The

EU Meets
Balkans

Forum
2024
April 8th,
Sofia Tech Park

About

The increasingly complex geo-strategic environment, dominated by Russia’s war of aggression on European soil demonstrates the importance of unity and purpose within our European family. It demands building a common vision for the future by  bringing about ever closer ties and deeper cooperation between the Union and the Western Balkan region.

In response to the challenge of boosting deeper economic integration, the European Liberal Forum, in collaboration with the ALDE Party and the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, are honored to co-host the annual "THE EU MEETS THE BALKANS FORUM" in Sofia, which brings together a number of high-level speakers to debate on regional cooperation and EU integration.

FORUM 2023

Invited Speakers

Roberta Metsola
President of the European Parliament
Olivér Várhelyi
EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement
Miroslav Lajčák
EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issue
Janez Lenarčič
European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management
Mariya Gabriel
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria
Hilde Vautmans
MEP, President of the European Liberal Forum
Luminița-Teodora Odobescu
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Romania
Giorgos Gerapetritis
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic of Greece
Igli Hasani
Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Albania
Elmedin Konaković
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Donika Gërvalla-Schwarz
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kosovo
Filip Ivanović
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro
Hakan Fidan
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Türkiye
Bujar Osmani
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of North Macedonia
Tanja Miščević
Minister of European Integration of the Republic of Serbia
Tanja Fajon
Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia
Gordan Grlić-Radman
Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Croatia
Alexander Schallenberg
Federal Minister for European and International Affairs of the Republic of Austria
Iliana Ivanova
European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth
Federica Mogherini
Rector of the College of Europe, HR/VP of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (2014-2019)
Ivan Krastev
Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia
Shada Islam
Editor of EUobserver Magazine, Moderator
Ali Aslan
International TV Presenter, Moderator, Talk Show Host & Journalist
Nafisa Latic
Journalist, TRT World

SPEAKERS' 2023

Roberta Metsola
President of the European Parliament
Roberta Metsola is the President of the European Parliament, being the youngest person ever to hold the office. Metsola started her career in various youth organisations within Malta, after which she held various posts within the European Youth Forum. Metsola worked for eight years at the Permanent Representation of Malta to the European Union, after which she briefly served as legal advisor to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and made her way to the European Parliament as an MEP in 2013. Metsola holds a Bachelor’s degree in law from the University of Malta and has obtained a diploma in European studies from the College of Europe in Bruges.
Olivér Várhelyi
EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement
Olivér Várhelyi is a Hungarian lawyer, diplomat, and currently the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement in the von der Leyen Commission. Várhelyi began his career in the Hungarian public administration in 1996 and worked at the Ministry for Industry and Trade. He later joined the Foreign Affairs Ministry and was responsible for aligning with the EU acquis. He served at the Hungarian mission to the EU as legal counselor and head of legal service until 2006, after Hungary's EU accession. From 2008 to 2011, he worked briefly as head of unit at the European Commission. Várhelyi then returned to the Hungarian foreign service in 2011, serving as deputy head and then head of the Permanent Representation in Brussels with the rank of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary. Várhelyi obtained a Master of European Legal Studies at Aalborg University and a Law degree at the University of Szeged.
Ivan Kondov
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria
Ivan Kondov, a Bulgarian diplomat, currently serves as the caretaker Foreign Minister, having previously held the position of Foreign Ministry's permanent secretary. Throughout his career, Kondov has been appointed as Bulgaria's ambassador to Spain, permanent representative to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome, head of the Protocol Directorate at the President Radev’s administration. Kondov also held the position of first secretary at Bulgaria's permanent representation to NATO and earlier in his career, he was the chief expert at the NATO Directorate of the Foreign Ministry. Kondov began his career at the Foreign Ministry in the European Countries Directorate. He graduated with a degree in international relations from the University of National and World Economy in Sofia.
Danijela Đurović
President of the Parliament of the Republic of Montenegro
Danijela Đurović is a Montenegrin politician and is currently the president of the Parliament of Montenegro. Danijela Đurović has been a member of the Socialist People's Party (SNP)since 2008, and was eventually elected as vice of the Socialist People's Party, which she served from 2017 to 2021. Đurović obtained a bachelor's degree in management engineering and a master's degree in ecology and environmental protection.
