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Project Rationale

At the beginning of the 21st century the real challenge of reconstruction of South Eastern Europe is the re-invention of Southeastern Europe.

The "Agenda for Civil Society in SEE", a three years long research project coordinated by CEU Budapest, and involving the New Europe College in Bucharest, Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin and others, starts with the assumption that the invention of the region requires the construction of a common regional vision and the emergence of a regional public debate. The project/surrealistically nicknamed Blue Bird/ is an attempt to formulate such a vision and to assist the emergence of civic regional debate. Till now, the region has been perceived in the terms of risks; the idea of the project is to refor-mulate the debate on the future in terms of opportunities.

The idea of the project is to come up with a policy document "Agenda for Civil Society in Southeastern Europe" in three years (by 2003) that will serve as the vision paper for de-velopment of the region in the next 20 years. The paper will address both governments and publics and should offer coherent policy strategies. The work on the Agenda is aimed to be a stimulus for opening the dis-cussion to different sectors of society and for initiating regional policy debate.

The primary ambition of the project is to reflect on the reconstruction of SEE, both as an intellectual and as a policy challenge. The current debate on SEE has never addressed the production of knowledge and innovative ideas about the region as a distinctive problem. The international community fails to recognize the lack of local knowledge as a specific and powerful obstacle for the development of the region. This is one of the reasons why the academic community and the intellectual community in general remained marginal in the initial stages of debating what to do in the Balkans. The urgency of the problems and the extremely limited debating time on what should be done resulted in the recycling of the old ideas and approaches.

The present project starts with the assumption that the reconstruction of the Balkans is an intellectual problem. In the last decade, Western Europe and SEE have developed in completely different directions and have worked with completely different maps of the future. In the Western part of the continent, the process of integration has reached a critical stage with the launching of the common European currency, the Euro. This has led to fundamental reconsideration of such basic concepts as the nation state, sovereignty, the national economy, national security, human rights, and so on. At the same time, the process of disintegration in the southeastern part of the continent has brought back some of the 19th century ideas about the role of states and borders, the value of economic independence, and so on. There is an urgent need for a policy dialogue about the future of the Balkans that can help local and international players involved in the process to "see" the difference between their perceptions of the existing situation.

The existence of the EU and the will of SEE to join it make the dialogue on the future more difficult, rather than easier. The temporal utopia of communism is replaced by the spatial utopia of the present EU. Consensus on joining the EU conceals the lack of debate on the future.

Understanding the intellectual challenge of development has persuaded us to avoid the "accession" type of questions in searching for new innovative ideas regarding SEE and to structure the project around four research groups rather than around 24 individual research projects. The ambition of the project is to stimulate researchers to integrate their findings in the common product and not to focus on projects of their own.

We formulated four basic questions about the future of the region and organized the project's intellectual dialogue in the context of these four questions. The selection of the groups' research agenda was based on three basic principles:

  • the research topics are broad enough and permit a multidisciplinary approach
  • the research topics are formulated in policy language
  • both the intellectual and policy community recognize the research topics as critically important.

The research is organized in four research groups, each consisting of up to six scholars from the region/or born in the region/, each focusing on a specific theme. It is significant that the groups are composed of scholars from different fields of knowledge.
The themes of the four groups are

How the Politics of Social Inclusion is Possible in Southeastern Europe

This research group will analyze the uneasy process of "socialization" in the region. Who was included, when, and why? Risks for social cohesion. Which social and political groups will drive the social agenda? Gender, ethnic, and youth problems; access to education and the characteristics of the social agenda in the region; the role of NGOs and universities. What will be the social effects of "accelerated" or delayed EU integration?
Research Coordinator- Dr. Mihail Arandarenko, G17, Belgrade

How the Regional Economies can be Integrated in the Global Economy

This research group will focus on the economic consequences of establishing a regional mar-ket and of introducing the Euro as a common currency; on the comparative advantages and disadvantages of the region; on the institutional environment; on factors that will affect for-eign investments long-term; on expected strategies of resistance to globalization; and on the role of the national states in blocking or promoting competitive strategies. Research Coordinator- Dr. Ilian Mihov, INSEAD, Paris.

What is the Future of the Nation States in SEE?

This research group will focus on the internal dynamics of state-formation in the region; on the sustainability of the existing states and statelets; on the existing constitutional regimes and their effect on the economy and society; on the risks of the weak states; on the prospect of introducing regional institutions and on the effects of EU enlargement on the functioning of the national states in the region; and on the prospects for ethnically "clean" or multi-ethnic states. Research Coordinator- Dr. Alina Mungiu-Pippidi.

How to Think About the Balkans: Culture, Region, Identities?

This research group will re-think the common history of the region; the construction of the national identities' educational systems; and the dynamic of the construction of European, national, and re-gional identities. This group will also focus on the role of religion and of clashes between religions in the formation of SEE identity. Research Coordinator - Dr. Alexander Kiossev, Center for Advanced Studies, Sofia, Bulgaria.

The major objectives of the research can be classified in five groups:

  • To map new research areas bringing together the latest methodologies used in social sciences and to stimulate interest in case studies and the techniques of micro-analysis, focusing on the study of local practices and their policy potential.
  • To set up a new model of intellectual communication between scholars from different countries and disciplines.
  • To formulate the problems of the reconstruction of SEE in a way that makes them intriguing to the broader intellectual community. This is why the project encourages non-scholarly products coming of the common research: op-eds, public lectures, and participation in NGO activities.
  • To assist the creation and distribution of significant scholarly works. Drawing on the lessons of similar projects, we realize that by-products of the research -individual articles or books - are usually more influential than the common product.
  • To structure and organization of the project will make the intellectual potential of the region visible, and a new generation of social scientists will be promoted.

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