April 16 saw the first European Leaders’ Forum (ELF)
, a one-day seminar jointly organised by the Austrian Agency for International Cooperation in Education and Research (OeAD) and the Academic Cooperation Association (ACA). Entitled South-East Europe in Focus, the event was conveniently held in Vienna, and brought together executive level staff from ACA member organisations and counterparts from East and South-East Europe. The high-level event, which convened about 40 leaders from across Europe, was on invitation only.
The ELF started with a keynote speech by Barbara Weitgruber, Director General in the Austrian Ministry of Science, Research and Economy. This was followed by a first exchange of participants and a series of presentations on cooperation programmes and mechanisms between the countries of South-East Europe on the one hand, and Austria, Germany and the European Economic Area, on the other. The seminar also included a lively panel discussion on the first experiences made with the EU’s new Erasmus+ Programme, particularly on the side of the agencies. ACA Treasurer Rait Toompere drew a picture of cooperation possibilities within ACA. In a fascinating final keynote Pavel Zgaga, Professor of Education at the University of Ljubljana, drew a picture of changes in the higher education landscape in the Western Balkans over the last two decades.
The event was well received by participants. They underlined the benefits of high-level networking in a relaxed atmosphere and of useful knowledge transfer. There is sure to be an ELF II in the future. Host and co-organisor OeAD, particularly happy with the results of the event, expressed its interest in playing a central role in such an endeavour again.