Besnik Bislimi
First Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration of the Republic of Kosovo
Besnik Bislimi is a Kosovo Albanian economist, academic, and politician. He is currently serving as the First Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo, with responsibilities for European integration, development, and dialogue. Bislimi is also the first vice president of the Vetëvendosje movement and has held previous positions as minister of finance and member of parliament. With a doctorate from the University of Freiberg specializing in fiscal policies and transition to market economy, Bislimi has worked as an assistant for macroeconomics and public finance at the University of Freiberg for six years, and as a consultant and project manager for various institutions. He has been a faculty member at RIT Kosovo since 2004, where he teaches macroeconomics, fiscal policy, monetary analysis and policy, natural resource economics, and microeconomics.
Burak Akçapar
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Türkiye
Burak Akçapar is a prominent Turkish diplomat who held various significant positions throughout his career. From July 2011 to January 2017, he served as Ambassador of Türkiye to India, Nepal, and Maldives. In addition to his diplomatic roles, Akçapar is a respected columnist for the Sunday Standard and the New Indian Express. Akçapar is also an associate professor of International Relations and has authored three books. Noteworthy previous posts include Deputy Political Director General for South Asia at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, representative of Türkiye to the International Contact Group on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Head of Policy Planning Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Türkiye. Akçapar has made valuable contributions to regional cooperation in Southeast Europe and received the NATO Secretary General's Award for Excellence in 2002
Megi Fino
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Albania
Megi Fino is Deputy Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania. Ms. Fino is an experienced lawyer with a background in legal advice work and has worked at various legal service entities. She has also served as an integrity consultant for the UNDP and is multilingual, fluent in English and Spanish, and has a good understanding of Chinese (Mandarin), Italian, and Greek. Fino holds a Law LLB degree and an LLM in Public International Law from City, University of London, and obtained a Communicative Chinese diploma from SOAS University of London
Agneza Rusi Popovska
Ambassador of the Republic of North Macedonia to Sofia
Agneza Popovska is a career diplomat who is currenlty the North Macedonian ambassador to Bulgaria. Popovska has previously held the position of Head of Mission of North Macedonia to the European Union. She brings extensive academic qualifications to her role, having studied international economic relations and marketing at the St. St. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje. Furthermore, she holds a master's degree in International Politics from the CERIS-ULB Diplomatic School of Brussels. Popovska is fluent in English, Croatian, Bulgarian, and French.
Ali Aslan
International TV Presenter, Moderator, Talk Show Host & Journalist.
Ali Aslan is an experienced broadcast journalist who has worked for various media organizations in different parts of the world. He has hosted numerous international TV talk shows and moderated high-level international conferences and summits for organizations such as the UN, G20, EU, World Bank, IMF, and OECD. Aslan has interviewed and shared the stage with several influential personalities from across the world, including presidents, prime ministers, CEOs, Nobel Prize winners, and philanthropists. He holds two master's degrees in International Relations and Journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor's degree in International Politics from Georgetown University.Ali Aslan is an experienced broadcast journalist who has worked for various media organizations in different parts of the world. He has hosted numerous international TV talk shows and moderated high-level international conferences and summits for organizations such as the UN, G20, EU, World Bank, IMF, and OECD. Aslan has interviewed and shared the stage with several influential personalities from across the world, including presidents, prime ministers, CEOs, Nobel Prize winners, and philanthropists. He holds two master's degrees in International Relations and Journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor's degree in International Politics from Georgetown University.
Iva Doychinova
Talk Show Host and Journalist
Iva Doychinova is a distinguished Bulgarian television and radio presenter, known for hosting popular TV programs such as "Mom's Hour" and "The Day is Wonderful" on BBC TV, "The Day Begins" on BNT, and "I Want a Job" on Nova TV. With a radio career dating back to the 1990s, she has hosted the lunchtime block Tram "Desire" on FM+, morning show "Iva from Morning to Noon" on Radio FM+, and served as a presenter on Radio Europe - News Now. In June 2018, she joined the BNR team as deputy editor of morning shows on Hristo Botev and later became the director of Radio Sofia in June 2020. Iva's significant contributions to the coverage of the publishing business in Bulgaria have earned her the "Knight of the Book" award from the Bulgarian Book Association.
