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Anniversary for DAAD projects, ERASMUS Partnerships and joint publications

After ten years of Balkan Cooperation First Meeting of English specialists in Kosovo

What started at a European conference in Torino in 2010 was the basis for an exciting serious of successful DAAD projects, ERASMUS Partnerships and joint publications – and returns to the European conference in Lyon in 2020. Deconstructing and constructing academic and journalistic English texts with regard to credibility, conflicting truths, and trust is more topical and more important than ever for the partners in Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina - and in Germany.

Almost ten years ago, the European Society for the Study of English (ESSE) met in Torino. The Seminar on “Academic Writing” had the usual contributions from the ERASMUS family, from Modena, Zaragoza, Belfast, and Istanbul - even from Yerevan in Armenia, where Prof. Schmied had discussed a TEMPUS project the year before. Only one young professor was unknown to everyone, he came from Vlore in Albania, where they had just founded a new association of English specialists. He fitted nicely into the family and soon invited Prof. Schmied and some colleagues to the Annual Meeting of the Albanian Association of English Studies the next year, where Prof Schmied met colleagues from Skopje and Ohrid in North Macedonia and from Podgorica in Montenegro.

In 2012, the first DAAD project was applied for and all partners met in 2013 in Skopje for a Workshop to prepare the Summer School on the shores of Lake Ohrid in July 2013 to discuss and practice “Academic Writing”. A small group of German students was privileged to take part and even received credits for their Project Management Seminar – two of them teach in the TUC English Department today. The students from the South Eastern partner countries were really grateful and enjoyed the German teaching style; so that the next year, a special summer school was organized in Vlore for peer-to-peer teaching. Thus the teachers were all German PhD students, although some were born in England and Ghana. The year after, in 2015, unfortunately, the DAAD project focussing on capacity building in the countries around the Kosovo was discontinued, since the German Foreign Office proclaimed that there was no need for special South East European cooperation – until that September when the refugees came. … and a new DDAD programme Hochschuldialog mit den Ländern des Westlichen Balkans. The idea of dialogue was welcomed enthusiastically by our old partners - quite in contrast to the 19th century idea of “Balkan”. Anyway, every year new partners were added, from Nis (Serbia), Split (Croatia), Vrsac (Serbia), and Banja Luka (Bosnia and Herzegovina); and new dialogues emerged, on “Crises in Europe”, “Credibility, Honesty, Ethics, Politeness” and “Conflicting Truths”; news and fake news had to be deconstructed, nationally and internationally. Many students were not only keen to write, but also keen to discuss their own experience of the Colourful Revolution in North Macedonia or the new press regulations in Serbia and their own views on “overtourism” in Dalmatia and even the “Framing Manual” paid for by “our mdr” - the possessive pronoun was seen as much more attractive than Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk as “State Broadcasting Station”. Although the family has expanded in size, topics, and academic approaches, it is still going strong: The new, 2020 project has the programmatic topic “From Uncertainty to Confidence and Trust”. It will take academics from all partners to the Kosovo, most of them for the first time - and this is still a big step for many. The project family has to lead the civil society, despite all disappointments of EU membership negotiations and political interference in universities ...

And thus the partnership has come full circle. This year there is a new big ESSE conference in Lyon and Prof. Schmied organises a new seminar on “Standards in Academic Writing” with contributions from the old family friends of 2010, but also from the new 2020 DAAD project partners from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The dialogue has expanded also in academic format. Before the big ESSE conference, all partners hope to have a fruitful project discussion before in May in Kosovo during the Workshop and in July in Serbia during the Summer School.

Further information can be found on the current project web page.

(Author: Josef Schmied)

Matthias Fejes

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