Erler spoke of national minorities and the ongoing need to build bridges. He mentioned Germany and Finland as examples, after conflicts in recent decades.

On the second and final day, Ms Inga Niehaus, Research Coordinator of the Georg Eckert Institute, said that even where there is a multi-perspective approach built into curricula, but textbooks don't reflect that (or vice versa at time). She
also recommended that the heritage of Islam in Europe should be given more attention, as the textbooks tend to emphasise incompatibility with Islam.