Boyko Vassilev
Journalist, Bulgarian National Television
Boyko Vassilev Petrov is Chief Editor Current Affairs and head of news at Bulgarian National Television (BNT). He has been at the broadcaster since 1992, spending the first year as a political reporter on the primetime news broadcaster Home and Abroad on Channel One and the period 1993-2000 as a reporter and editor on the political weekly programme Panorama, again on Channel One. Since 2000, he has been a presenter and producer on Panorama, and he has held the position of Chief Editor Current Affairs at BNT from 2001 and 2004 until the present. Boyko holds a PhD from the Bulgarian Academy of Science, obtained after completing studies at the Henri-Nannen-Schule/School of Journalism, University of Sofia “St Kliment Obridsky”, University of Heidelberg and German Language School, Sofia.
Dušan Janjić
Principal Research Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences in the Republic of Serbia
Dušan Janjić has authored over 150 publications focused on nationalism and ethnic relations, including works like "Open Question of the Nation" and "Challenges of Normalization". He served as the editor for "Gledišta" and "Marxist Thought", and founded "Europa" magazine. Mr. Janjić also established NGOs, such as the Forum for Ethnic Relations and the European Movement in Serbia, and founded the political party "Active Serbia".
Shada Islam
Editor of EUobserver Magazine, Moderator
Shada Islam is a prominent Brussels-based specialist in European Union affairs who works as a commentator, advisor, analyst, and strategist on various topics. She is also the founder of New Horizons Project and an editor of EUobserver Magazine. Shada is a Visiting Professor at the College of Europe and a Solvay Fellow at the Vrije University Brussel. She has been recognized as one of the 20 most influential women in Brussels by Politico. Shada is also a strong advocate for women's empowerment and minority rights, and is active as a speaker, lecturer, audiovisual commentator, op-ed writer, and advisor to various organizations. Islam has an academic degree in both social communication and journalism, from the Université libre de Bruxelles.
Prof. Dr. İlber Ortaylı
Leading Turkish Historian, Galatasaray University
Prof. Dr. İlber Ortaylı is a Turkish historian, academic, and writer. Ortaylı is an HonoraryMember of the Turkish Historical Society, a board member of the International Committee of Ottoman Studies, a member of the European Iranology Society, and a member of the Austro-Turkish Sciences Forum. Ortaylı studied Slavic and Eastern European languages at the University of Vienna, after which he did his master's degree at the University of Chicago, and became a doctor at the Faculty of Political Sciences of Ankara University. Ortaylı currently teaches Turkish Law History at Galatasaray University Faculty of Law and MEFUniversity Faculty of Law, and is a member of the Senate of Galatasaray University.
Aylin Sekizkök
Ambassador of Republic of Türkiye to Sofia
Aylin Sekizkök is the current Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey in Sofia. Sekizkök has enjoyed services in the Embassies of Stockholm, Amman, Kyiv, and Berlin, and also served as the Turkish Consul General in Milan. Sekizkök has worked in various departments, including bilateral economic relations, maritime and aviation, policy planning, and security and fight against terrorism. Sekizkök graduated from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara in 1991 and joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey in the same year.
Dimitar Bechev
Visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, Focus on Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe
Dr. Dimitar Bechev is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center, a research fellow at the University of North Carolina, and the director of the European PolicyInstitute in Sofia, Bulgaria. He has authored numerous publications on topics including EU foreign relations, Russian foreign policy, energy security, and politics in Turkey and theBalkans. His book, "Rival Power," delves into Russia's role in Southeast Europe. Dr. Bechev has held positions at Oxford, Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, and was head of the EuropeanCouncil on Foreign Relations office in Sofia from 2010 to 2014. He frequently contributes to publications like Foreign Policy, Al Jazeera Online, POLITICO, and EUObserver, and his quotes have been featured in leading newspapers like the Financial Times and the New YorkTimes. Dr. Bechev holds a DPhil in international relations from the University of Oxford.
