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The President of the Republic of Croatia Delivered a Lecture at Sofia University

The President of the Republic of Croatia Her Excellency Ms Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović delivered a public lecture on “All We Must Be United at the Table of Solidarity” at the Aula-magna of Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”.

The President of Croatia is on an official visit to this country on the invitation by the President of Bulgaria.

The event was attended by Professor Dr Habil Anastas Gerdzhikov, Rector of Sofia University, Professor Dr Dimitur Denkov, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, Associate Professor Dr Boyko Penchev, Dean of the Faculty of Slavic Studies, HE Ms Ljerka Alajbeg, the Ambassadress of the Republic of Croatia to this country, the members of the official delegation, accompanying the Croatian President, Ms Roumyana Kolarova, Secretary for education, science and civil society at the Office of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Mr Martin Ivanov, Secretary for spiritual issues, culture and national identity at the Office of the President of the Republic, Ms Deyana Kostadinova, Chief of the Office of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, ambassadors, faculty, and students.

The event was opened by Professor Dr Dimitur Denkov, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy at Sofia University who said that it was rare for heads of states, visiting this country, to honor with their presence the academic community. When such visits are explicitly requested and justified not only by the protocol but by personal, common interests of colleagues, we should not only extend our gratitude but also express our joy that political figures coming from academia come to the fore and manifest the best traditions of their Alma mater. Such traditions go hand in hand with the family traditions and the obligations to the nation, the Dean added.


He also stressed that Sofia University was proud of hosting a lecture by Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović in its Aula magna for she is one of the few women holding such a high state position. “Indeed, on such occasions it is a matter of courtesy to talk of the common historical fate wherein very often we were allies both in victory and in defeat; it may be a matter of ritual to lay stress on the special links having its roots in the common language and the Glagolitic alphabet we shared in the distant past; we may take pride in the present and be optimistic about the future of both countries, situated at the two geographical extremes of the Balkans. Yet, as I have pointed out, this is not the only source of our joy; we are particularly happy that we have a colleague in our midst both holding the highest position in the state and preserving the spirit of the university. Our colleague is an embodiment of the interdisciplinary Weltanschauung, combining the philological background of a scholar of English, Spanish and Portuguese, and the practical work of a translator of major texts in philosophy, a theoretician of political sciences in action, and a practicing believer in political persuasions. I don’t know whether Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović would agree with me but we cannot fail to mention the beginning of her career as revealed in the academic intertwining of theory, personal attributes and persuasions, and conscious political activities,” the Dean said.


The Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy at Sofia University dwelt on Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović’s professional career: “Hard work in education and self-education of an excellent alumna of a gymnasium in Rijeka who was lucky enough to complete her secondary education in the USA as part of an exchange program, something that was possible in the Yugoslavia of the time; that was followed by studies at the philological faculty of the Zagrebačko sveučilište, to use the felicitous calque of time-honored flavor the Croatians use for their University“. In 1991 Kolinda Grabar translated from Portuguese to Croatian one of the major works of the Brazilian philosopher of Croatian origin Zeljko Loparic, wherein the danger of scientific irresponsibility in the name of superhuman goals is outlined and the latter are supposed to disclose the secrets of matter. He also made mention of the fact that that book opened Kolinda Grabar’s vistas both in science and in politics due to professor Ante Čovič, minister of education and science of Croatia at that time. “In that case, there is a special connection with our University: professor Ante Čovič has been one of our best partners in the organization of our MA programs in bioethics and his works have been translated and published in this country,” Professor Denkov pointed out.

Kolinda Grabar’s translation was a landmark in Croatian socio-political writing, dominated till then by peculiar praxis-Marxism and the ensuing fundamental ontology that was not substantially very different from that of the philosophical national socialism of Heidegger’s mold. In professor Denkov’s words, both Loparic and Kolinda Grabar adhere to a different type of ontology: it is the ontology of openness, of freedom and mutual understanding, and it is not linked with the binding imposition of only one point of view; this is the ontology of reality, manifesting itself in its variants, and is subject to discussion. It is not destruction in the name of an imaginary universal truth that falls outside the framework of the discrete scientific systems.

