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EFA 2011

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When I was informed that I’d won a scholarship to attend Euroepan Forum Alpbach honestly I didn’t have any knowledge about the event. After meeting with the team from the Club Alpbach Belgrade who presented the whole concept to me, I realized how much the event itself is an educational, academic two-week event, but also has a really fun side to it as well… and it is in fact a factor of integration of European academic minds working on spreading the values of tolerance, freedom, neutralism and human rights. This is also great place for lobbying and presenting the potential of your country since many officials from different European but also non European governments are annually present in the small ski center but also internationally important place at Tirol named Alpbach.

Since 1945, Alpbach has been the venue for the Alpbach European Forum, an annual two-week conference of leading figures from the worlds of science, business, the arts and politics. The Forum and the participation of so many people who have shaped the thinking of their times has given Alpbach the nickname, "The Village Of Thinkers." The first conference hall in Alpbach was built in the mid-1950s and named after the Austrian poetess Paula von Preradovic, who wrote the words for the Austrian national anthem. The plenary hall was named after the physicist and Nobel Prize-winner Erwin Schrödinger. He lies buried in the Alpbach cemetery. In 1999, the new Alpbach Congress Centre was opened, together with the 55th European Forum. With its combination of exciting architecture and a minimum environmental footprint, the main architectural feature is a spiral shaped gallery with floor-to-ceiling glazing for a unique view of the spectacular mountain backdrop.

At the suggestion of Alfons Moser, Mayor of Alpbach from 1945 to 1979, the Council issued a local planning law in 1953, which made the traditional style of architecture in Alpbach mandatory for all new buildings.

Over the years, Alpbach has collected many awards and distinctions. In 1975, the Austrian Public Health Institute certified that Alpbach had the cleanest and purest air in all of Austria. It was voted "Austria's Most Beautiful Village" in 1983 by a television contest organised by Austrian Television. In June 1985, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg conferred upon Alpbach the right to fly the European flag in recognition of the community's services to European Unity. In 1993, Alpbach won "The Most Beautiful Floral Village in Europe" award.

This event, then as now, promotes (in an international environment) the principles of independence, neutrality and interdisciplinary. Realizing all these facts I understood that this is a really serious event where I can gain significant knowledge, where I can have the opportunity to lead a constructive dialogue on topics of my interest but also to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of clean air and wonderful landscapes in one small highly traditional Austria village.

We have arrived late at night to Albach so were thus not able to see a lot but we could see very clearly the house-museum where we were settled in. Walls full of traditional Austrian details were a pleasant surprise for us as well as our host who waited for us until the late hours and was extremely kind and nice. She and her family also live in this big house so we immediately felt as a part of the family.

Once we settled in our room which was on the last floor of the house we went out at the balcony for some fresh air before going to sleep and the landscape we saw left us all breathless; a small village in the valley down there with a sky full of stars, quietness and calmness which we hadn’t seen for quite a long time. The same landscape looked even more beautiful when we woke up the following day and drunk the coffee on the same balcony. Our hosting family prepared for us a lovely traditional Austrian breakfast.
After the breakfast we left immediately to register ourselves at the Congress Center which is not only the sole modern building in the village but also a really impressive work of architecture.

When registering, we got an access badge as well as our conference folders containing the current program and all information materials. The access badge allows us free access to the use of swimming pools and public transportation, and also some free of charge excursions to surrounding cities. The care that the organization provides to the participants themselves is astonishing.

After registering ourselves and we explored the small village: truly like a fairytale or rather a drawn picture. We looked at every detail closely with every step we made! We then attended the orientation meeting where we heard the official Standing Committee members’ speech about the hosting village Alpbach, the Tyrol Mountains and the history of the event itself.

This impressive event was followed by the Opening Ceremony where the Forum was officially opened under the this years’ umbrella topic “Justice – Responsibility for the Future”.

Mr. Thomas Poggi (Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs, Dept. Of philosophy, Yale University, New Haven) explained the terminology in more details and the very meaning of the word justice and responsibility.

The European Forum Alpbach 2011 had been officially opened with speeches from both Thomas Poggi but also MA. Parag Khanna, as well as a world premiere of a composition by Gerald Resch.

Right after the Opening Ceremony we were presented with the seminars from which we could choose the two that we wished to attend in the following week. The European Forum Alpbach consists of three main program tracks: the Seminar Week, the Alpbach Symposia and the Summer Schools. A rich cultural agenda and numerous social events complement the conference as well. The European Forum Alpbach 2011 gives its participants a choice of 16 seminars which will one week analyze the manifestations of "Justice Responsibility for the Future" in a great variety of academic fields.

I cannot wait for the Alpbach Symposia which, as presented, will approach the topic from a more practice oriented vantage point. A large number of panel discussions will give us the opportunity to debate the most burning current issues in the fields of healthcare, technology, economics, international politics, spatial planning and financial markets. The European Summer Schools for Law and Health Care Policy are being organised, as well as a rich cultural program, completing the agenda.

The Alpbach Seminar Week constitutes the traditional academic part of the European Forum Alpbach. 16 seminars are being held every morning or afternoon for six days, addressing this year's overarching topic “Justice – Responsibility for the Future" from a variety of interdisciplinary angles. The working languages are English or German. I have personally chosen seminars titled: “Global Justice” and “Challenges to the UN peace building and good governance” in the English language.

After a very interesting seminar presentation a cocktail reception was organized on the terrace and the Congress Centre where we were better able to meet with participants of other countries at the Forum and had a chance to get to know each other in more unofficial way.

After a good sleep, the next morning we had the first school session – a seminar day – where we received the inputs and comments from the professors about the seminars and some administrative procedures as well in order to obtain certificated of attendance at the end of the seminar week. Seminars are being held in the Alpbach high school which I would personally say was modernized and decorated for the occasion.

Being in a school with a good, positive, constructive working academic atmosphere is a real pleasure.
For those involved with academic work, this is the right place when at the breaks we have an opportunity to discuss some hot topics with the professors and officials in a more unofficial way.

After the first day of the seminars we were delighted to attend an event called the "International Evening" where the scholarship-holders of the European Forum Alpbach 2011 present their regions, countries and cultures. This year there were 46 countries presenting themselves. We presented Serbia by showing the short movie that we recorded on the Belgrade streets in which foreigners talked about Serbia; their initial impressions and thoughts. Also on the spot we shared some small presents with the audience: handmade Serbian traditional hearts – "Licidersko srce" – branded with the sign of Alpbach Club Belgrade along with white balloons marked in the same way.

After this event, the majority of our delegation went to remain in informal gatherings in one of the beautiful rural restaurant with beer where they had a opportunity to meet with delegations’ members and professors. Some of the most organized and energized members of our small delegation of 20 went for organized clubbing and spent the rest of the evening there.

How they spent their night, how they will feel tomorrow morning prior going to the classroom, and where they are at the very moment that I write this text, will also be described in further detail as the blog continues.

Until then,

Guten nacht!

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