The Ambassadors’ Forum at Ludovika event series continued with Bulgaria on 26 October. The second special guest of honour of the autumn semester was HE Ulyana Bogdanska, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Bulgaria to Hungary, who gave a speech with the title: "Bulgaria in EU".
HE Ulyana Bogdanska has been in office since October 2016. After completing her studies in Sofia, among others, in the International Economic Relations Department at the University of National and World Economy, she fulfilled numerous roles related to European integration. The Ambassador’s career started at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, then she worked as second secretary at the Embassy of Bulgaria in Stockholm. After this period, she took part in the Mission of Bulgaria to the European Community in Brussels as Counselor between 2003-2006. After the accession of Bulgaria to the EU, she was appointed to several leadership positions within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and afterwards she worked at the Bulgarian Embassy in Paris. Prior to her mandate in Hungary, she was the Director of the EU Policies and Institutions Directorat within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she utilised her vast experience in EU matters.
At the beginning of her speech, HE Ulyana Bogdanska thanked the invitation to present at this well-known event series and highlighted that the event was symbolic in many ways: not only beause the Republic of Bulgaria is a member of the EU, NATO and an ally of Hungary, but also because the Bulgarian-Hungarian relations are dating back in history for a long time. The event’s importance was further elevated by the fact that the Bulgarian-Hungarian Friendship Day is in October, on the 19th of this month.
In line with her presentation title, the Ambassador discussed issues related to the European Union but before that, she began her speech with a short historical introduction. The audience learned that Bulgaria is one of the most tolerant countries of the old continent, and since the journeys of Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, it had a significant contribution to the maintenance of European culture. It is also interesting to mention that Bulgaria is third in the world was far as the number of ancient historical artifacts is concerned. The national holiday - on the 24th of May -, when Bulgarians are celebrating the Cyrillic alphabet and their own culture, is a great proof of the country’s love of culture. The country has contributed many times to the common cultural heritage of the world before. For instance the Voyager space probe broadcasts Bulgarian songs during its journey within the deep space.
While presenting the current significant Bulgarian achievements, Her Excellency emphasized that the IT sector is developing particularly fast in her home country and added that the third fastest broadband network in the world is also located there. In addition to modern developments, they also safeguard traditional industries, as Bulgaria is considered one of the biggest producer of roses in the world and they are also in the forefront regarding lavender production.
After the historical introduction, Her Excellency Ulyana Bogdanska highlighted that since the independence of her country was declared in 1878, the accession to the EU was the most important decision of Bulgaria. This decision was conscious and the positive effects can still be felt today. 10 years after the accession, Bulgaria will now fulfill the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for a six months period as of 1 January, 2018.
The Bulgarian-EU relations had started in 1995 when the country submitted its application for accession, then the actual negotiations started in 1999. Finally, as a result of these, Bulgaria has become a full member of the European community on 1. January 2007.
"The results of the past ten years are indisputable! The development of the country shows a positive trend; numerus investments arrive which greatly impact the economy in a very positive way.” - told the Ambassador.
Several elements confirm this statement: economic growth by 4%, 6% unemployment rate and a budget surplus. In the next part of the presentation, Her Excellency detailed the plans and tasks that Bulgaria would like to achieve during the 6-months Presidency. They need to face serious challenges which, among others, include the ongoing BREXIT negotiations, management of migration issues and digital developments. The Ambassador emphasized that her country is dedicated to strengthen the relations within the EU because all member states possess the same values thus the effective resolution of issues should come from a joint effort. Therefore the motto of the Bulgarian Presidency is taken from the Parlament’s building in Sofia: “United we stand stronger”.
In addition to responding to the above mentioned challenges, the audience learned that the Bulgarian Presidency will focus on maintaining security, reacting to energy issues and making the EU’s financial system more efficient. Regarding foreign policy, the Presidency will focus on the European integration of the Western Balkan countries. They will organize an informal summit in Sofia where Bulgaria would like to help its neighbours’ integration. Also in the field of foreign policy, they intend to reinforce the border and coast guard systems of the Community and to make the current inefficient deportation system more streamlined, as they are all key elements of EU security.
HE Ulyana Bogdanska also underlined that Bulgaria wishes to take any action in accordance with the other member states. She explained that the aim is to create a more unified and integrated Europe and to extend the Schengen area with special attention to Bulgaria’s current status as it is not part of the area yet regardless the prerequisites being almost fully completed.
At the end of her speech, the Ambassador emphasized that although Bulgaria is one of the most newest member states, it is at the same time one of Europe’s oldest nations. She added that they are fully committed to the EU’s project, which has brought prosperity and security to the previously divided continent.
After the presentation, the roundtable discussion was facilitated by Dr. Janos Boka, Vice-Dean for Scientific and International Affairs of the Faculty of International and European Studies. The ambassador and two invited experts, Szimeon Varga representative of the Bulgarian minority in the Hungarian Parlament and András Varga, professor at the Department of IEuropean Studies at the Faculty of International and European Studies of NUPS, discussed the accession of Bulgaria to the Schengen area and the Eurozone. The audience learned that the Bulgarian economy’s performance may allow the country to join the Eurozone earlier than Hungary.
At the end of the event, the audience had the opportunity for a more informal conversation during the reception where, thanks to the Bulgarian embassy, they could taste the specialties of the Balkan cuisine together with the best Bulgarian wines.