On the 27th of March, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria organized a reception on the occasion of the International Francophonie Day in the Grand Hotel Sofia. Traditionally, the event is held annually around the 20th of March.

But this time it was particularly important because we celebrated the 25th anniversary of our country's membership of the International Organization of La Francophonies (IOF). The reception was attended by ambassadors, prominent public figures, representatives of the cultural, educational, media and scientific circles associated with French language, culture and values.

A congratulatory speech was delivered to the guests, in fine French, by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Yury Sterk: "Twenty-five years ago, in 1993, Bulgaria became a full member of the Francophonie community. Its candidacy was presented by the back then President Zhelyo Zhelev, at the 5thFrancophonie Summit, and it was accepted along with that of Romania. Who would have guessed then that the accession of these two countries from Central Europe to the MOF would trigger the Francofonie boom in Europe, which increased the number of European member states in the organization - from 5 in 1993 to 29 at present, of which 13 are full members, and 16 are observers.

This 25th anniversary gives us the occasion to make a retrospective of what we think is particularly important today when Bulgaria is a member of both the European Union and NATO. In the early 1990s, the end of the Cold War and the rapidly changing Europe, it was vital for our country to be part of a community of countries based on the values ​​of democracy, solidarity, respect for the rule of law and human rights. And through the Francophonie it was not less important to build a bridge in order to develop more dynamic cooperation with France, Belgium and Switzerland - countries that served in the second half of the 19th century as a model for the construction of the modern Bulgarian state. For Bulgaria, joining the Francophonie, 25 years ago, was also a symbolic way of returning to the roots of its history and rediscovering its universal values. The free choice of our country in 1993 to ask for membership was accepted by the Francophonie community and we will not forget the signs of solidarity that have come from this community.

I just mentioned the word "bridge" and I will start from it so to get back to modern realities.

First of all, I will mention the excellent translation provided by the young Nikola Malinov /an 11th grade student at the Lamartin School in Sofia/ during the Forum of the Francophonie in the Bulgarian National Assembly, on the 20th of March 2018. On this occasion, I would like to warmly congratulate both him and all the French teachers working for the education of young people who are at the same time Bulgarians, Europeans and francophones. In this context, it is worth mentioning one of the features of the Bulgarian Francophonie - it is not distinguished by numbers and quantity but above all by quality and excellence.

And one more thing, we consider the Francophonie cooperation to be mutually enriching and bidirectional as a partnership in the interests of all participants..." And Yuri Sterk noted that many countries in Europe today are both members of the International Organization of La Francophonie and the European Union, including Bulgaria. As a rotating president of the EU Council, one of its priorities is the development of a strategy for the Western Balkans. On this issue, the Deputy Minister stressed, that the solidarity of the MOE member states and the EU could be particularly valuable. Globally, Bulgaria is constructively involved in strengthening the cooperation between the IOF and the United Nations, especially in the areas of democracy, human rights, freedoms, peace, conflict prevention, security and post-crisis support.

Finally, Sterk thanked all partners - ministries and organizations, the MOF, the Francophonie diplomatic missions in Sofia, associations and companies that contributed in organizing and conducting the events on the occasion of the Francophonie Month in Bulgaria.