Ambassador Selim Yenel
President of Global Relations Forum
Ambassador Selim Yenel is currently the president of the Global Relations Forum in theTurkish city of Istanbul. Yenel started his diplomatic career with a post at the TurkishDelegation to the OECD in Paris, between 1981 and 1984, after which he went to the TurkishEmbassy in the Afghan city of Kabul (1984 – 1986). After his posting in Kabul, Yenel was posted to the Turkish Delegation to the UN in New York (1988 – 1992), and he was posted at the Turkish Delegation to the European Union in Brussels afterward (1994 – 1999). Yenel returned to Turkey to deal with EU matters (1999 - 2005) and was posted as Ambassador toVienna until October 2009. Furthermore, Yenel has served in several positions in the last decade, such as Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Turkey to the European Union,Undersecretary at the Ministry of EU Affairs, and First Deputy Secretary General at the BlackSea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) Organization.
Anna-Maria Konova
Talk Show Host & Journalist, NOVA TV
Anna-Maria Konova is a distinguished journalist receiving the annual Development Journalism Award two years in a row (2019 and 2020) for her coverage of the refugee crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina and her reporting from Africa on cocoa farmers who have never tasted chocolate. She has written extensively on social and health issues and covered refugee issues in hotspots such as Lesvos and Malta. Konova joined NOVA News in spring 2021. Initially her career began as a trainee at BTV, later becoming a reporter for "Tazi Sutrin" and bTV news. Since August, she has been substituting for the titular host of "Wake Up," Marina Tsekova, during her maternity leave. Anna-Maria graduated from a Russian high school in Sofia and continued her studies at the University of National and World Economy in International Relations, obtaining a master's degree in International Economic Relations with a specialization in International Finance.
Adrian Davidoiu
Special Representative for the Western Balkans Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania
Appointed as Romania's Special Representative for the Western Balkans in October 2022, Mr. Adrian Davidoiu has been a diplomat since 1997, serving as the Ambassador to Norway from 2015-2021 and holding various positions in Romanian embassies worldwide. Within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania, he served as the Director General of the Department for Strategic Affairs from 2013-2015. Mr. Smith graduated from the University of Bucharest, pursued further studies in law and European law, and attended various post-graduate programs at prestigious institutions. A skilled lecturer and negotiator, he is fluent in English, French, and Italian. Mr. Davidoiu is married to Davidoiu Silvia, the current Romanian Ambassador to Serbia.
Amb. Bisserka Benisheva
Head of EU Affairs, PanEuropa Bulgara
Ambassador (Rtd) Bisserka Benisheva is a carrier diplomat with a profile on European matters. She served as Ambassador of Bulgaria to Hungary (2012-2016), to Ireland (2003-2007), as President of the Danube Commission (2012-2014). She was appointed Director (1997-2001) and Director General (2008-2012) for European matters in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria. Over the years she was member of the Bulgarian core teams to achieve key national objective – membership in the EU.Currently Ambassador Benisheva is Director for European Affairs of PanEuropa Bulgaria, adviser to the Parliamentary Committee on EU matters,  member of the Board of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria.
George Kremlis
Chair of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Principal Advisor to the Greek Prime Minister
Giorgos Kremlis is an Honorary Director of the European Commission with a career spanning over 30 years. He started in the Commission's Legal Service in 1981, with a brief hiatus to work for the Greek government from 1990 to 1993. During that period, he served as an advisor to the Greek Minister of National Economy and as the National Coordinator for theEEC internal market. He returned to the Commission in 1995 and held various positions until his retirement in 2018, including Head of the Legal Unit, Head of the "Legal Affairs andGovernance" Unit, and Head of the "Cohesion Policy and Environmental Impact assessments" Unit. He also served as a member of the Board of the National Centre forEnvironment and Sustainable Development in Greece and the Greek Regulatory Authority for Energy. Currently, he is a Member of the Board of the Espoo Convention and was electedChair of the upcoming MOPs in 2019 and 2020. Kremlis is also the author of a large number of various publications in the languages; English, French, and Greek.
Prof. Dr. Leander Litov
Board Member, CERN, President of the Board of the South East European Institute for Sustainable Technologies
Leander Litov is the Board Member of the South East European Institute for SustainableTechnologies. In the past, Litov has enjoyed an extensive career as Research Associate at both the Laboratory for Theoretical Physics and Laboratory for Nuclear Problems JINR–Dubna, in Russia, and the Institute for Nuclear Research and Nuclear Energy in Sofia.Furthermore, Litov has been a Scientific Associate at the PH Department of CERN, from 2003– 2005, and Head of Department of the Atomic Physics Department at the University of Sofia“St.Kl.Ohridski”. Litov is the author and co-author of over one thousand scientific publications and is the recipient of several international and national awards.
