On 16 March 2023, the Rector of the University of Zagreb, Prof. Stjepan Lakušić, PhD, and President of the University of Regensburg, Prof. Udo Hebel, PhD, signed the act for the opening of the Center for German and European Studies at the University of Zagreb and establishment of Croaticum at the University of Regensburg.
The Center for German and European Studies is a joint institution of the Universities of Zagreb and Regensburg with a regional focus on Southeast Europe. It is planned that the Center should develop into an International Center for German and European Studies represented by the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst – DAAD). So far, 20 such centers across 11 countries around the world have been established. The University of Zagreb would thus become part of a global network of excellence comprising leading universities and the only university in that network located in Southeast Europe. An important objective of the Center will be promoting multilingualism in academia, with a focus on advancing the use of the German and Croatian language in Southeast Europe and Germany respectively. As part of this effort, the winter semester 2023/2024 will see the opening of a lectorate for the Croatian language and culture at the University of Regensburg, laying the groundwork for the establishment of Croaticum. The lectorate will be financed by the Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia. The said Croaticum is set to be the first in a German-speaking country and is predicted to mark a historic milestone for the Croatian language’s placement within Slavic studies conducted in German-speaking countries.
The agreed foundation of these two academic centers in Zagreb and Regensburg aims to facilitate the scientific and academic relationship between Croatia and Germany, as well as to foster the European integration of the region through enhanced scientific cooperation between Germany, Croatia, and Southeast Europe.
In his speech, the Rector of the University of Zagreb, Prof. Stjepan Lakušić, PhD, pointed out that the signing of this act holds great significance in the University’s history, as it opens a new chapter in the cooperation between Croatia and Germany and furthers it even more. Thus, the University of Zagreb has been recognized as part of the network of excellence consisting of leading European universities, the Rector concluded.
"The establishment of the Center will play an important role in creating connections between Croatian and German students and professors, but also in promoting international cooperation. The goal is to develop and implement European-oriented and interdisciplinary research projects and study programs. The establishment of Croaticum at the University of Regensburg is a great recognition of Croatian culture and a historic step forward for the Croatian language," said Rector Lakušić.
Representing the Prime Minister of the the Government of the Republic of Croatia, the signing ceremony was attended by the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Gordan Grlić Radman, PhD. "This is an important day for expanding the academic offerings of both universities, as well as for deepening the Croatian-German scientific cooperation and strengthening academic cooperation in Europe in general, especially in the Southeast," he said . Referring to the state of war in Ukraine as well, he emphasized that such collaborations are of utmost importance today because they are "a sign that the European idea is moving forward and that we will not allow the dark side of European history to dominate our minds."
Prof. Udo Hebel, PhD, President of the University of Regensburg, expressed great delight at the act’s signature. "While our University’s network comprises about 300 partner universities, a special place is always held by universities in Central and Southeast Europe, with the University of Zagreb being particularly important due to our long-standing and close historical link", emphasized Prof. Hebel, PhD.
Short presentations concerning the Center and mutual cooperation were given by the future head of the Center Prof. Siegfried Gehrman, PhD, Managing Director of the Leibniz-Institute for East and Southeast European Studies Prof. Ulf Brunnbauer, PhD, and Vice-rector for International and Inter-institutional Cooperation of the University of Zagreb Prof. Jurica Pavičić, PhD.
Along with numerous high-ranking guests and the vice-rectors and deans of both universities, the ceremony was also attended by Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Republic of Croatia HE Christian Hellbach, PhD, and the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU) representative, academician Goran Muić.