The last several years have been dynamic in South Eastern Europe. Many countries have reached a level of consolidation of their media landscapes. Basic prerequisites for a stable and functional media sector have been created, most legislative and regulatory frameworks have been put in place and the citizens can rely on multiple sources of news and information. Although an improvement of professional standards in reporting, as well as in journalistic training, is visible in most of the countries, there is still a lot of work to be done. Most importantly, there is a strong necessity to support young professionals striving for a high quality and independent journalism, who think and act freely and across the borders of the region.
For this reason, ERSTE Foundation places particular emphasis on promoting media quality in the region. In cooperation with the Robert Bosch Stiftung, we have set up a fellowship programme, named the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence, organised and implemented by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN). Each year, ten journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia are competitively chosen to receive funding and professional support to conduct their own research project. As the Balkan news media increasingly need to cover complex reform issues of regional and Europe-wide proportions, this programme equips them with the appropriate knowledge and experience to provide balanced coverage of topics that are central to the region as well as to the European Union. We also support the Milena Jesenská Fellowships for Journalists, established by the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. This fellowship gives experienced journalists from print, broadcast and electronic media the opportunity to pursue in-depth research on a European project of their choice, free of daily duties and obligations.
This year we continue our support to the South East and Central Europe Media Handbook for the third time already. This up-to-date tool is a comprehensive source of information about media organisations and institutions, focusing upon the key needs of media practitioners. It makes the increasingly complex media landscape accessible not only to them, but also to all people interested in this part of Europe.
ERSTE Foundation supports the European unification process in Central and South Eastern Europe and seeks to actively assist existing enlargement initiatives. In particular, its efforts are focused on consolidating European values within the region, namely to reduce prejudices, overcome nationalism, to be able to think and live across borders. Since commencing its work in 2005, ERSTE Foundation has been developing projects in this region independently and in collaboration with partners within the three programmes of Social Development, Culture and Europe.
Being the main shareholder of Erste Group, ERSTE Foundation is committed to acting socially and culturally responsible, a commitment that is also based on our historical roots. ERSTE Foundation draws its mandate from the tradition of the savings banks, which were founded more then 190 years ago to serve the common good.
The South East Europe Media Handbook is a valuable resource and practical manual for media practitioners that can forge a positive way forward in the development of the media landscape of the region. I wish the latest edition as much success as it has had in the previous years and hope that it will reach out to a wide audience.
Member of the Board