The "New Europe" (1989-1998)
From 1989 onwards, the changes taking place in Europe and the democratic transition Eastern and Central European countries entered influenced the work of the Council of Europe.
The priority became:
- to provide support for the reform of history teaching in Central and Eastern European countries. This was done partly through bilateral and regional programmes under the auspices of specific programmes targeting those countries in particular;
- to take account of the impact those changes might mean for history teaching in all member States and review the concept of European dimension.
As far as intergovernmental programmes are concerned, in a symposium in 1991 in Brugge, experts, history teachers and education officials from Western and Eastern Europe met for the first time to share views on history teaching in the "New Europe". In a further series of seminars, the discussions brought out the variety of points of view and renewed the perception of the situation of both history and its teaching in European countries. This set the basis for renewed cooperation and exchange of views on a much wider and somehow richer basis than previously. It also laid down the stepping stones for bilateral and regional cooperation in these regions.
The Brugge symposium highlighted a paradox: the lack of interest of the learners while, at the same time, there was a renewed interest for history amongst the general public. It was agreed that the solution was through a more modern approach to history teaching and a revision of the aims of history teaching.
The symposium in Brugge lead to
- a supplement of the 25 themes defined at the Elsinor conference;
- some representatives of national and regional associations for teachers of history to meet again in 1992 and to launch the European Standing Conference of History Teachers' Associations (EUROCLIO)
- a recommendation made to organise further symposia on themes such as identity, nationalism and an intercultural approach to history teaching.
These themes were later emphasised at the 1993 Summit of Head of States and Governments and in 1994 at a conference "History, democratic values and tolerance in Europe: the experience of countries in democratic transition" in Sofia.
The question was raised: "how can history teaching reflect the positive values in which liberal democratic societies believe?". The answer was a set of questions, which, when applied to the curricula, textbooks and practices of teachers, serve as evaluation criteria to ensure their validity and effectiveness.