27 March, 2023
A Tranzit2030 report about a bilateral meeting
The participants in the 15 January 2023 meeting at the Austrian library: prof. Penka Angelov (to the front), Adrian Nedelea, Vladimir Mitev, Ioana Ciocoiu, Alexandru-Grig Vulpe and Viktor Kirilov (right to left)

On 15 January 2023 a meeting between civil society stakeholders from Giurgiu and representatives of the Austrian library in Rousse took place. It was a meeting caused by mutual interest to expand the connections over the Danube and in the cross-border area of Ruse-Giurgiu. The Austrian library is perhaps the most internationalist of all the cultural institutions in Rousse, having very good connections and cooperation not only with the German-speaking world, but also with many intellectuals, artists and cultural institutions from Central Europe. As for the active citizens from Giurgiu, they represent the civic tendency in Romanian society, which has been resilient in the recent years and has been exposing wrongdoings of the entrenched old political elites of transition. The independent meeting between the two sides is only a beginning and greater contacts between more civic and NGO organizations from Romania and Bulgaria should take place.

Here are the impressions about the meeting from TRANZIT2030.EU:

According to the European Social Progress Index, Regional Competitiveness Index and the Digital Economy and Society Index, the Giurgiu-Rousse Euroregion represents one of the most underdeveloped territories in the entire European Union. Here the associative environment and public participation are usually low because socio-economic depression of shrinking regions comes with chronic pessimism and social anomie. But there are also notable exceptions.

After 2 years since the official launch of the Franco-Romanian decentralized cooperation project TRANZIT2030.EU, supported by the French Embassy in Romania within the program “Ecological transition, climate change and sustainable cities”, we participated in 15 January 2023 in Bulgaria for an independent bilateral visit to meet civil society representatives from the city of Rousse and to discover the civic and cultural activity of the International Society “Elias Canetti”.

The main topics of the debate were centered on the common future of the region, as well as the need for strengthening the civil society capacities and the role of multi-stakeholder partnership. At the bilateral meeting were present Prof. Penka ANGELOVA (President of “Elias Canetti” Society), cultural manager Viktor KIRILOV, journalist Vladimir MITEV (friendshipbridge.eu), anthropologist Alexandru-Grig VULPE (TRANZIT2030.EU), as well as Ioana CIOCOIU & Adrian NEDELEA (members of the “Active Citizens Giurgiu” Initiative Group).

International Elias Canetti Society

“We are orienting our activity in the service of cultural diplomacy by disseminating Bulgarian culture abroad and increasing the level of awareness of world culture in Bulgaria. The society was born in 1992 on the occasion of the first international conference on the life and work of the Nobel Prize laureate for literature Elias Canetti, born in the city of Ruse in Bulgaria”, said Prof. Penka ANGELOVA, the president of the “Elias Canetti” International Society.

In active cooperation with cultural institutions and organizations from EU member states and the Danube region, the recurring activities of the society like the indepedent publishing house, the International Literature Festival and Elias Canetti National Award Competition for Contemporary Literature were supported by the Bulgarian administration, the Goethe-Institut, the Robert Bosch Foundation, the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs and the Austrian Literature Society.

”Anything I subsequently experienced had already happened in Ruschuk.”

Elias Canetti in The Tongue Set Free. Rememberance of a European Childhood (1977)

Durable development in the Danube region

While western countries have hundreds of investor relations specialists for local and regional promotion, in Romania and Bulgaria even the big cities have tiny foreign cooperation offices. In this context the civil society international exchanges became at least as important for international cooperation as high-level diplomatic interaction. We should have the courage to reverse the paradigms. External promotion of our natural and cultural patrimony should become our pillars of sustainable development. As His Excellency Luca NICULESCU, the former Ambassador of Romania in France (2016-2022) rightly pointed out, sustainable development means living well today without harming those who come after us.

Conclusions of the bilateral meeting

Several main issues emerged as points for dialogue and cooperation among civil society representatives for the coming period. These include:

  1. Focus on sustainability and natural heritage protection;
  2. Civic education as a cross-cutting objective and the enhancement of cultural heritage;
  3. Infrastructure accessibility, integration and cohesion (reducing structural gaps).

Photo: The Bridge of Friendship at Rousse-Giurgiu (source: Yavor Michev)

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