Since 1998, the Joint History Project, the flagship programme of the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe, has focused unwaveringly on promoting reconciliation in the Western Balkans and beyond, through history education that presents multiple perspectives and encourages critical thinking. The second phase of this programme, known as JHP II, builds on the successes of the first, by bringing to the spotlight the recent history of the Western Balkans.
With the explicit and complete support of six ministries of education from the region and valuable EU funding, the CDRSEE's History Education Committee created two new workbooks, covering the Cold War and the transition in Europe up until 2008, thus including the wars of the 1990s. Nothing is taboo -- the new chapters will include everything from "The political face of dictatorship and repression" to "The crises of the 70s and 80s", and "The disintegration of Yugoslavia" to "The experience of market economies and globalisation".
These new workbooks, published in English in 2016, take over where the first four left off, but in more than just content. The process encompasses multiple perspectives as well, starting with workshops that brought some 89 teachers from different backgrounds to Bujanovac, Mostar and Vukovar, cities that have come to represent conflict and division, to express their concerns and wishes for the new books. The teachers compared textbooks from different countries across the region, and discussed their curricula and how they teach recent history.
These two new volumes of history workbooks were launched in November 2016 in the European Parliament, hosted by the Vice-President of the Parliament, Ms Ulrike Lunacek together with fellow MEPs Mr Eduard Kukan, Ms Tanja Fajon, Mr Knut Fleckenstein, Mr Giorgios Grammatikakis and Mr Ivan Jakovčić. Mr Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations spoke at the event and stated that the money granted by the EC to the JHP was money well spent for “building highways for education”. The Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council, Mr Goran Svilanović also spoke at the event to commend the work of the JHP.
The books were subsequently launched in 6 capital cities of Southeast Europe at events at which Heads of EU Delegations and ministers of education spoke.
Looking ahead, the team has secured initial funding for the translation of the new editions into Serbian and Albanian and is seeking further funds to translate the books into all the languages of the region and to carry out teacher training workshops. With another 1,000 teachers trained and the new volumes translated into local languages, the JHP will have the chance to reach another million students.