“This seems to be the right place to say something about the translator as a politician: a perusal of Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović’s professional curriculum vitae, i.e. the person in charge of international relations at the Ministry of Education and the Technologies, minister of foreign affairs and main coordinator in the accession of Croatia to the EU, ambassadress to the USA, aide-de-camp of NATO’s Secretary General, and, today, the President of the Republic of Croatia, shows a translator at her best: a go-between of level-mindedness, philologically a meticulous adherent of the rules, and still, at the same time, open to the specificities of speech, of the individuals and the nations.“

Professor Denkov introduced the topic of the lecture of Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović “All We Must Be United at the Table of Solidarity” that epitomizes the translator’s idea of mutual understanding due to which we interact overtly as ‘dialogizing companions’ in the classical sense between people engaged in the quest for a commonly acceptable truth. The latter process is impossible in the absence of dialogue.


The President of the Republic of Croatia Ms Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović thanked all those present at that talk on the issues of European solidarity. She noted that that was her second visit to this country and thanked for the genuine friendship shown by the Bulgarian hosts.

“As you all know, today the European Union faces a number of challenges, and some of them are of security, yet others are of social and economical nature. We have witnessed several terrorist attacks, several migration waves which all generate feelings that are dangerous for the EU,” Ms Grabar-Kitarović said. According to her, today there was no physical threat that the European Union would cease to exist; there was a threat of the erosion of European values, hence decisive actions were needed.

“The bullets of the terrorist activities took many people’s lives, and these people were not of European descent only. Without security there is no prosperity. This is why I firmly believe that all we must be all together at the European table of solidarity. Now more than ever we have got a role to play which must be enacted in the consolidation and formation of the continent,” the Croatian President added.


Ms Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović claimed that defining solidarity was not an easy task: its symbol was the table around which people gathered as one family and as ‘companions’. The table was the place where bold decisions were made to face the challenges of today’s world. “The root of the word ‘solidarity’ comes from the word ‘solid’, i.e. we are devoted to our solidarity because we have a solid cause to pursue. Unfortunately, we very often sit at the table but we fail to discuss the real problems: we are not frank enough, we do not talk openly, and we are not explicit about the trends in our everyday life. They seem to be unspeakable truths and this is why we do our best not to take specific actions: most of the time we merely avoid the problems and here I am talking about real, pressing facts that are part and parcel of the everyday life of each one of us.”

In her opinion it is worth discussing such issues but, so far, they have not been tabled yet. She gave the example of the migration waves in Europe where we should take into account that approximately one million and a half people head for or have entered Europe. “1.5 million out of 4.5 million: this is a high percentage figure that we must constantly be aware of. Our countries bear the brunt of this crisis. At the same time we must keep it in mind that the migration crisis is not an ephemeral and isolated event; we should all know that it is a crisis that will be always with us for quite some years to come,” and specified that apart from the 1.5 million people who were already in Europe, there were millions of others who were waiting on the Mediterranean coast, and there were also some 50-60 million people who migrated globally due to similar reasons: poverty, famine, illiteracy, radicalization, war, terrorism or climate changes. “All these reasons are of long-term nature and demand long-term activities. We cannot solve today’s problems just by tackling each one in an isolated fashion. We must face each of the reasons, and not merely the effect, i.e. the consequences of the crisis,” Ms Kitarović said.


In the words of the Croatian President both solidarity and security must lie at the basis of economic prosperity and it is necessary to tune ourselves to each one of these issues. Specific actions should be taken to consolidate the positions of both Croatia and Bulgaria in the South-western Balkans, and in Europe.

In Brussels the issues are discussed within the context of solidarity but, according to the President, discussion for discussion’s own sake is not enough: “Dialogue does not automatically mean politics. It is essential that we establish policies. We must share a common vision with clear-cut solutions, strong policies and a solid platform for action.” She quoted a Latin writer from the I c. BC who wrote: “Where there is unity, there is always victory.” According to her, we can arrive at the same conclusion without going back 2000 years but rather make use of our everyday life and the lessons of history: “However, we tend to forget that lesson and, in Europe, we seem to be pulling the strings in different directions instead of coming closer to each other and looking for unity. It seems that we always wait for someone else to make the difficult decision.” According to Kitarović, everyone bore the responsibility within the territory of their geographical region to come forth bravely and undertake activities that would delineate the future.

