Last year Bulgaria and Italy celebrated 130 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries.
History itself bears witness to the multifaceted co-operation between Bulgaria and Italy. Way back – in the second half of the 19th century – both Bulgarians and Italians set sail to achieve a shared goal – unity and independence.
Historians have long spoken of the ties between the leaders of the independence movements in both countries and their common endeavour. It should come as no surprise that the Italian ideologist Mazzini himself was the person who dubbed Vassil Levski the apostle of freedom. Furthermore, Bulgarian patriots took a notable role in the movement of Giuseppe Garibaldi, which had a significant overall contribution to the struggle for Bulgaria’s liberation. Captain Petko Voivoda stands out as one of those individuals. A commemoration plate honours him on the Gianicolo hill in Rome. A statue of Garibaldi is soon to be erected in one of Sofia’s central squares.
Yet another popular fact is that the grave of St Constantine Cyril the Philosopher is in Rome. As you know, in 2010, we mark the 30th anniversary since Pope John Paul II proclaimed Saints Cyril and Methodius co-patrons of Europe. Suffice to say, the anniversary itself attests to the recognition of the two brothers’ role in the European Renaissance.
Bulgaria and Italy share the values and principles of the European community, striving for peace, security and global development. Relations between the two countries, beyond any doubt, have never been better over the past 130 years than they are now, owing primarily to the extensive, regular and pragmatic bilateral political dialogue. We have managed to add a new scope to bilateral relations, transforming them into privileged ties.
The record of the visits, exchanged between high-ranking Bulgarian and Italian officials, speaks for itself. We have agreed on, and signed, a number of treaties and agreements in different areas, so providing the strategic foundation for further development. Active and diverse forms of interaction bring real added value to both our countries, considering the contemporary challenges and opportunities.
For a number of years now, Italy ranks among the most significant trade partners of Bulgaria as well as one of the major FDI sources. Considering the detrimental effects of the global economic crisis, bilateral trade for last year stood at 2.4 billion euro. It is essential in times of economic hardship to preserve Italian investors’ interest in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian Government is also determined to support and promote Italian investments in the country.
Culture and education constitute yet another important aspect of bilateral relations between Bulgaria and Italy. Bulgaria is no stranger to Italian culture and vice versa. Boris Christoff, Raina Kabaivanska, Nickolay Giaurov and Andrey Nikolov are just a few of the names both countries recognise and sincerely appreciate. Furthermore, cultural institutes in Rome and Sofia are keen on promoting Bulgarian and Italian culture in the respective countries.
Italian is one of the most popular foreign languages in Bulgaria. Italy provides annual scholarships for qualifications in different areas of science, while also providing teachers for Bulgarian schools and universities. What could possibly be a better way to exchange, learn and contribute to each other’s culture and everyday life?
As improper as it may seem, I would like to embed the emphasis of this whole article in its final paragraph. We have indeed achieved a lot through 130 years of diplomatic relations. I am inclined to believe, however, that we have merely laid down the foundation of what the future holds for us. There is plenty more to be done and – in my opinion – neither Sofia, nor Rome, should spare any efforts in the further development of their ties at both bilateral and multilateral levels.