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A common purpose

Author: Stefano Benazzo, Italian ambassador to Bulgaria Date: Fri, May 28 2010 3535 Views
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For the second time, two years after I took up this post in Sofia, the Italian embassy is proud to offer readers of The Sofia Echo, on the occasion of Italy’s National Day, an update on relations between Italy and Bulgaria.

Last year, I noted that 2009 marked the 130th anniversary of diplomatic relations but no one should forget that our relationship dates back many centuries. Indeed, the future subterranean museum, in Sofia’s centre, will show the ancient Roman city from which Serdica was born. I also wish to record the brave initiative of Consul Positano who helped Sofia’s population prepare the capital’s defences against fire in 1878.

Our excellent political relations are further enhanced by meetings between prime ministers Berlusconi and Borissov. Our contacts with the Bulgarian authorities become more meaningful and constructive all the time. We share common goals in Europe, in the Balkans, and throughout the world. Our troops operate jointly abroad. These achievements encourage us to do more. Notwithstanding the crisis, Italian entrepreneurs strive to find possibilities to invest and co-operate in Bulgaria.

Our cultural contribution is increasing and becoming more diversified, embracing areas and institutions outside Sofia, including Bulgarian schools where Italian is taught. Not to mention the generations of Bulgarian citizens who studied in Italian schools in Plovdiv, Sofia, Bourgas and Varna between 1920 and 1945. Those educated there remembered them fondly and saw them as instrumental in the enhancement of contemporary civil society.

I keep meeting young Bulgarians who speak excellent Italian and I admire them greatly. The first "Olympic Games for Italian" just took place. Many Bulgarians studied and graduated in Italy before World War 2, in universities and military academies. I want to see this happening again. I also hope to see new initiatives in opera.   

We have also striven to present other ventures outside the classical sphere, which nonetheless correspond to Italy’s multi-faceted character. In particular, I wish to mention the imminent unveiling of the statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi in Garibaldi Square in Sofia, sculpted by Georgi Chapkanov. It commemorates the many Bulgarians who fought alongside him, and is connected to a series of events celebrating the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy.

Other promotional events, and the Economic Forum on June 7, are being organised by the Sofia office of the Italian Institute of Foreign Trade. The Festival "Qui Italia-Italia Tuk", put forward by the Italian Culture Institute, is due to begin shortly. A future monument is being dedicated to those Italians who contributed to building Bulgarian infrastructure last century. I would also like to mention the visit to Sofia of a tetraplegic Italian nuclear physicist.

The plight of the Roma
We are also promoting other initiatives. A joint venture, with the French ambassador, will publicise the plight of Roma to the Bulgarian public. Then there is the Italian commitment to promote cultural tourism in Bulgaria, our co-operation with Bulgarian authorities to familiarise them with EU management practices in financial matters and the efforts of Italian NGOs to help youngsters in need. All these initiatives were warmly received in Bulgaria. I thank the Bulgarian media for their willingness to co-operate on the widest range of issues.

Well before January 1 2007, Italy was one of the most active countries in pushing for Bulgaria’s EU accession and Nato membership. We have since acknowledged Bulgaria’s efforts to create better conditions in many areas: economics, finance, civic society, the legal system, the juridical sphere, the struggle against organised crime and corruption, energy, agriculture, the environment, transport, civil protection and disaster management, defence and border protection in the framework of Schengen.

Italy is well aware of its responsibilities and of its similarities to Bulgaria. Italy has always co-operated with Bulgaria and will continue to do so, just as it helped Bulgaria in 1928 at the time of the dreadful earthquake in Chirpan and Borisovgrad. We hope that ongoing efforts will foster an increasingly favourable environment for entrepreneurs, both Bulgarian and foreign.

In conclusion, I wish to thank all individuals and friends, both Bulgarian and Italian, who helped to produce this special supplement.

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