Home / News / News and Events / José Manuel Barroso:”We can stay patriots and love our own country and at the same time we can defend the common ideas and the common citizenship of Europe”

José Manuel Barroso:”We can stay patriots and love our own country and at the same time we can defend the common ideas and the common citizenship of Europe”

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission for 2004 – 2014, delivered a public lecture on “The Digital Citizens of Europe and the World” at Aula magna of Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”.

The lecture was conducted under the aegis of Professor Dr Habil Anastas Gerdzhikov, Rector of Sofia University. Partners of the meeting were the entrepreneurial establishment “Endeavor Bulgaria“, “Telelink“ – one of the leading suppliers of solutions and services in the IT sector and New TV.

Professor Dr Ingrid Shikova, member of the Department of European Studies at the Faculty of Philosophy at Sofia University, opened the meeting and thanked for the honor to be a moderator on such a relevant topic to the society we live in and presided by no less a person than the big friend of Bulgaria José Manuel Barroso.


She drew attention to facts linked with the academic career of the President of the European Commission during the two terms of office so that, as she said, to be clear that every statesman of great stature started from academia.

José Manuel Barroso graduated cum laude Lisbon University in Law, read European Studies at the European Institute of Geneva University and continued with an MA course in Political Sciences at the latter. He worked as an assistant-professor at the Faculty of Law at Lisbon University, assistant-professor at Geneva University, and visiting professor at Georgetown University. In 1995 he received the chair of the International Relations Department at the University of Lisbon.

Professor Shikova highlighted some less known facts of José Manuel Barroso’s political career. She dwelt on his contributions as a state secretary for foreign relations and cooperation of Portugal in the signing of the agreement with Angola in 1991 which led to the introduction of a system of pluralist democracy in the country. In his capacity as a Minister of Foreign Affairs Barroso was a driving force in the process of self-determination of East Timor. Under his leadership the social-democratic party won the 2002 elections and he was appointed Prime Minister of Portugal.


Professor Shikova mentioned only one of the awards Barroso received, that which is the most prestigious in this country, namely the Stara Planina Order, Ist degree; he was awarded the latter for the contribution he made in the accession of this country to the EU and for his assistance in the liberation of the Bulgarian medics in Lybia.

Professor Shikova pointed out that during the time of her work at the delegation at the European Commission she was a direct witness to the support Barroso had lent to Bulgaria all the time.

“Mr Barroso’s predilection to things digital is well-known. During his presidency great impetus was given to the development of a common digital market,” Professor Shikova stressed. She referred to a statement Mr Barroso had made that was indicative of his spirit and line of thinking: “One of the founders of the European community, Alcide De Gasperi, said: “The man of politics thinks in terms of the next elections whereas the statesman thinks in terms of the next generation.“ I think that it is in terms of the spirit of the next generation that we have to move forwards in this vital direction: I am referring to all things digital.”

At the beginning of his lecture José Manuel Barroso pointed out that he was proud of the fact that it was during one of his terms of office that Bulgaria had become an EU member and that, together with his colleagues, he had consistently supported the process of accession and development of this country.

“I am aware of the fact that there are problems. But if we think in the direction of the overall development, what is the real picture we get? Today the country is far richer than before in terms of its socio-economic development, the levels are higher, the process of building the infrastructure has been completed, the social fund’s capacities are bigger, the acquisition is better and there is stronger support on the part of the EU,” Mr Barroso underlined. He expressed his hope that the citizens of some European countries who had claimed that Bulgaria should stay out of the EU would agree that they were wrong. “Because the right decision was that Bulgaria should become a EU member-state,” Mr Barroso added.


He said he was proud to be in the oldest and most venerable University in the country and feel part of the country’s success. Mr Barroso also said that the topic of his lecture was digital economics and the common European future.

“One of the greatest transformations in the world of today came with Internet and the digital technologies. The world of today in terms of science has nothing to do with the world of my youth when I was a student,” Mr Barroso went on to say. He specifically mentioned the opportunities we had in terms of access to information, even when it came to dictatorship regimes.

“This is a huge transformation. We should ask ourselves whether Europe can cope with a transformation of such a magnitude and bear its fruit; the real picture shows that in Europe there are many national barriers which make the process difficult for the citizens, the internet companies, the StartUps, the telecommunications, the governments and the firms to make the best of the digital inventory at hand,” Mr Barroso said, and drew a comparison between Europe and the USA. He explained that when there are StartUps in the US, their internal market is the USA themselves, and the real market is the world. In Europe there are 28 digital markets and the commission’s objective is the establishment of a unified digital market with the aim of eliminating the artificial barriers.

