BULGARIA STEPS IN BIG DIPLOMACY
Mr. Popov, for many years there has been talk about the necessity of having a diplomatic institute that would be training specialists for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria. Now it is a fact and the first results should be already expected...
- In 2003 we began discussing the establishment of the institute. The main motive was Bulgaria's forthcoming membership in the European community, and the purpose - to prepare our diplomats for the new challenges, i.e. with much more knowledge and skills. The second motive was to set up an institutional transmission for succession of the valuable diplomatic experience, accumulated by Bulgaria. An expert panel of diplomats and academicians was working on the project for several months, studying the expertise of leading European and world diplomatic schools, and chose the model which seemed to us appropriate for Bulgarian conditions. Ultimately, the project was approved and on September 23, 2003 the Council of Ministers issued a decree, legitimizing the Diplomatic Institute.
Do you offer basic knowledge only to the Foreign Ministry's employees?
- We have prepared several programmes. The first one is for young officials, who are not diplomats yet as they have no rank, no mandate, and no career. The second course is for diplomats with some 10-15 years of diplomatic experience who are the backbone of the Foreign Ministry. We offer them qualification modules. Each employee should gather a total of 10 modules within a calendar year. Both programmes end by defending an expert report in front of a special commission.
We started our activity with those two courses, and now we are having more than fifteen at a time. Tuition in consular diplomacy enjoys special interest. It is intended not only for consuls of the Foreign Ministry but also for personnel of the interior, finance and justice ministries, whose work is connected with the Bulgarian state borders. And tuition in the problems of diplomacy and European integration is intended for officials of all ministries who conduct the so-called sector diplomacy, connected with our integration in the European Union.
How are your activities financed?
- The institute is a secondary administrator of budget funds. We are allowed to gather our own proceeds as well by participating in various programmes. We have successfully defended projects of the governments of Italy and Netherlands, of NATO, of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and of the Central European Initiative. We have recently implemented a project for organizing a winter school for foreign diplomats, financed entirely by Bavaria's Government.
You are already teaching foreign diplomats, in just two years and a half...
- We, the directors of diplomatic schools traditionally gather once a year. In 2004 we were in Vienna, and in 2005 - in Peru. In that diplomatic club we have the privilege to discuss various professional issues and exchange experience. At the meeting in Peru, for instance, our British colleague praised the Bulgarian diplomatic school as one of the most quickly developing in Europe. And he pointed to the tuition of foreign diplomats as a distinctive sign of maturity. That means we are able to share our experience with other diplomacies and exercise an influence on their reformation. In 2005 we tutored the senior administrative personnel of Kosovo's Prime Minister. And in the beginning of 2006 we worked at the winter school in Bansko with young diplomats from the EU neighbour countries - Moldova, Georgia, Turkey, Serbia and Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo and Bulgaria. In addition to professional contacts the participants established personal friendly relations as well. With Germany's Federal Academy of Public Administration we are planning tuition in Sofia of Turkish civil servants and diplomats in connection with that country's accession to the European Union. We are also projecting training for Afghan and Iraqi diplomats. In December 2005 we signed a contract with the diplomatic administration of Armenia for training its staff in the problems of European integration. We have such a programme with Georgia's Foreign Ministry, too. Interest has been shown also by Mongolia, Ghana, and the Western Balkans region.
Sofia will play host to a big diplomatic forum in September. Who is going to participate in it and what problems are to be discussed?
- Some time ago a decision was taken in Bejing for regular international meetings on which all aspects of the relations between the European Union and China would be discussed. Meetings of the kind have already been held in Dublin, Barcelona, and in other towns in European Union member states. The head of the European-Chinese Relations Academy, the French professor Bosset, who has been living and working in Shanghai for 12 years, came on an examining mission here. The fifth edition of the forum will be held in Sofia in September. Great politicians, diplomats and statesmen, including the former US president Jimmy Carter and Henry Kissinger who first opened the Chinese-US relations, will be invited here. This will be the first time that the strategic triangle China-European Union-USA will be discussed in the Bulgarian capital. The second panel of the forum will focus on Eurasia and the energy problems related to the region. Russia's former foreign minister Igor Ivanov who is a member of the board of directors of the Bulgarian Diplomatic Institute will be invited to take part in the discussions.
Are you preparing other international meetings as well?
- The annual meeting of the research centres in the Balkans states is about to take place between 1 and 5 June, 2006. Experts' reports and opinions will be exchanged about the European future of the Balkans, the economic and infrastructural aspects of the Balkans integration, and the ethnic and religious problems entitled: Tolerance against discrimination.
Will a diplomacy act be adopted? Rumours have been circulating for fifteen years at least...
- A bill that has been trying to make its way for years will be brought forward into the Council of Ministers by Minister Ivaylo Kalfin. I guess it will also regulate the activities of the Diplomatic Institute as well as the diplomatic ranks which qualification and development we are going to assist.