Safe space for democratic ideas: A musical evening in Burgas

Burgas |The Expo Centre Flora in Burgas with its modern and green architecture was our exciting location for the third stop of this year’s Remember Tour! Situated right in the middle of the city’s impressing Seaside Park which is stretching across most of the coast line and lined with statues of Burgas’ most influential personalities and a memorial of the socialist era, the place could not have been more inspiring. And also the calm sea breeze with the water being less than a stone’s throw away helped spark the discussion at 30+ degree Celcius on 6 August at 6 PM.

 The tradition of Flora Burgas began in 1980, when for the first time an international exhibition of flowers, the “Flora” was held in the premises. In 2013, the municipality decided to create a modern building, which was not only to accommodate the exhibition but also to provide the opportunity for the development of congress tourism and international expositions. The new Flora Exposition Center was opened on 20 May 2015

The overall concept of the exposition center Flora is based on three main pillars – functionality, aesthetics, economy. With its green identity and unique location in the heart of the Seaside Park it is no surprise, that Flora became a popular hotspot for citizens and guests of the city. Today, the building does not only offer rooms for seminars but also hosts a cafe and during our stay a parrot exhibition.

Our local partner was Daniela Bozhinova, recently elected city council member in Burgas and board member of the NGOs Bulgarian Association for the Promotion of Citizens’ Initiative and Democracy International. She explained that while the demonstrations sparking the country’s democratic transition took place in the city centre at Cyril and Methodius square, the Seaside Park had always been the safest place to secretly discuss and mobilise for this deeply rooted change – hence, our place of remembrance in Burgas!

If you want to know more, Daniela provides further insights in this video –> –>

To remember this democratic transition and set the mood for the rest of the discussion, the event started with a reminder of the events that sparked the democratic changes in Burgas and Bulgaria by activists who had taken part in the demonstrations. How political parties and pluralism were restored in the country after 1989 was recalled by former BZNS (agricultural) party leader and former MP Stoian Prodanov.

Danka Georgieva from the Archives Department told shortly about her exciting meeting with the French president Miterrand on the eve of the falldown of the totalitarian regime when she was a student at the Kliment Ohridski University in Sofia. Rumen Lozev, journalist in the first democratic newspaper at the time – “Democrazia” –  recalled how he and his colleagues imagined Europe as a distant and unreacheable “beauty”.

Other topics that were discussed were European democracy and the problems of young people in Bulgaria and europewide.

Among the more than 40 participants were at least a dozen young people, senior students. In the second discussion, one of them, Bozhana  Slavkova (16), an environmental activist, spoke about her last project”Embraced Nature”: an art installation meant to raise pressing issues about fast fashion like deforestation in cities and forests.

In between the discussions, local singer Roza Bozhinova made the evening even more special with her wonderful solo performance in English and Bulgarian. The musical break helped to process the dialogue and attracted lots of so far unconcerned passers-by. Go, Roza!

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Daniela Bozhinova and Petko Kovachev moderated one discussion each and encouraged the participants to think of and articulate suggestions, solutions and ideas to be included in the Catalogue of Ideas and the citizens’ platform of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

The participants in the event were politicians, NGO representatives, students, local and foreign citizens of diverse ages and backgrounds. And last but not least, also the golden gorilla didn’t want to miss the opportunity to remember, celebrate, and look forward.

Something that we’ll definitely remember from our stop in Burgas is the courage of activists triggering the democratic transition in Bulgaria’s totalitarian regime – and that still today the country has lots of activists bringing about the necessary changes for a better life for its citizens and a fruitful future within the European Union.

“Together” was just one of the EU-associations participants voiced in the closing remarks. And the setting with probably the EU’s largest Bulgarian and European flag swinging side by side in the sunset could not have underlined this more.

Some impressions from our Dome Talk