The European Commission sets up a strategy of a common digital market based on three principles: a better on-line access to digital goods and sources, an environment congenial to digital networks, and a digital push to the onset of growth.


“Digital economy is not a sector of the economy but rather a tendency that is beneficial to all sectors,” Mr Barroso said. The objective of the European Commission is that the common digital market would win the support of the citizens as well as the development of the economies based on cooperation.

“That will change the lives of many people in many domains,” Mr Barroso said and added that for the past year the revenues from such cooperating economies as sharing the home, the cars, and other platforms based on the logic of sharing, amounted to €28 billion.

In his words such a type of economy is not a means of political control; it is a result of the demand and that is why it is expedient to solve the legal issues concerning responsibility and the protection of the customers, the employees’ protection and tax control.

“There should be identical rules in each EU country, otherwise the market will disintegrate,” Mr Barroso concluded.


According to him, digitalization is of no importance when taken on its own; the crucial point is whether it brings to new trends in the industry: “Can we, as Europeans, preserve and keep on developing the industry hand in hand with digitalization? Because if we lose the battle for digitalization, the survival of the economy of Europe itself will be at stake,” Mr. Barroso stated.

Unfortunately, only 2 % of the small and medium sized enterprises in Europe can make use of the relevant digital technologies. To solve the problem the European Commission set up a bidirectional strategy: the small and medium sized enterprises should be able to adapt themselves to the most advanced digital technologies on one hand, and, on the other, a process of consolidation of the strength of Europe in the domain of the digital innovations was necessary.

Barroso stressed that some European countries have become world leaders in the technological domain by implementing the modernization of the industrial process. According to him, Bulgaria can also use the benefits of the structural funds and the potential financing since “Horizon 2020” aims at assisting all companies, irrespective of how advanced the latter are.

“We must increase the level of knowledge and skills to work with digital technologies,” Mr Barroso pointed out. He shared some of his observations on the EU as a whole and the dangers of the disintegration of the Union he had faced .”On one hand, Europe is vulnerable, while, on the other, it is stable. The decisions come as a result of a difficult process because we do not belong to one state but to 28 and it is not easy to unite all these countries and arrive at a consensus on a line of action,” Mr Barroso said.

Despite it all, he underlined that the EU had showed to all those who predicted the end of Europe that the integrative forces within the Union are stronger than the forces of disintegration. According to Barroso, it is necessary to overcome the spirit of Europessimism and get actively involved in the European project: “It cannot be managed only by institutions; it needs active involvement on all levels – citizens, parties, etc. Instead of merely criticizing, we should lend our support to Europe,” he added.

Barroso quoted a French politician who claimed that patriotism meant to love what belonged to us, whereas nationalism meant to hate what belonged to the others. He stressed that we could be patriots and still love our own country, and at the same time we could defend common ideas, the common European citizenship.

According to him, the values embedded in the Lisbon Agreement are of particular importance: human dignity, freedom, democracy, the supremacy of the law, the parity of sexes and safeguarding the rights of the minorities. “In my opinion, we can cope even better together, as a union, rather than if each one of us sticks closely to its narrowly set nationalist ways,” Mr Barroso said in conclusion.

After Jose Barroso’s lecture Professor Ingrid Shikova made special mention of the fact that according to the latest report of the European Commission on the digital progress it becomes obvious that Bulgaria enjoys a good position with reference to the so-called fast and broad band internet. Unfortunately, according to the Commission, Bulgaria must make up for a considerable lagging behind in the acquisition of new skills. According to the report, hardly 31 % of the population possesses basic skills to work with digital technologies. She noted that that was the precise role of the University, which should contribute to a better progress in those areas.

The meeting continued with questions from the audience addressed to José Manuel Barroso. During the discussion the issues of the shared economy, of the protection of the customers’ rights, of the national security and the right of personal life, and the protection of personal data were also touched on.

At the end of the meeting Barroso stated that in Europe there is a culture of entrepreneurship and more efforts should be put in setting up closer links between the scientists and the agents of innovations because that leads directly to market realizations. He expressed his support to the idea of setting up an institution that should integrate and realize the cooperation between the academic community and the market in this country. The region deserves better support, Mr Barroso observed and expressed his confidence that if Bulgarian universities, together with other European universities, create good ideas, they will certainly get financial funding.