KAS Conference: Central Europe Plus – Bridge technologies with regard to a sustainable energy supply

Copyright photos: KAS

From 8 – 11 May 2024, Rebecca Thorne attended the conference „Central Europe Plus – Bridge technologies with regard to a sustainable energy supply“ in Croatia, organized by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. Participants represented countries from Central Europe and beyond (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) and brought expertise on various aspects of energy security and supply to the table. Discussion and debate revolved around questions of resilience, nuclear energy, fossil fuels and cooperation. The programme also included a guided tour of Krško nuclear power plant in Slovenia.

Péter Techet für TAZ über die kroatischen Wahlen

Péter Techet, wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am IDM kommentierte die vorgezogenen kroatischen Parlamentswahlen in der bundesdeutschen Tageszeitung „taz“. Er meint, dass Zoran Milanović als Ministerpräsident zwar innenpolitisch eine gewisse Erneuerung in einem Land bedeuten könnte, das fest im Griff der konservativen Langzeitregierungspartei HDZ ist, aber außenpolitisch einen EU- und Nato-kritischen Kurs verfolgen würde.

Der Artikel kann hier gelesen werden.

Parlamentswahlen in Kroatien 2024

Lesen Sie hier das Briefing von Péter Techet:

Special Round Table: Ukraine and Croatia: Navigating (Post) – War Hopes and Challenges

While current news about Ukraine is dominated by the war, it is essential to think about how Ukraine can shape its own future after the conflict and how it can address the political, economic, and societal aspects of dealing with the war experiences and traumas.
What similarities and common challenges existed in Croatia and Ukraine before the war, such as a transition to a different type of economy, national independence, minority issues, and different approaches to national history? How can a post-war situation be addressed from legal, political and social perspectives? How can divisive issues like minority rights and debates on memory politics be effectively resolved?
This online panel discussion we explored how Croatian politics, society, and economy had changed during and after the war, as well as how Croatia and other neighbouring countries had addressed the challenges of the post-war period, including addressing war crimes, dealing with EU integration, memory politics, and historical debates.
This event was organised in collaboration with the Center for Advanced Studies/Rijeka, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.

IDM at the youth event “Young Danube Bridges”

On 19 September, Sophia Beiter attended the event “Young Danube Bridges” at the Collegium Hungaricum in Vienna. Organized by the regional cultural advisor from the Danube Swabian Central Musuem in Ulm, the seminar was part of the project “International Youth Encounters in the Danube Region” and aimed to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and ideas on key issues concerning the area. 

Participants from Germany, Hungary, Croatia, Montenegro, Romania, Bulgaria and Moldova came together to learn about the EU Strategy for the Danube Region. The young people, who are all learning German, presented their countries, brought some typical food from their region and gathered knowledge about the Danube region during creative games and interactive activities. Alongside the IDM, several cultural institutes and embassies of the respective countries were present at the event. 

“Developing society’s post-war resilience in Ukraine” conference in Croatia

On 6 June 2023, IDM Research Associate Jack Gill was invited to speak on a panel at a conference hosted at the University of Zadar (Croatia) on “Developing society’s post-war resilience in Ukraine”, organised by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation together with the University of Zadar, the Croatian Statehood Foundation (ZHDZ), the IJEK-Institute, and the Hybrid Warfare Research Institute.

Gill spoke on the first panel, titled “Post-war (re)construction of democratic society in Ukraine”, and gave his insights into the geopolitical context in which Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction would necessarily have to take place. In particular, he highlighted the importance of the Black Sea to the Kremlin’s grand strategy for global power projection, and that what we are currently seeing unfold in Ukraine is Russia trying to permanently secure the strategic territories in southern Ukraine, namely the Oblasts (regions) of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

After giving this geopolitical overview of the current situation in Ukraine and Russia, Gill offered the suggestion that, once the war is over, some kind of federal governance system could work well for Ukraine. Drawing a comparison with Germany and Austria after the Second World War, he said that federalism could offer a very stable and decentralised political and legal framework which could ensure a fairer distribution of investment funds after Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. However, Gill stressed that federalism would be better based on the traditional historical regions of Ukraine, as opposed to the current system of oblasts, which is a legacy of the Soviet period.