According to the President, we should discuss the implementation of the security issue but we should not view the immigrants and the refugees as a threat because they were also victims of terrorism. When we talk of extremism, we should discuss issues that are outside the borders of the EU so that we can safeguard what is within our own territories, and also we must defend and strengthen the Schengen area instead of making it weaker.

In her opinion, the lessons of the migration crisis teach us that we cannot remain self-centered and go on with our petty squabbles because such activities jeopardize the whole union.

“First of all, the system that exists at the moment offers a retroactive, not a proactive solution. The latter is not a long-term one, either. This kind of policy treats mostly the consequences of the crisis, the things happening here and now, not the roots, for we all certainly know that the roots will keep on bearing the same fruit for a long time,” Kitarović made it clear. She sketched out the major points of success so far: improving the dialogue, better control of the Balkan route, the talks with Turkey aimed at consolidating the security issue. According to her, however, we should act with more resolve and not merely leave or solutions and actions to be taken up by someone else instead. It was necessary to invest in the regions ridden with problems and the investments should be targeted to development, assistance and the various aspects of the crisis.


In her lecture Ms Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović raised issues of European solidarity viewed as a bipolar process, the necessity of safeguarding the solidarity, and also the stability of society and the prospects for the economic development of the peoples.

“We should not forget those people who do suffer because these are not just the Europeans but also the people who die because of wars, famine, and diseases in Syria and in the other regions of conflict. We cannot allow this destruction to lead to the destruction of ever more human lives because the promise for a better life in the European dream relates to every human being,” she said and recalled that we all wanted Europe to be a haven, a shelter with an economic potential, and in Croatia they all too well remembered what it meant to be abandoned with no feeling of security: “This is why, we, in our turn, must cherish and defend the European dream. We must act with more resolve both in our countries and abroad. We must consolidate solidarity and partnership in the countries, and on the international scene we must raise the reputation of the European Union so that the latter will enjoy the necessary prestige in the world,” Kitarović noted. “Using all diplomatic means we must act to eradicate the roots of the crisis: poverty, illiteracy, the discrimination of minorities, of women and children. We must also fight the trafficking of people, which is part of the migration crisis, and work towards the setting up of measures for the development of those regions that are centers of conflict now.”

Ms Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović raised also the issue of the economic energy and security of Central Europe. She explained that during the consolidation of the European Union mutual links between East and West had been established but what had been neglected were the links between North and South, and those of the Central European region that stretches from the Adriatic to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea coast. “I am truly grateful that on state level we have discussions aimed at the consolidation of this type of partnership and cooperation. We need such solidarity to set up mutual security. In that situation the business contacts and the mutual relations are also of pivotal importance,” Kitarović said. She stressed that the point was not simply a new regional organization but also a platform for action which would make concrete projects feasible particularly in three key infrastructural domains: the digitalization of the region, transportation and the establishment of intramodal transport hubs, such as railway interchanges, river, sea and air connections.

The President also dwelt on the topic of economic security and integration of the energy infrastructures in the region, and the establishment of energy networks in view of maintaining the diversification of the energy sources. “This will certainly strengthen our economies, security, and stability. We shall keep on upholding this initiative and I am fully convinced that such concrete projects will consolidate the position of our region in the European Union, and also that of the European Union itself as a whole.“

Ms Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović touched also on the issue of the consolidation of Europe by completing the European projects which work well on the territory of the Western Balkans.

At the end of her lecture, Ms Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović expressed her joy of the possibility for dialogue and discussion between those present in the Aula and her, and invited the audience to take their seats at the table of solidarity of the European Union and also to partner with each other globally in order to secure a stable future.


Ms Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović had a meeting with Professor Dr Habil Anastas Gerdzhikov, Rector of the University, and with students and faculty from the Croatian section of the Faculty of Slavic Studies.