Written evidence submitted by the British
The British Council plays a key role in the
Western Balkans building long-term relationships for the UK, and
encouraging the development of positive perceptions of the UK's
ideas, values and achievements. It also works with partners in
the region to encourage the reform agenda, reconciliation and
mutual understanding, and the growth of stability and democratic
institutions and civil society.
Our objectives are achieved through a strong
focus on work with younger people. Key activities include support
for English language learning, providing access to UK information,
and encouraging creativity and networking in order to build understanding
and reconciliation. In addition, the British Council is involved
in education and public administration reform, leadership development
and support for civil society.
The British Council has operations in Bosnia
and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro (including
Kosovo). Key themes include:
1. Raising the UK's profile amongst younger
and wider audiences.
2. Supporting skills development through
3. Teaching, exams, access to information
and strengthening civil society.
4. Working in close cooperation with the
foreign missions of HMG to support the UK's overall objectives
in the region.
5. Strengthening regional networks of young
leaders throughout South East Europe.
The main British Council office in Bosnia and
Herzegovina is in Sarajevo. The British Council aligns its work
to support Bosnia and Herzegovina's efforts towards EU and NATO
accession and HMG's overall objective of ensuring a stable, functioning
and self-sustainable Bosnia and Herzegovina on the path to EU-Atlantic
integration. Planning is closely linked to that of the Embassy.
The British Council has worked to raise its
profile significantly to reach a wider, younger group, to increase
the number of young Bosnians who have first-hand involvement with
the UK, through education, culture and the English language, and
to raise its profile across the country beyond Sarajevo.
The Military English Support Project is widely
viewed in the region as the strongest military English Language
Teaching (ELT) operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As well as
supporting defence reform, it has pioneered innovative learning
Learning from this experience the British Council
will pilot its Blended English Language Learning approach in October
2004. This pilot programme blends taught English in the classroom
with computer-assisted learning, using multi-media study as its
central feature, and will be part of an integration of services
in a Learning and Information Centre. Other services provided
will be examinations, library and information services, a new
multi-language website and the use of the mobile networks.
We work in cultural heritage to assist in the
reconstruction of communities. Following a study earlier in the
year we will be launching a project to look at a Cultural Heritage
Trail for Bosnia and Herzegovina, a multi-disciplinary activity
including cultural heritage preservation, local community involvement
and tourism development. The British Council continues to work
with festivals such as the Sarajevo International Film Festival
and the JazzFest. We integrate our work in this field with education,
development and governance.
We also involve networks of young people in
Bosnia and Herzogovina in the British Council's Connecting Futures
programme, a global initiative to build mutual understanding,
learning and respect between young people with different cultural
backgrounds in the UK and other countries. In Bosnia and Herzegovina
we are actively engaging in issues of faith and identity, launching
a regional approach to explore the nature of European identity
and its relationship with the main religious and political traditions,
to bridge misunderstanding and to explore how this process might
inform wider networks in the UK and beyond.
The British Council's office at Skopje includes
a library, cyber café and information centre. The British
Council's work supports the aims of the UK to encourage the reform
process that will assist Macedonia become a stable and successful
European state and create lasting, positive relationships with
the UK, particularly amongst young people.
The British Council in Macedonia is creating
an interactive network called Blue Sky consisting of students
and young professionals who look to the UK as their source of
knowledge and inspiration. Under this initiative, we run workshops,
small projects and an annual summer school focused on creativity
and citizenship. Blue Sky-related projects include the launch
of the European Youth Parliament in Macedonia and the development
of a range of projects to revive links between the twinned cities
of Bradford and Skopje, focusing on the interests and aspirations
of their young people. Arts events remain the most effective means
for the British Council in Macedonia to highlight key messages
on diversity, innovation and the UK's commitment to the republic.
Foreign languages are a compulsory part of the
school curriculum from mid-primary level. The British Council
is working with the Ministry of Education, the English Department
of Skopje University, the South East Europe University and the
English teachers' association (ELTAM) to bring about changes in
policy and practice and influence the wider reform agenda in education.
The successful Peacekeeping English Project
continues, with additional activity having begun with the Ministry
of the Interior. The British Council will work closely with the
British Embassy and DFID to develop further ideas in this sector
and will continue to work closely with the British Embassy on
public diplomacy in general.
