The European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) of the European Commission scheduled a Grant Holders’ Meeting in Brussels on 17 and 18 October 2023, that aimed to bring together coordinating organisations whose projects have been selected for funding following the 2021 and 2022 calls for proposals of ‘European cooperation projects’. Bogdan Trifunović (Serbian Library Association) was registered for the event on behalf of the E-ROUTES project coordinating partner.

The main purpose of the meeting was to facilitate networking and knowledge sharing, as well as exchange of best practices among beneficiaries. The event was planned to include plenary sessions (with policy updates and results of the selections), as well as a networking space and workshops on the European Commission’s cross-cutting priorities using participatory practices (Greening of Creative Europe -environment and fight against climate change; and Inclusion, diversity and gender equality). It was also an opportunity for projects’ coordinators and representatives to meet in person the respective project officers.

Unfortunately, due to sad and tragic event of the Brussels terrorist attack and shooting in the centre of city on the evening of 16th October, the European Commission made a decision to cancel the event the following morning, although everything was ready for the two-day event and huge majority of over 220 registered participants of the meeting was already in Brussels. The decision to cancel the event was made in concerns of the safety of people in Brussels and the uncertainty of other possible attacks.

As the participants gathered in the hotel and upon finding the news about the events in Brussels, the decision was made that present participants may use the facilities for the day and prepare their participant-led unconference. This opportunity was used to meet and network with other representatives, to present projects and latest information about them, as well as to reach those projects that could be potential partners in the future. On behalf of the E-ROUTES Bogdan spoke about the sustainable development aspects of the project such as the travel routes that stimulate less damaging travel and tourism, as well as the re-usage of cultural heritage collections in various ways. He also announced the open call for in-residency programs within the project’s activities, which will be officially opened in November 2023. The participants organized themselves in working groups based on interests and needs, showing great enthusiasm and energy despite tragic events in Brussels, using the security of the hotel facilities. They even participated in social events the following day, when the security level in Brussels was lowered, to meet and visit cultural institutions of the city.

Overall, the unconference experience was a pleasant experience for most of the participants, providing an excellent opportunity to network, and proved that great group energy and determined will are able to overcome most of difficulties that sometimes disrupt the work of institutions and official agencies.