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GCSP Co-Hosts Peacebuilding Course at the "Peace Castle Schlaining"

From 7-12 May 2017, the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), the European Security and Defence College (ESDC), the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR), and the Ministry of Defence and Sports of the Republic of Austria held a jointly-organized course on peacebuilding in the Castle of Stadtschlaining in Austria.

Since 2009 the course has provided experience practitioners from diverse background with comprehensive approach to peacebuilding, focusing on human security, conflict analysis and promotion of human rights, democratization and sustainable peace.  This year, 26 practitioners coming from 20 nationalities and representing Government officials, international organizations and CSOs gathered to discuss the evolution of peacebuilding and to share ways of approaching peacebuilding in a more comprehensive manner. 

Castle Schlaining: A long history of both war and peace

In the border region between the eastern foothills of the Alps mountain range and the Pannonian Basin, this castle was in the conflict area between rivaling powers and rulers for centuries. The "Amber road", a significant trade route since prehistoric times, ran in striking distance and added to the region's strategic relevance. Only 8,000 meters lied between the fortress and the Hungarian-Austrian border today.

The castle was first officially documented in 1271 as Castrum Zloynuk, owned by the Duke of Güssing. However, the legendary knight Andreas Baumkircher, who took over the property in the 15th century, rebuilt the stronghold into the base castle for his band of mercenaries. The city of Schlaining was founded by him and developed into a successful market for trading. After Baumkircher had a fall out with the emperor and had, departing from Schlaining, destroyed part of today's Steiermark ("Baumkircher-feud"), the emperor Friedrich III, lured him to Graz and had him beheaded in 1471 without hearing nor trial.

In the mid-16th century, the castle became property of the Hungarian noble family Batthyány. The last owner from this lineage, Ludwig Batthyány, was announced first prime minister of Hungary on 17 March 1848. Unfortunately, this owner also died at the hands of the hangman. After his execution on 6 October 1849, his possessions, including Castle Schlaining, went to the Hungarian treasury.

War and peace have determined the fate of Castle Schlaining since all times. Nevertheless, the belligerent main base of the leader of mercenaries Baumkircher eventually turned into a place of peace: at the peak of the "cold war", approximately 30 years ago, this Centre for peace studies, teaching, and practice emerged. It is the only Centre of its kind in Austria. It became a site of encounter between East and West in the shadow of the iron curtain. The "Peace Castle Schlaining" is an internationally known Centre of reference for non-violent conflict work since 1983. The Austrian Study Centre for peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR) trains and educates, among others, experts for international civil peacekeeping missions. The United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and European Union, as well as numerous large, non-governmental organisations first send their employees to the Burgenland before they are deployed abroad.