The British Council has offices in Belgrade,
Podgorica and Prishtina and is playing a leading role in Serbia
and Montenegro's transition to becoming a full member of the European
Union and the development of a stable and democratic society with
strong links to the UK and its neighbours in South East Europe.
In supporting wider UK objectives, operational priorities have
been Governance, Education and English Language Teaching to support
the reform agenda. The British Council in Serbia and Montenegro
works very closely with HM Embassy to co-ordinate and complement
activities in public diplomacy.
In 2002, Belgrade became the second of the British
Council's new IT-based Knowledge and Learning Centres, providing
technologically the most advanced facility for a cultural centre
in Europe. It uses a multimedia approach to reach younger and
larger audiences. In 2003 British Council moved into new offices
in Podgorica, shared with the HMG mission, which has assisted
the Embassy to have a full-time member of staff based in Montenegro.
These changes have increased British Council's profile in Serbia
and Montenegro significantly.
Through the use of a multimedia approach, videoconferencing,
the Internet and the Cybercentre at the Knowledge and Learning
Centre in Belgrade, the British Council is achieving a step change
in engagement with target audiences and their perceptions of the
Support for the Republican Governments of Serbia
and Montenegro's reform agenda includes capacity building through
the provision of training to the Ministry of Education and the
Agency of Public Administration and Development. We are supporting
the Federal Government and the Republican Governments of Serbia
and Montenegro in managing the transition to a stable democracy
with respect for the rule of law and the development of the economy.
This includes support for the decentralisation of decision-making
to the regions with events and project work taking place outside
the principal cities of Belgrade and Podgorica.
A Peacekeeping English Project was established
in Serbia and Montenegro in September 2002. Increasing knowledge
of English assists users meet regional and multinational obligations
and facilitates international contact amongst senior personnel.
This contributes to the improved professionalism, standards and
capabilities of the Armed Forces and public security agencies,
with particular regard to their respect for human rights, the
rule of law and the primacy of a democratically elected executive.
The UK is perceived now as the Armed Forces' leading partner in
its reform process.
The British Council has been working with the
Ministry of Education and Sport in Serbia and Montenegro to provide
training in English Language Teaching. We have also introduced
a project under the British Council's Dreams + Teams sports initiative.
This develops leadership and cross-cultural awareness amongst
young people through sport and international educational links.
"Football in the community" projects at Red Star FC
are linked with those at Manchester United through web projects
and video-conferencing. Support for the arts includes an award-winning
project between the National Theatre, Belgrade and the Royal National
Theatre, London as well as the ground-breaking project Narratives
of the Unseen between the Universities of Glasgow and Belgrade.
In science, the focus is the environment and linking young researchers
and school children with the UK and other countries in South East
The British Council has been working in Kosovo
since September 1999, with an office and library in Pristina.
The operation focuses on education and the arts, with young professionals
as our main target audience. In the first five years of operation,
we have given basic training support to English teachers; assisted
the Ministry of Education with curriculum reform in foreign language
teaching; introduced British qualifications in English as well
as UK distance learning packages; supported the development of
the public administration and media studies departments of Pristina
University (funded by DFES); and raised the UK's profile through
a series of partnerships in the arts. We also manage the Chevening
Scholarship programme on behalf of FCO.
The UK-South East Europe Forum (www.uksee.net)
is a new British Council regional programme run jointly by our
offices in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia,
Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia and Montenegro. The Forum
aims to build alliances between the next generation of leaders
from the UK and the countries in South East Europe (SEE), and
within South East Europe itself, creating future advocates for
the UK and for the countries of South East Europe.
The Forum has three parallel strands, focusing
on People and Politics, Youth Action and Creative Industries.
A conference to launch the "People and Politics" strand
of the Forum took place in Croatia in March 2004 and involved
100 young political and civil society leaders from the UK and
SE Europe. The first meeting of participants in Youth Action,
130 people from the UK and 10 countries in South East Europe including
Greece and Turkey, will take place in Macedonia in September 2004.
The first activity under the Creative Industries strand took place
in September 2004 when a group of South East European young cultural
leaders met UK counterparts in a study visit coinciding with the
World Creative Forum in London. The aim of these three strands
is to create long term partnerships through joint projects and
programmes which will initially run for a two year period.
The British Council would be pleased to provide
any further information on its work in the Western Balkans and
would be delighted to welcome the members of the Foreign Affairs
Committee to our offices, or to see projects and meet participants
if and when they visit the region as part of this inquiry.
12 October 2004