Matthew Boyse
Hudson Institute Senior Fellow, DAS, Department of State, European and Eurasian Affairs
Matthew Boyse is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute's Center on Europe and Eurasia, where he specializes in Central Europe. Boyse also serves as an adjunct lecturer at the JohnsHopkins School of Advanced International Studies, George Washington University, andAmerican University. Furthermore, Boyse is a former Senior Foreign Service Officer who worked for over 30 years with the State Department in various capacities in Washington,Europe, Canada, South Asia, and Kabul. His last roles included overseeing U.S. policy towards Central Europe and the Office of the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues. Boyse served as sherpa for the Three Seas Initiative and charg. d’affaires in Switzerland, Finland,Romania, and the US Mission to NATO. Boyse has a BA in Classics from Haverford Collegeand an MA in Soviet and East European studies from Columbia University, and speaksGerman, Polish, and Russian.
Thorsten Geissler
Director for Regional Cooperation, The Atlantic Club of Bulgaria
Thorsten Geissler is a German lawyer and politician who is a member of the Honorary Board of Directors of The Atlantic Club of Bulgaria and the Atlantic Digital Network. Geissler joined the Junge Union in 1976 and the CDU in 1977. He served in the Bundeswehr until 1979, reaching the rank of reserve colonel. Geissler studied law and political science at the Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel, where he passed the first and second state examination and became a lawyer in 1991. He was elected to the city parliament of Lübeckin 1982 and was re-elected in 1986, holding the mandate until the end of July 1987. He was elected to the Schleswig-Holstein state parliament in 1987 and was re-elected in 1988, 1992,1996, and 2000. From 1996 to 2002, he was district chairman of the CDU in Lübeck and served as Senator for the Interior and the Environment of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck fromApril 2004 to April 2010. Geissler served as the head of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation(KAS) in Romania between 2010 and 2016, and in Bulgaria between 2016 and 2022.
Yordan Bozhilov
Director of the Sofia Security Forum
Yordan Bozhilov, an accomplished professional in defense, security, and international relations, is currently engaged in research, consultancy, and teaching since 2018. He is the founder and inaugural chair of the Sofia Security Forum. Prior to this, he worked with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in 2013, after serving in various roles at the Ministry of Defence, including Head of the Political Cabinet of the Minister of Defence and Director for International Cooperation. Mr. Bozhilov began his career as an expert in the ministry in 1992, following his university education and mandatory military service.
Dr. Maria Alesina
Policy and Research Officer, European Liberal Forum
Maria holds a PhD in interdisciplinary European Periodical Studies, MA degrees in EU Studies and Political Science, and BA degree in Philosophy from the universities in Belgium, Germany, and Ukraine. She specialises in European cultural, social, and neighbourhood-related affairs and has professional experience in journalism and editorship.
Ribal al-Assad
Founder and Director of the Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria
Ribal al-Assad is a Syrian businessman and political activist who is the founder and director of the Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria (ODFS) and the chairman and founder of The Iman Foundation. He was also the director of the London Bureau of the ArabNews Network (ANN) from 2006 to 2009. Al-Assad holds a Bachelor of BusinessAdministration degree from the InterAmerican University and an MA from the University ofLeicester.
Dr. Sameer Patil
Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation
Dr. Sameer Patil is a Senior Fellow who is connected to the Observer Research Foundation. Patil has authored multiple books such as ‘Securing India in the Cyber Era’ and co-edited‘Moving Forward EU-India Relations: The Significance of the Security Dialogues’. Dr. Patil has participated in several Track 1 and Track 1.5 dialogues and he was awarded the prestigious Canberra Fellowship by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia.His work has been cited by several renowned news agencies, including The New York Times,The Washington Post, and Financial Times.
Vincent Campos
Foreign Service Officer (2004 -2022), U.S. Department of State
Vincent Campos is a career Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State for nearly 20 years and served in various posts worldwide including Bulgaria, Iraq, Chile, andBahrain followed by analyst and press assignments in Washington DC. Combined with his prior U.S. Coast Guard service, his federal career spanned four decades. During that period, he worked in and traveled to over 60 countries while also spending over 12 years in the energy sector as a spokesperson, regulator, enforcer, investigator, and On-SceneCoordinator in support of U.S. policy and energy-related activities both land side and in the maritime environment.
