Having witnessed the 120th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Iran and Bulgaria, we are expecting the promotion of diplomatic and cultural collaborations once Bulgaria’s Rotating presidency of the Council of the EU begins. Following the visit of Mrs. Tanya Mihaylova, the Director of the Diplomatic Institute of Bulgaria, we had the chance to discuss the trend of educational and research cooperation between the two countries at the Bulgarian Embassy in Tehran.
AVA Diplomatic’s Exclusive Interview with Mrs. Tanya Mihaylova,
Director of the Diplomatic Institute of Bulgaria
Interview by Mohammadreza Nazari
As Director of the Diplomatic Institute of Bulgaria, please tell us what goals the Institute is after and what its priorities are.
I would like to thank you for this opportunity to say more about my mission here in Iran. The Bulgarian Diplomatic Institute is a governmental institution to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and it is responsible for the training of Bulgarian and foreign diplomats. We provide trainings on international relations, diplomatic skills and some other skills for the Bulgarian state administration, as well. We operate in our wide network of training institutions in diplomacy in the Black Sea Region and our training programs for diplomats are open for all of the countries in the Western Balkans and the Black Sea Region. Another direction of our activities is focused on public diplomacy – we organize conferences, round tables, we publish the bilingual Diplomacy Journal and other publications, and we do research in international relations, mainly on important for the Bulgarian foreign policy priorities. Among them are energy diplomacy, energy security, the Black Sea Region and security in the region.
You have met with the officials of Iran’s Foreign Ministry. What agreements have come to existence regarding joint cooperation of the two countries?
I am here for the second time. My first visit was 2 years ago when I had the chance to participate on behalf of Bulgaria in a high-level conference under the aegis of President Rouhani. It was on the topic “The World against Violence and Extremism”. This time there are more reasons to be here – signing a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Center of International Research and Education to your Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and participation in a round table on bilateral relations, dedicated to 120 years of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Bulgarian Ambassador H.E. Hristo Polendakov took part in the same events. In my opinion it was a good exchange on what was achieved in the past but the most important part was how to continue productively our bilateral relations. I had also the privilege to open an exhibition with ancient maps of the Black Sea Region, Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf. The name of the exhibition is “The Sea Brings All That Is Distant Together” and the title comes from a medieval text by the Bulgarian author from the 9th century, Joan Ekzarh. I had good talks with my colleagues at the Center of International Research and Education and its Library. And last, but not least – I attended the ceremony the former Iranian ambassador to Sofia, Dr. Abdollah Norouzi. I know him personally and I have excellent impressions of his mandate in Sofia. As you can see, the program is quite intensive for only a 2-day visit to Tehran. That is why I hope that there will be another opportunity in the future to visit Iran.
What are the future steps and plans for your cooperation with the Center of International Research and Education?
There will be a round table in Sofia and the topics will probably be the topical issues for our two regions, the Black Sea Region and Iran. I hope it will happen till the end of the year. The second specific idea is the participation of an Iranian lecturer in our annual International Energy Diplomacy Seminar. There will be some publication exchange, as well. Articles on bilateral relations where some international issues might be of interest to both sides would be published in our specialized journals.
Bulgaria will preside the EU Council throughout the first half of 2018. Is there any specific plan for training and organizing for the diplomatic and political teams of Bulgaria?
Yes, this year the Bulgarian Diplomatic Institute is fully involved in preparing the Bulgarian team for the Rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union which is going to last six months in the first half of 2018. The Presidency team includes more than a thousand people from the Bulgarian diplomatic service and state administration. At the moment, the government is in a hurry to prepare the staff, logistics and the priorities. It will be some very hard work. The presidency will be a challenge and an opportunity at the same time. During our Presidency, there will be crucial discussions on the EU budget for the next 5 years and on BREXIT. Bulgaria is supposed to prepare all of the diplomatic, logistic, financial and governmental aspects and training of people who will be involved in the Presidency in order to serve the EU citizens in the best possible way. I would add that the Bulgarian Embassy here in Tehran will play a crucial role, because it will represent the EU in a full scale. This is because there is no delegation of the EU here, and the Bulgarian Embassy will play this general role of representing the EU.
In the fundamental statement of your Institute, there is a reference to teaching foreign languages. Is there any specific plan to teach Farsi?
The Bulgarian Diplomatic Institute is responsible for the foreign language training of diplomats, but training especially in Farsi is not our engagement. Those who study Farsi do that at Sofia University where there is a Center for Eastern Languages and Cultures. We rely very much on those diplomats at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who speak Farsi, for the bilateral relations and people-to-people contacts.
In November, 2016, you held an educational seminar in Sofia to familiarize Afghani state officials with human resources management and human rights. Please tell us about that a bit.
Yes, it was our contribution to the recovery of Afghanistan and having this seminar for the sixth time, we have proved our readiness to participate in the efforts to build the modern diplomatic service of Afghanistan. It is a two-week program for Afghani diplomats, which includes providing more information on the international organizations, human rights, diplomatic skills and different topics of the international agenda nowadays. The participants usually feel comfortable in Sofia, they are satisfied by the high level of our lecturers and this year we expect to have another group of diplomats from Afghanistan.
In your speech on educational seminars, you said that such programs can be pivotal in the peace process and security of Afghanistan. How is that possible?
As I have already said these trainings are part of the Bulgarian contribution to the whole process of capacity building of the state administration. Diplomats are active participants in building modern society and this role of theirs is crucial to solve present day problems. The diplomats are part of the administration of each country and at the same time they play on the international field presenting their country. If you have some good state administration and some good diplomacy, you can find good solutions. It is not enough, of course, but we, as a training institution, contribute in these aspects.
You have signed an MOU with G.R. Rakovski National Defence Academy. What objectives do you pursue in cooperating with military academies?
We work closely with the National Defence Academy. The Bulgarian Diplomatic Institute is the Bulgarian representative in two European institutions at the director level – the European Security and Defense College and the European Union Institute for Security Studies. Together with the National Defence Academy we provide joint training programs for both diplomats and military staff. Security is the basis of prosperity.
At the end, if there is anything you would like to add, we are all ears.
Yes, I would like to say that Bulgarian and Iranian people feel really close and friendly to each other. And because there is not any unsolved issue between Bulgaria and Iran, it is a very good basis to work together and to discuss everything openly. With this kind of approach, we could enjoy concrete and fruitful results.