With over 40 participating policymakers and experts from Croatia, Germany, Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, the UK, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Hungary, other participants emphasised, among other things, the need for Ukraine’s integration into western political structures, like the European Union, as well as a larger role for youth and civil society in Ukraine’s post-war development. Other important issues mentioned by participants included the role and influence of media (in particular countering malign Russian influence) to strengthen societal resilience, as well as the need for further financial and military support for Ukraine from Western countries.

Balkan nach Europa – sofort!

Erhard Busek (Vizekanzler a.D. und Vorsitzender des Instituts für den Donauraum und Mitteleuropa – IDM in Wien) und Sebastian Schäffer (Geschäftsführer IDM) fordern die sofortige Aufnahme aller Westbalkanstaaten in die EU. Ihr Plädoyer verbinden sie mit „Gschichtln“ über Grenzen, Glauben und Grausamkeiten, über Fabeln, Frieden und Fußball. So bilden die persönlichen Erlebnisse und Erinnerungen der Autoren auch ein Zeugnis ihrer Zeit.

Goodbye Kuna and Borders

In his blog article Dino Filipovic, the IDM’s Croatian trainee, explains the positive and negative aspects of entering the Schengen Area and the Eurozone. 

The celebration on New Year’s Eve took many of us away for a moment from the fact that last year brought us war and that many new challenges await us in the next one. Few could have predicted that in the year 2022, on European soil, we would witness the insane destruction of cities and the misfortunes of many people. However, we can only hope that these tectonic changes in international relations will have as few adverse effects on our lives as possible and that the new year 2023 will be much more positive. In this direction, the war experiences of the 1990s in Croatia can be an example to the Ukrainian people that even such difficulties will eventually be overcome and that a period of reconstruction and prosperity will soon follow. 

Along with the standard drinking of New Year’s champagne, entry into the new year was especially important for the citizens of Croatia.  This was confirmed on the first day of the new year by the arrival of Ursula von der Leyen at the Bregana border crossing between Slovenia and Croatia to congratulate Croatian Prime Minister Plenković on entering the Schengen zone and switching to the euro. While pictures of Croatian officials cheerfully paying for their European colleagues’ coffee in euros spread quickly in the media, in practice these changes meant the beginning of a chaotic period. The possibility of still paying in kunas for the first two weeks, and refunding money in euros, caused great confusion on the first day. While some kept copies of the kuna as a souvenir, others rushed to shops to get a euro in return and get rid of the remaining banknotes and coins of the former currency. This created immediate congestion and problems for traders, who still showed insufficient readiness despite a long period of preparation. In addition to the above, numerous examples of Turkish lira coins were found in circulation, visually resembling one-euro coins. The elderly population is especially susceptible to this type of fraud, but given that many Croats have learned to change currencies from Yugoslavian and Croatian dinars to kuna, there is no doubt that this problem will soon become a thing of the past.  

Soaring prices 

What resonated much more strongly with the public and affected Croatian citizens was the price increase. Just a few months ago, the governor of the Croatian National Bank and government members assured us that such a scenario was impossible. However, the prime minister and the minister of economy and sustainable development appeared in front of the television cameras with confused faces and visibly surprised. Urgent talks with the directors of the retail chains followed this. The Croatian government publicly threatened to blacklist traders who used the opportunity to raise prices, and the government promptly reacted by activating the inspectorate. Through special price monitoring, the state inspectorate determined a price increase of 13 percent. Among the listed items were basic foodstuffs such as water, juice, eggs, and chicken meat. At the same time, traders try to find justifications and claim that the price increase was not due to the introduction of the euro but due to a rise in costs. In the meantime, Croatian citizens, from markets and bakeries to hair salons, face higher prices than in December last year. The transition to the euro today gives us the possibility not only to compare, for example, salaries and pensions with the rest of the EU but also to compare the prices of essential items very simply. Accordingly, numerous media outlets recently published tables where it was possible to see that many foodstuffs are much cheaper in neighboring countries such as Slovenia. All this additionally caused resentment among the citizens, and in the coming period, we will see if the price increase will continue. 

