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Alma mater Hosts the International Forum of Diplomatic, Economic, Academic and Cultural Days

From 23-26 April, 2018 Sofia hosted the CIDIC initiative of Diplomatic, Economic, Academic and Cultural Days. Sofia University was the host of two of the forum’s parallel sessions. Alma mater was given the honorary prize for its contribution to the domain of economic diplomacy.

The event was opened in Aula magna by the Rector Professor Anastas Gerdzhikov, the Deputy-minister of Education and Science Petur Nikolov, and UNICA’s Secretary General Madam Kris Dejonckheere. The Chairman of the scientific forum was Baron Ernest de Laminne de Bex.

The event was made possible with the support of the Bulgarian Embassy in Brussels and the Belgian Embassy in Sofia. The forum took place within the framework of the Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the European Union and is a significant event in the sphere of the economy, education and culture on a global scale.


The academic adviser of CIDIC Professor Jan Cornelis thanked Alma mater’s Rector for his hospitality and introduced CIDIC which was established in 2010 following the proposal of diplomats united around the idea for the need for ever greater efficiency in the establishment of economic and academic contacts. Today the tendency is referred to as “economic and academic diplomacy” and is a tool of the diplomatic representatives supporting the economic measures undertaken by their respective governments.


The Rector of Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” Professor Anastas Gerdzhikov said that it was a pleasure for him to welcome so many guests and organizations at the Aula of the oldest and most highly reputable Bulgarian university and thanked them all that they had made the event of the day possible.

He pointed out that CIDIC’s main goal was to facilitate the contacts on diplomatic, economic and academic level and implement a new type of economic and academic diplomacy. One of the ways the goal can be achieved is through the diplomatic, economic, academic and cultural missions of the country as a current President of the Council of the European Union. In Professor Gerdzhikov’s words the missions are successful when establishing contacts, finding new markets and attracting foreign investors.

The Rector added that at every meeting non-EU countries are invited. At the present event China, a non-EU country, was invited and this raises the level of interest to the forum, and the contacts and the discussions promise to be particularly valuable and fruitful.


That was why the first panel of the scientific forum was dedicated to the economic, diplomatic and cultural relations between the EU and China, the new Chinese policy of restructuring the economy, the slower economic growth and the higher economic quality, and becoming part of the "16 +1" initiative (“One belt, one road”), which is particularly important to this country since it creates the framework for cooperation between China and the countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Alma mater’s Rector pointed out.

Professor Gerdzhikov emphasized that the Balkans formed a natural crossroads linking Europe, Asia and Africa, and could become an important hub, the centre of the “One belt, one road” initiative that was launched by the People’s Republic of China. He noted that the topics to be discussed at the forum embraced the role of the start-ups; the support for the successful start-ups would be a focus of attention, too, as well as the sustainable development of innovations, the policies of the foreign investments and, above all, the transfer of knowledge from the university to world of industry.


“I am convinced that the Diplomatic, Economic, Academic and Cultural Days in Sofia will contribute to the better understanding of the needs and the future development of European economy and the role of international cooperation for its growth,” the Rector said in conclusion. Professor Gerdzhikov also thanked the organizers and wished successful work to the participants, pleasant stay in Sofia to the foreign guests and numerous professional achievements to all the participants.


The Deputy-minister for Education and Science Mr. Petur Nikolov pointed out that Bulgaria, Europe and the world were at a crossroads because we were about to embark on a new phase in the development of humanity, a new period whereby the technological progress within the span of the generation that was currently being trained at universities, would change the world to an extent that most of the things we are used to would disappear and the relations between the people, their families, the business, the culture and the arts, the communications would acquire a totally different face. “The road the societies in these countries will take to a high degree will depend on whether in several decades’ time they will be part of successful models or they will face insurmountable difficulties in their integration in a completely new world. Initiatives such as the one we are attending, organizations which make leading universities from the whole world meet, which unite academic communities of different traditions and facilitate the exchange of knowledge and skills, scientific practices and academic traditions are the way to cope with the challenges,” Petur Nikolov stressed.


He said he was happy that two of the elite Bulgarian universities – Sofia University and the University for National and World Economy – were an integral part of the trend of that significant development. At the end of his address the Deputy-minister wished success of the work of the forum and expressed his hope that the participants would have a memorable stay in Sofia.


UNICA’s Secretary-general madam Kris Dejonckheere also addressed the audience and said how happy she was to be attending an event of such importance. She thanked the Rector for his hospitality and reminded that UNICA was an organization uniting 49 universities of capitals in 37 countries in Europe, set up in 1990 and being a leading academic network in Europe. The organization has the mission to popularize the academic achievements, assist the integration and cooperation amongst the member universities, and also stimulate joint research projects, the exchange of knowledge and good practices. Madam Dejonckheere underlined the fact that UNICA participated in active dialogue with the European Commission and its representatives, and UNICA’s representatives laid emphasis on cooperation with other frameworks, high academic institutions, etc. even outside Europe, and gave China and Uzbekistan as successful examples.

She mentioned that she was happy to be in Sofia, the city itself with its long history served as a source of inspiration and was also a center of knowledge. Madam Kris Dejonckheere stressed that Sofia University was a very active UNICA member and once again thanked Professor Gerdzhikov for hosting the organization’s “The University as an Urban Cultural Institute” international conference, held in May 2017.

In her address Madam Dejonckheere pointed out that the CIDIC activities and initiatives were of high significance for UNICA. It was through that cooperation that UNICA had further developed the concept of academic, cultural and economic diplomacy by strengthening the links with all the participating states. She expressed her hope that the successful cooperation would be further developed and wished the participants interesting and fruitful discussions.

Professor Jan Cornelis introduced the two parallel sessions of the 16+ 1 event devoted to EU-China relations and Start-ups, motors for new economic and societal activity and expressed his conviction that by the end of the discussions there would be many important conclusions arrived at.

The forum was attended by faculty and staff from the whole of Alma mater, the University of National and World Economy, representatives from the Ministry of the Economy, the Bulgarian Investment Agency, the Bulgarian Start-up Association, the Sofia Tech Park, the University of Copenhagen, the University of Fudan, the Diplomatic Academy of Brussels, the High Francophone School in Administration and Management, etc.


Within the framework of the International Diplomatic, Economic, Academic and Cultural Days forum awards for contribution in the sphere of economic diplomacy of CIDIC were given at the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Sofia University was awarded the honorary prize for its contribution to the sphere of economic diplomacy and its active role in the implementation of the economic, academic and cultural diplomacy in the European community and its partners. The Rector of Alma mater Professor Anastas Gerdzhikov received the award from HE Ms Maya Dobreva, Bulgaria’s Ambassador to Belgium and honorary Chairperson of CIDIC (Belgium) for the first half of 2018.


Official guests of the event were CIDIC delegates, diplomats, business representatives, the academic community, the Belgian Ambassador to this country HE Mr François Bonten, the Chinese Ambassador to this country HE Zhang Haizhou, Baron Ernest de Laminne de Bex (CIDIC’s Chairpeson), Professor Jan Cornelis (CIDIC’s academic adviser), Madam Kris Dejonckheere (Secretary General of UNICA), etc.

As part of the ceremony Professor Gerdzhikov signed also an agreement for trilateral scientific, cultural and economic cooperation between Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, CIDIC and Brussels Academy for China & European Studies (BACES) – Brussels-based academic platform, representing Renmin University of China, Sichuan University and Fudan University, and the Vrije Universiteit, Brussels. On behalf of Brussels the agreement was signed by Professor Jan Cornelis, and on behalf of the Chinese academic institutions – by HE Zhang Haizhou, the Ambassador of China to this country.