The Balkan Peninsula is an area characterized by a special dynamics of neighborly relations. Different ethnic and religious groups often coexist in a relatively small area. They share common traditions, history, cuisine, folklore, and even everyday problems of a domestic nature. Unfortunately, this same population has repeatedly become the object of policies that incite extreme hatred and tolerate violence and disunity, which have served different political interests.
Countries in the Balkans have a long history of fragmentation and its nations are often marked by prejudices and stereotypes that can also be defined as generalisations about members of a certain social group as a result of natural cognitive reduction. Such labeling is common because as we ascribe various personality traits to others (and consequently to ourselves), others also do the same for us. Group identity is always defined by the relationship towards other groups or group identities; a group that threatens us, our interests or even our survival. The others – often minorities in society – are ‘different, unadjusted, privileged’ and, generally speaking, perceived as intruders (if not even invaders) in relation to the majority population. In times of crisis, they – by their sole existence – may even be portrayed as a threat.
Therefore, one of the tasks of this project is, first, to try to find out the reasons for the emergence of stereotypes in the Balkans, their characteristics, when they arose, whether they exist today. That it is important to understand the circumstances that led to the development of stereotypes so as to prevent possible future conflicts and deterioration of relations between the various ethnic groups in the Balkans. This can only be achieved by actively involving young people in this process because this is the generation that will determine what life will be like tomorrow. It will be achived through development of set of instruments which will increase enriches their knowledge on the topic of the project, their civic activism, their tolerance, raising their awareness of conflict aspects, overcoming stereotypes and improvement of understanding each other.
The project focuses on young people born and raised in the previous period between the two epochs – the passing of division, differentiation and defamation of the neighbor and the coming – of shared common European values of tolerance, respect, freedom and respect for human rights.Therefore, in this key from a historical and cultural point of view, when the Balkan countries are located “closer” than any political, strategic, economic and other nature, it is very important to join the lasting foundations of future peace and new context in the Balkans.
Research: The image of the other
The implementation of the activity will be realized in the form of a study of the main problem areas leading to hatred and division between the participating countries, as well as an outline of mythologies that glorify their own and denigrate the foreign, thus starting the goals of “breaking” and overcoming them, through:
- Desktop analysis of history textbook curricula;
- Questionnaire, group interviews and workshops in school and among youth groups, addressed to the aim understand the perceptions of young people living in the Balkan countries concerning the Balkans and the EU.
Toolkit for Youth Workers
The implementation of the activity will be realized through:
- Creating a guide for youth workers, in what cases and when to use the developed exercises.
- Development of a set of informal exercises aimed at overcoming stereotypes and prejudices at the Balkan level – workshops, simulations, role-playing games, discussions, etc.
- The image of the BALKANS – a set of photographs showing different aspects of life in the Balkans will be created, with instructions for use and starting points for discussion developed for each.
- “NoConflict Videos”. Video content will be created aimed at promoting dialogue between countries to promote peace as a core value, paying attention to what unites us – common traditions, culture, folklore, customs, etc.