Margarita Popova: There should be no dividing lines among the Bulgarian communities abroad
Dividing lines should not be drawn among the Bulgarian communities abroad, but rather, common interests should be sought. Vice President Margarita Popova said this at a meeting at the University of Cologne late Thursday with students and representatives of the Bulgarian community in the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Vice President handed over the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad’s “Ivan Vazov” medal of honour to the Bulgarian “Enlighteners” students club. The club is registered at the second largest university in Germany and is one of the most active Bulgarian student organizations in Germany and in Europe.
The main topics at Vice President Popova’s meeting with the Bulgarian expatriates included funding opportunities and support for the Bulgarian language abroad as well as the establishment of more Bulgarian schools abroad. There was a presentation on opportunities in the “Native Language and Culture Beyond Borders” programme through which, this year, funding is to be given to Bulgarian schools abroad.
To qualify for assistance, schools must be registered and have at least 10 pupils. The programme enables support for schools in the form of setworks, rental expenses, salaries of teachers, among other items. At the same time, the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad takes genuine steps to enable the professional development of students who have qualified abroad, organizing forums to promote career development in Bulgaria.
The Bulgarians, who work, live and study in Cologne and neighbouring regions said that the Bulgarian diplomatic mission in Bonn, which takes care of several federal states, was actively engaging in solving their problems. They told Vice President Popova that decisions on changing the status of diplomatic missions abroad should be taken only after consultation with affected communities. Vice President Popova said that the Bulgarian state was concerned about the problems of Bulgarians abroad and, for this reason, such decisions were planned carefully and took into account the direct needs of the Bulgarians in the region.
Earlier, Margarita Popova held talks with Professor Dr. Michael Bollig, Pro-Rector for Academic Careers, Diversity and International Affairs at the University of Cologne. They discussed the status of the Bulgarian studies course at the university and the possibility of retaining it in spite of budgetary constraints. Currently, there are only two departments at which Slavonic languages are studied, in Cologne and Bochum.
There are currently only 260 Bulgarian students at the University of Cologne, and the number is decreasing every year. The reasons for this negative trend should be carefully examined and addressed, Vice President Popova said at the meeting. To this end, possibilities of closer co-operation should be examined, including through student exchange programmes with leading Bulgarian universities.
In the last day of the Vice President’s working visit Germany, she visited the “AzBukiVedi” Language School in Cologne. At the close of her visit, Vice President Popova will meet representatives of the Bulgarian community in Frankfurt.