Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” hosted the Third Annual Conference of the Association of Balkan Universities. The organization, set up in 2008, includes 59 high academic institutions from all Balkan countries. Professor Ivan Ilchev, former Rector of Sofia University, 2007-2015, in 2016 took over the chairpersonship of the Association for a year.
The forum, which is held for the first time in this country, is attended by rectors, vice rectors from several Balkan universities: the Thracian University in Edirne, the University of Tetovo, Durres University “Alexander Moisiu”, Thessaloniki Aristotle University, Bucharest University, the University of Chanakkale, the International Balkan University, Istanbul University “Sebahatin Zaim”, Istanbul Technical University, Namik Kemal University, Ovid University of Constanza, Sports University of Tirana, University of Argirocastro, “Efrem Chabey”, the University “Kadri Zeka”, the University of Ioannina, the University of Montenegro, Elbasan University “Alevander Giovanni”, the Fehmi Agani University, Pristina University “Hasan Pristina” and Bitola University “St. Kliment Ohridski”.
The Bulgarian universities, members of the Association were represented by rectors, vice rectors respectively from the Technical University of Sofia, the Academy of Music, Dancing and Fine Arts in Plovdiv, the Agrarian University, the European Polytechnical University, Shoumen University “Bishop Konstantin Preslavski”, the University of Medicine in Pleven, the National Sports Academy, the South-Western University “Neofit Rilski”, Rousse University “Angel Kunchev” and Veliko Turnovo University “St St Cyril and Methodius”.
Professor Ilchev welcomed those present and said that whenever he asked his students how many of them had already visited Balkan countries, usually those who had visited the latter were twice or thrice less than those who had visited Western Europe. It is the familiarization with the countries, their history, culture, traditions, that is one of the central goals of the Association, Professor Ilchev stressed, and, subsequently added that the better the Balkan peoples knew each other, the less the Balkan-generated conflicts would be.
Professor Ilchev read a welcome address on behalf of the Minister of Education and Science Professor Nikolay Denkov. The address pointed out that the Association had been successfully working on the realization of its mission – the transformation of the Balkans into an excellent model for regional cooperation and exchange of the best practices in the domain of high academic education, the facilitation of mobility conditions and the exchange of faculty and students, joint projects, and the setting up of joint Bachelors’ and Masters’ programs. In this way the Balkan countries will build up a common vision of the future, generate new ideas and stimulate the development of scientific and cultural contacts, the welcome address added.
Sofia University’s Rector Professor Anastas Gerdzhikov noted that the Association of Balkan Universities was of tender age, yet it was a highly dynamic organization. He expressed his hope that the initiatives that had already been launched would be further improved, and the Association would continue its work to the benefit of all the member-universities.
In the Rector’s words the idea for the establishment of an Association of the Balkan Universities is a logical corollary of the joint efforts for the improvement of the academic, scientific and cultural links between the respective universities in the region.
The Rector stressed that high academic education was a pivotal factor for the development of each country’s society and it was the university that had the mission to search for solutions to new problems, to the research and implementation of new methods in the preparation of highly qualified graduates, the latter achieving optimal results both professionally and personally within the country’s overall development.
On the other hand, the universities are important research centers and it is in that domain that the universities of the Balkans can participate fruitfully, Professor Gerdzhikov pointed out. He also highlighted the possibility for the development of joint projects in the area of culture, accentuating the common cultural heritage of the Balkan peoples, the language variety, the traditions and history of the region. According to him all that presupposes wide scientific horizon for research, for the stimulation of the unique and specific characteristics, and last but not least, for the better understanding among the Balkan peoples.
During the Third Annual Conference the possibilities of the realization of joint initiatives within the Association’s framework funded both by the European Union and by other mechanisms will be discussed.. The Association will also review amendment proposals of the statutes and elect members of the Executive Committee and Chairperson of the organization for the period 2017-2018.
The activities of the Association of the Balkan Universities includes the improvement of the dialogue between diverse cultures, the establishment of a network of high academic institutions, libraries, research centers, united on the basis of the culture, history, economy, education, sports of the region and setting up a common vision for the future. Among the major goals of the organization are the consolidation of cooperation between the universities in the region, facilitating the mobility of faculty and students, applications for projects, joint setting up of Bachelors’ and Masters’ programs.