PRESS RELEASE 2008-12-01

“Power cuts for up to 23 hours a day in Kosovo”: Lavdim Hamidi wins 2008 Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence award worth € 8,000

On Friday evening the annual fellowship programme, now in its second year, conferred the award for the best report from among a group of ten South Eastern European journalists. The programme was initiated in 2007 by ERSTE Foundation and the Robert Bosch Stiftung in cooperation with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN. The winner and nine other journalists each received a fellowship grant worth up to €4,000 to spend on a seven-month research trip. All the reports are published together in a book. Hamidi, who lives in Kosovo, writes articles for the daily newspaper Zeri and will use the prize money for his journalism training.


On Friday evening, during this year’s closing seminar in Vienna, a jury of experts selected Lavdim Hamidi’s article about Kosovo’s state power company KEK as the best contribution submitted by the ten fellows. In his report, Lavdim Hamidi sought to discover where all the foreign investment that was supposed to remedy the lack of electricity in Kosovo had gone. Power cuts are still a daily occurrence throughout the country. The development of the young nation is severely hampered by this insufficient power supply.

Programme 2008: Energy

The thematic focus of the journalist competition varies each year. In 2008 the reports focused on energy. Candidates were not only invited to write articles on hot topics such as fuel price increases, climate change or – as the winner did – energy supply, they were also encouraged to submit their ideas on human energies such as the power of ideas, the dynamics of change, the investment of energies in reconstruction, or even destructive energies. The only requirement was that the topics were put into a Balkan or European context.

 From power plants to cultural energy

Most of the reports submitted by this year’s fellows, however, allude to current developments in the energy sector. Like the report by Stanimir Vaglenov on the planned South Stream gas pipeline, Magda Munteanu’s investigation of the nuclear energy plans of the Balkan countries, and the comparison that Andreea Gheorghe draws between the future of coal-mining in Bulgaria and Romania. Gjergj Erebara put his analysis of the region’s energy problems in a broader context, mainly focusing on the discussions into what structural changes are required to solve them.

Aleksandra Stankovic confronts her readers with the impact increasing demands for energy have on the environment, writing about plans to establish a winter sports resort in the Stara Planina nature reserve in the border region between Serbia and Bulgaria. Mirsad Bajtarevic asks why Bosnia and Herzegovina is not seizing the opportunity to enter the renewable energy market, instead delaying the approval of wind farms. Dalibor Dobric dared to tackle and describe the challenge of transforming his own apartment in Zagreb into an energy-efficient home.

Among the few who describe energy not only as a physical or economic phenomenon but also as a cultural one is Zvezdana Crogorac. She explored the power of music, or rather, the power to achieve social change and break conservative structures that can be found in alternative music festivals. Finally, Darko Duridanski went in search of those energies that the independence of Kosovo triggered in other European regions striving for autonomy. To do this, he travelled all the way across Europe, from the Basque Country to the Caucasus region.

€2,000 fellowship grant plus travel allowance for cross-border research

Selected by a jury from a total of 80 applicants, all ten participants of the seven-month programme are experienced journalists. They come from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia. In order to participate in the open competition, which focuses on a different topic each year, candidates must be able to communicate fluently in English and have the permission of their employers. The selected journalists receive a fellowship grant of €2,000 plus a separate budget for travel expenses of up to €2,000. These funds are to enable journalists to travel to at least one country in the European Union and to neighbouring countries to conduct research.

 €8,000 in cash for the best report from the ten participants

During the research phase, the fellows are assisted by experienced journalists. Seminars held in Vienna and Berlin introduce participants to journalistic methods and standards and discuss the required competences depending on the specific topic of the competition. The fellows are also given the opportunity to talk with politicians, businesspeople and media representatives. At the end of the programme, the jury assesses which journalist has submitted the best report. In addition to the fellowship grant, the winner receives a cash prize of €8,000 to be used for further professional development.

 All articles in one book

The ten articles of the fellows will not only be published in different South Eastern European media and online news sites, they are also collected and published in a book. This book features all the reports of the 2008 programme, both in English and in the original languages, along with many colour illustrations:

Marcus Tanner, Gordana Igric, Prabha Chandran (eds.), Power Struggle. Meeting Global Energy Challenges in the Balkans, published by Robert Bosch Stiftung, ERSTE Foundation and Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, Sarajevo, 2008, 191 pages, ISBN 978-9958-9003-0-3

 Media partners Süddeutsche Zeitung and Der Standard

Thanks to a partnership agreement with the daily newspapers Der Standard and Süddeutsche Zeitung and the online platform, the best articles will also be available to a wide audience in German-speaking countries.

Fellows 2008: Aleksandra Stankovic, Niš, Serbia (B92); Andreea Gheorghe, Bucharest, Romania (Money Channel, Antena 3); Dalibor Dobric, Zagreb, Croatia (Radio NET, BBC World Service,; Darko Duridanski, Skopje, Macedonia (Vest); Gjergj Erebara, Tirana, Albania (Gazeta ABC, Gazeta Biznesi); Lavdim Hamidi, Prishtina, Kosovo (Zeri), Magda Munteanu, Bucharest, Romania (Business Week); Mirsad Bajtarevic, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH Radio 1); Stanimir Ivanov Kumurdjiev, Sofia, Bulgaria (24 Hours); Zvezdana Crnogorac, Belgrade, Serbia (freelance journalist).

Jury 2008: Alexandra Föderl-Schmid, editor-in-chief of the Austrian daily Der Standard; Drago Hedl, well-known Croatian journalist and editor; Gerald Knaus, president of the European Stability Initiative (ESI); Remzi Lani, executive director of the Albanian Media Institute; Christiane Schlötzer, deputy foreign editor, Süddeutsche Zeitung; Wolfgang Wähner-Schmidt, German journalist and editor; Frank Umbach, freelance energy analyst, member of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) and member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

Cooperation of two foundations and network of journalists

The Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence was initiated by ERSTE Foundation and the Robert Bosch Stiftung in cooperation with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, in order to foster quality reporting in South Eastern Europe and encourage regional networking among journalists. The aim is to broaden their knowledge of political issues of particular concern in the EU to enable them to provide better information to the public in South Eastern Europe. Furthermore, the programme seeks to raise interest among the fellows in the work being undertaken in the media of their neighbouring countries.

Reprint free of charge: Ingrid Hamm (Robert Bosch Stiftung), Lavdim Hamidi (award winner) and Boris Marte (ERSTE Foundation) during the award ceremony

Photo: Christian Fischer

ERSTE Foundation
ERSTE Foundation is active in the Central and South Eastern European region. Together with its partners it creates a hive of activity for social good. Established in 2003, the Foundation began its work two years later by developing the three programmes: Social Affairs, Culture, and Europe. Being the legal successor of the 190 year old “Erste oesterreichische Spar-Casse”, the first Austrian savings bank, ERSTE Foundation is the major shareholder of Erste Group and therefore one of the largest institutions of this kind in Europe. Its two commitments are based on historical roots: ERSTE Foundation safeguards the future of Erste Group as an independent company and reinvests its profits in activities that promote the common good.