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Media Release

ERSTE Foundation brings “Democracy Workshops” to Montenegro

22. January 2013

After a two-year preparatory period, the official inauguration of the „Democracy Workshops“ marks the successful establishment of an Austrian educational project in Montenegro. Since 2007 the Austrian Parliament’s „Democracy Workshops“ have provided children and young people aged 8 to 14 with interactive access to topics such as democracy and parliamentarianism through six different workshops. In addition to providing an understanding of democratic principles and parliamentarian processes, the workshops also intend to teach young people key principles of political participation, such as media competence or a readiness to contribute one’s own views.

ERSTE Foundation – which runs programmes focussing on strengthening the democracies of Central and South Eastern Europe – approached the Austrian parliament in 2010 with the idea of bringing the „Democracy Workshops“ to South Eastern Europe. Montenegro was chosen as the first country to host this workshop.

At the inauguration in Podgorica Erhard Busek, Chairman of ERSTE Foundation’s Advisory Board, said: “Democracy is not something you can establish just like that. You have to learn how it works. It is not so long since Montenegro – like almost all Eastern and South Eastern European countries after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 – became a parliamentarian democracy. As in Austria, it is also essential here to address young citizens in an engaging manner and help them understand that a pluralistic society is the backbone of democratic decision-making processes and to encourage them to become part of these processes themselves.”

ERSTE Foundation financed the implementation of the „Democracy Workshops“ in Podgorica with a total of EUR
290,000 in 2011 and 2012 and managed its organisation. Together with the educational agency “Müllers Freunde”, which was responsible for the implementation, the foundation selected the renowned Montenegrin NGO Forum Youth and Non-formal Education (Forum MNE) following a call for proposals. The NGO, which has been working in youth education for several years, is in charge of holding the workshops. As part of a pilot phase, workshops have been taking place in Podgorica every day since October 2012, showing children and teenagers from 9 to 15 years interactively how modern democracies and parliaments function.

Over the course of the current school year, the NGO offered a daily workshop on “democracy and parliament”. By the end of December more than 1,300 children from 17 Montenegrin schools had participated in these workshops. Starting in early 2013 two workshops will be held every day to meet the high demand. Furthermore, there are plans to establish another thematic workshop focusing on the European Union.