No borders or shifted borders? 

In contrast to the confusion surrounding the introduction of the euro, it was predictable that the entry into the Schengen Area would pass without major problems. However, the abolition of border controls towards Slovenia and Hungary also means increased controls towards Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thus, on the first days of the new year, people waited for hours at the border crossings with Serbia, and the lines were kilometers long. However, the reason for this was also the Christmas holidays, and the situation returned to normal very quickly. Returning to the traineeship in Vienna after the holidays was also exciting for me personally because, for the first time, I had the opportunity to travel to the rest of the EU without stopping at the border. Although I was looking forward to the fact that this winter I would not have to get off the bus to show the border police my identity document, the Austrian police denied my expectations by stopping the bus at the border between Slovenia and Austria and made my journey no different from the previous ones. Despite this, I am looking forward to the fact that with these changes, the long line towards the Adriatic Sea in the summer period will forever be a part of history. 

What lies ahead? 

It is indisputable that Croatia achieved almost all of its foreign policy goals with the changes mentioned above, except for membership in the OECD. It is to be expected that the ruling elites will start seriously dealing with internal problems in order to catch up with the rest of the EU. The recent population census is the best indicator that young people in this country do not see prospects and are looking for their happiness in countries like Germany, Austria, or Ireland. While European officials were drinking the first New Year’s coffee in Zagreb, just a few tens of kilometers away in the earthquake-affected area, residents welcomed the new year in containers.  It is a devastating fact that the Croatian government, three years after the earthquake, has not yet renovated even a single house and that despite the available European funds, the renovation process has not even started. It remains to be hoped that the new year will bring positive developments in this segment as well. After the football euphoria has almost completely diminished, with a new currency in their pockets, Croatian citizens are looking towards a more stable situation both internally and internationally. 


Dino Filipovic – a student of Master’s program in Development and International Relations at Aalborg University (Denmark) and currently a trainee at the IDM. He holds a BA degree in International Relations from the Libertas International University in Zagreb, where he was also a contributing author of the student newspaper Libertas.    

Danubius Awards 2022

Danubius Award 2022 to the Bulgarian scientist Prof. Dr. Diana Mishkova, Danubius Mid-Career Award to Ukrainian scientist Assoc. Prof. Dr. Tamara Martsenyuk and Danubius Young Scientist Awards to 13 promising researchers from the Danube region. 

The “Danubius Award” 2022 goes to Bulgarian Prof. Dr. Diana Mishkova, History Professor and Director of the Centre for Advanced Study (CAS) in Sofia, Bulgaria. With her work focusing on modern and contemporary history of Eastern Europe, the modernization of South-Eastern Europe, European societies, and European peripheries as well as national identities, she has contributed profoundly to research on the Balkans. She is o the funding director of CAS Sofia, that is supported by numerous international sponsors, such as the Wissenschaftkolleg Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study Berlin). Prof. Dr. Mishkova has already received several awards for her scientific work and is involved in different international projects – currently in the Horizon 2020 project „PREVEX – Preventing Violent Extremism in the Balkans“.

Ukrainian scientist Assoc. Prof. Dr. Tamara Martsenyuk has been awarded the “Danubius Mid-Career Award” 2022. She is an Associate Professor at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. In her studies, she focuses on gender research, social inequality issues, gender policies, social movements, and empowerment. In addition to numerous stays abroad and the participation in international research projects, she also brings her expertise to national policy forums and NGOs. Her research is currently focusing on the topic “Women’s involvement in Russia’s War against Ukraine”. 

