Press Releases 2010
Press release

Speaking and Listening: Balkan States Develop a Culture of Remembrance

  • An open discussion about the future of the Balkan region: lively and strong societies play an important role
  • A focus on finding out the truth and struggling with the past

Dubrovnik/Stuttgart, October 27, 2010 - Reflecting on and evaluating experiences from the process of achieving mutual understanding and reconciliation in Europe as well as other regions of the world, and supporting the cultures of remembrance in Southeastern Europe - these were the goals of the conference “Towards Reconciliation. Experience, Techniques and Opportunities for Europe” held on October 24-25, 2010. The European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, the Robert Bosch Stiftung, and the Bertelsmann Stiftung brought 140 politicians, representatives from NGOs, and experts from over 20 different countries together for the meeting in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Speaking and listening, even across borders - thanks to the newly acquired findings, the cooperation between the Balkan states will continue to be improved in order to come to terms with a past so wrought with conflict as well as successfully safeguard democracy, the rule of law, and peace in the future.

“In order to support this process, European foundations need to use appropriate aid strategies to more actively and more prominently dedicate themselves to activities in the Balkan states,” said Dr. Ingrid Hamm, President of the Robert Bosch Stiftung, at the conference in Dubrovnik. “We support initiatives that contribute to finding out the truth and the reconciliation process, and we carry out projects that get young leaders involved, since they will be the ones who shape the future of their societies. We support excellent journalists from the Balkan states with journalism programs, and in these programs we help them to establish and expand their professional network. Not only do I hope that these efforts will strengthen existing partnerships and relationships, but I also hope that they will encourage new acquaintances to do their part for understanding and reconciliation.”

What contribution can civil societies make when it comes to reconciliation? Can the media, arts, culture, education, and religion improve real life together in a community, for example? At the conference, participants from Germany, Poland, Spain, and South Africa exchanged ideas with their counterparts from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia in workshops on political and social issues - across generations and borders.

“In order to achieve reconciliation, it is going to take more than political leaders of countries that were formally enemies to talk to one another. Reconciliation is a long and difficult process, and it needs to involve the entire population,” said Dr. Gunter Thielen, Chairman of the Board of the Bertelsmann Stiftung. “Today, Europe is a democratic continent. This is an important achievement for all of us. The Bertelsmann Stiftung has specifically focused on the topic of European integration for over 20 years. We always believed that this was the way to achieve lasting peace. And we worked with others to promote expanding the EU into the central part of Eastern Europe,” said Dr. Thielen.

Understanding and reconciliation begin with listening - that was something all of the conference’s participants agreed upon. The Croatian president Ivo Josipovic, who wrapped up the conference together with his colleagues, the designated president of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegovic, and the president of Montenegro, Filip Vujanovic, also listened attentively, and all three answered questioned from the participants and discussed the future of the region with them. For Ivan Krastev, Chairman of the Board of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Bulgaria, this was the first step toward a better future: “Ten years ago, the presidents would have delivered the same speeches - but they never would have spoken with the audience so openly afterwards.” The former president of Poland, Aleksandar Kwasniewski, summed up the conference on Monday evening: “In the past few days, I learned that the countries of Southeastern Europe have lively and strong civil societies. And they speak with each other across borders - which means that they have come a lot farther than many other regions of the world.”

The “Remembrance, Responsibility, and Future” Foundation supported the conference as our partner. We received additional support from the ERSTE Foundation, the European Jewish Fund, the Dräger Foundation, and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.


Stephanie Ferdinand
Phone: +49 (0)711 46084-29
Fax: +49 (0)711 46084-96