BTA News

Kyustendil Hosts BTA’s “Europe in the Balkans” Conference

A conference “Europe in the Balkans: A Common Future” took place at the new National Press Club of the Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) in Kyustendil on Thursday. BTA Director General Kiril Valchev, representatives of the state and local authorities, the team of the District Information Center, public figures and the media discussed the impact of EU-funded projects in the Kyustendil region in 2014-2020 and new developments for the period 2021-2027.

BTA Director General Kiril Valchev opened the conference noting that one of the most important tasks of the press clubs of BTA is to include the different regions of the country and the neighbouring countries to the European debates. “This conference we are having in the new home of BTA in Kyustendil is an example of exactly that. BTA strives not only to be a national agency of Bulgaria, but to be a reliable source of information for news from all Balkan countries”, Valchev pointed out. He said that in view of the dialogue at the conferences, the next goal of the agency is to continue along Pan-European Corridor 8 and for the agency to have press clubs in the areas inhabited by Bulgarians in Albania, adding that he hoped BTA to have permanent correspondents in Korce and in Tirana by 2026. “If we go along this corridor, it is important for Bulgaria to have more information from Kosovo, from Prishtina, where we are also planning the next stage of expansion of BTA”, Valchev said.

Angel Angelov, Ambassador of Bulgaria to the Republic of North Macedonia, said he felt honoured to be present at the conference, as he has worked at BTA’s Balkans section in the past. He emphasised the importance of the work of the National Press Club in Kyustendil, adding that the press club sits not only on the Pan-European Corridor 8, but also on two national borders – with Serbia and the Republic of North Macedonia. “Kyustendil is between the two borders and is therefore very important as a news producer,” he noted. Angelov explained that there are tourists from North Macedonia in Kyustendil. He also pointed out that people from Bosilegrad in Serbia often visit Kyustendil to get medical treatment or go shopping.

Municipality Deputy Mayor Kristiyan Ivanchov said that his ambitions are for Kyustendil to return to the tourist map of Bulgaria. He recalled that in the past, Kyustendil was recognisable throughout Europe as a tourist destination, adding that the municipal administration is working on returning the region’s old glory, together with other institutions, including the Regional History Museum. However, in order to fulfill this goal, hotels are needed to accommodate the tourists, Ivanchov said. For the last months Kyustendil has been presented at almost all tourist exhibitions in Europe, which according to him, has provoked interest.

Bulgarian MEP Angel Dzhambazki said that the European Parliament is considering an instrument for financing the Western Balkans, which will be part of the Cohesion Policy of the EU. “The funding of proposals in this instrument will be tied to the observance of basic human rights,” said Dzhambazki, adding that this also applied to the rights of Bulgarians in the Republic of North Macedonia and in Serbia, as well as for the other communities in the Balkans. Dzhambazki also talked about the rights and interests of Bulgarians from the Western Outlands (South-East Serbia). “This is a nationally recognised minority, despite Belgrade’s attempts to twist this historical truth and try to present it in some other way,” said Dzhambazki. According to him, Bulgaria has made the mistake to not show clearly that Skopje’s and Belgrade’s EU accession passes through Sofia.

Kyustendil Regional Governor Alexander Pandurski said that the municipalities in the Kyustendil region participate in joint projects with the neighbouring countries and that there are already several successfully completed projects. “The European Union gives us the opportunity to use the cross-border programs and together with our partners in the Republic of North Macedonia and the Republic of Serbia, our municipalities participate in similar initiatives and common projects”, said Pandurski. He emphasised that they want to be partners so that they can build a common European future, and not look for dividing lines on various issues.

Boyan Milushev, Founder and CEO of BM Vision, said that countries with weaker tourism potential are presented much more than Bulgaria on the global stage and that European funding can help present the sights of Bulgaria better. BM Vision is among the leading companies specialising in the creation of products based on new technologies and Milushev presented the opportunities that Virtual Reality offers as a powerful tool for re-creating stories and presenting tourism in a way that cannot be achieved by other means. “At the exhibition in Bucharest, we presented the Church of St George in Kyustendil, which is an outstanding cultural monument. We placed a digital model in the exhibition itself, and the guests could walk around, see the frescoes and learn the history of the church,” Milushev said. According to him, this technology allows them to present interesting and attractive information to viewers without investing several million in reconstruction. “People often reach out to touch what they see through the glasses,” Milushev pointed out.

The project “Europe in the Balkans: A Common Future” is implemented by BTA with support from the European Commission. It builds on a past project, “Europe in Bulgaria: A Common Future”, and aims to foster a better understanding of the role of the cohesion policy in the Balkans; to raise awareness of projects funded by the EU through the Cohesion Funds; promote dialogue on the results of the projects at local level and boost civic participation in issues related to cohesion policy.

So far conferences have been held in Ruse, Razgrad, Veliko Tarnovo, Silistra, Gabrovo, Burgas, Sliven, Yambol, Haskovo, Stara Zagora and Kazanlak, and cross-border conferences in Bucharest, Edirne and Skopje. Until August, discussions will be held in the BTA press clubs across Bulgaria as well as in Belgrade, Bosilegrad and Thessaloniki.

The “Europe in the Balkans: A Common Future” project is funded with EUR 348,871. To achieve the project’s aims, BTA is using a media mix and expects to reach out to between 700,000 and 1 million people in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, North Macedonia, Greece and Turkiye.