In addition, 13 young scientists from the Danube Region will be awarded with the Danubius Young Scientist Award 2022 for their scientific work.

By presenting these Awards, the Austrian Ministry for Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) is contributing to the implementation of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) adopted by the European Council in 2011. Through the awarding of outstanding scientific achievements, the Danube region is made visible as a research area and the perception of its multidisciplinary challenges and potentials is strengthened.

„The Danube Region provides many opportunities for cross-border and regional cooperation among universities as well as research organizations. And there are, indeed, plenty of common challenges along the Danube and beyond which we need to jointly address and develop solutions for Federal Minister for Education, Science and Research Prof. Martin Polaschek pointed out on the occasion of the award ceremony on 10 November 2022 at the University of Maribor.

“The role of scientists and researchers has changed profoundly in the last decade. On the one hand, scientists and researchers are in a high demand to deliver fast results and provide evidence for critical policy decisions, and they have become indispensable in explaining and communicating the current knowledge available. On the other hand, we see a worrying rise in skepticism towards science and research as well as towards democracy in general, which creates a wide range of problems for and in our societies. We need to work together to counter this skepticism, and I am confident that all of you present and especially the awardees of today can and will contribute with their work towards demonstrating and communicating the relevance of science and research„, Polaschek continued.

The award ceremony in Maribor took place in the presence of Barbara Weitgruber, Head of the Department from the BMBWF, and Friedrich Faulhammer, Chairman of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe (IDM).

In her introduction, Barbara Weitgruber highlighted the solidarity with Ukraine as partner country of the EUSDR: “We will continue our support to the Ukrainian researchers, who have come or aim of coming in the EU, as well as to those remained in Ukraine. In addition to that, we hope for an early beginning of the reconstructions, and we are getting ready for appropriate support measures”. 

Friedrich Faulhammer added: “I am really pleased that once again we are working together with the Ministry for Education, Science and Research to honor scientists, who are significantly contributing to the development of knowledge and understanding within the Danube region in their various fields of research. This year, I am particularly pleased that we can also highlight the scientific work of Ukrainian female researchers, as they are currently forced to work under the conditions caused by the unjustified Russian attack on their country”.

The “Danubius Award” was established in 2011 to honor researchers who have outstandingly dealt with the Danube Region in their academic or artistic work. The prize is granted every year on a rotating basis for achievements in the humanities, cultural and social sciences (2022) or in life sciences and is endowed with € 5,000.

The “Danubius Mid-Career Award“ is endowed with € 2,200 and has been awarded since 2017 to researchers who are from 5 to a maximum of 15 years after their last formal scientific degree or have equivalent scientific experience. The prize winners were selected by an independent jury of experts chaired by Univ. Prof. Dr. Stefan M. Newerkla (University of Vienna).

Since 2014, special young talent awards, the „Danubius Young Scientist Awards“ have also been awarded. The prize, which is open to all disciplines, highlights the scientific work and talent of young researchers and increases the visibility of the excellence of the research community in the Danube Region. In this way, the prizes also contribute to the fact that young scientists deal with the river and the region in a variety of ways. The young talent prizes are endowed with € 1.350, per award winner. The selection was made by an international jury of experts, whereby the candidates for the award were nominated by their respective scientific institutions. 

Austria  Daniela Apaydin  
Bosnia and Herzegovina  Marko Djukanović  
Croatia  Jelena Kranjec Orlović  
Czech Republic  Adela Grimes  
Germany  Jan Schmitt  
Hungary  Blanka Bartos  
Moldova  Nicolae Arnaut  
Montenegro  Miloš Brajović  
Romania  Mihaela Cudalbeanu 
Serbia  Zorana Miletić  
Slovakia  Tibor Zsigmond  
Slovenia  Žane Temova Rakuša  
Ukraine  Illia Diahovchenko  

Watch the Award ceremony below