Svetoslav Ivanov
Talk Show Host & Journalist, BTV Media Group
Svetoslav Ivanov, a distinguished Bulgarian journalist, reporter, and host of the TV show "120 Minutes" on bTV, has earned recognition for his comprehensive journalistic coverage of the Middle East, reporting from countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Libya, Palestine, Israel, and Lebanon. Born on November 30, 1983, in Sofia, Ivanov pursued a degree in Journalism from Sofia University before completing specialized programs in the United Nations in New York and Geneva, as well as Negotiation Mastery at Harvard Business School. Throughout his career, he has authored numerous documentary films, interviews, and articles, with some of his works published in respected outlets like The Independent. Ivanov has also written two books, "Where the Trees Died" and "Monsters and Enlighteners," which provide insight into his experiences in conflict zones and commentaries on weekly news, respectively. Ivanov has earned multiple accolades, including the Robert Schuman Prize, three "Reporter of the Year" titles, and the "Golden Pen" award for his contributions to television journalism.
Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo
Deputy Secretary General of NATO (2001 – 2007)
Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo is an Italian diplomat who has held various positions throughout his career. Minuto-Rizzo served as the Deputy Secretary General of NATO from 2001 to 2007and acted as the Secretary General of NATO from 2003 to 2004. Prior to that, he was theItalian ambassador to the Western European Union and the Committee for Policy andSecurity of the European Union. Minuto-Rizzo was also a strategic advisor to Enel in 2008and served as the president of the NATO Defence College Foundation in 2011. From 2013 to2016, Minuto-Rizzo was a member of the board of directors of Finmeccanica and he is currently a member of the Italy-USA Foundation.
Antanas Valionis
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania (2000 - 2006)
Antanas Valionis is a Lithuanian politician who is currently a member of the Lithuanian SocialDemocratic Party. Valionis was previously appointed the Lithuanian Minister of ForeignAffairs, which he served from 2000 – 2006. Furthermore, Valionis has served in two diplomatic posts; first as Ambassador of Lithuania to the Republic of Poland (1994 – 2000),and second as Ambassador of Lithuania to the Republic of Latvia (2008 – 2011). Valionis previously studied at the Faculty of Journalism and Political Sciences of the University ofWarsaw, where he defended his doctoral thesis in political science and social sciences.
Dr. Ioan Mircea Pascu
Vice President of the European Parliament (2014 - 2019)
Ioan Mircea Paşcu is a highly accomplished Romanian politician and academic. Paşcu served as the Vice-President of the European Parliament (2014-2019) and Vice Chair of theCommittee on Foreign Affairs. Pascu also served the role of Minister of Defense of Romania,Presidential counselor, Vice-President of the National Salvation Front, State Secretary,Deputy Minister of Defence, Chairman of the Committee on Defence, Public Order andNational Security, Chamber of Deputies of the Romanian Parliament, Member of theRomanian Parliament, and Vice-President of the Social Democratic Party. Prior to his political career, Pascu worked as a Professor of International Relations and was Dean of theFaculty of International Relations at the National School of Political and AdministrativeStudies. Pascu is a member of various organizations, including the Strategic Advisors Group of the US Atlantic Council, the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, and the consultative committee of the Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces inGeneva.
Kristiina Ojuland
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia (2002 - 2005)
Kristiina Ojuland is a former Estonian politician who served as the country's Foreign Minister from 2002 to 2005. She was a member of the Estonian Reform Party and later founded theParty of People's Unity. Prior to her political career, Ojuland worked in the Estonian Ministry of Justice's Draft Legislation Department from 1990 to 1992, and then moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1992 to work on the Council of Europe affairs. In 1993, she was promoted to Estonia's Permanent Representative to the Council, a post she held for a year before becoming Director of the Estonian Broadcasting Association.
Ilhan Kyuchyuk
MEP, Co-President of ALDE Party
Ilhan Kyuchyuk has been a Member of the European Parliament since 2014. Kyuchyuk is the current co-president of ALDE, and the Permanent Rapporteur on the European Parliament reports on North Macedonia, Uzbekistan, Andorra, Monaco, and San Marino. Kyuchyuk is also a Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET), and a Substitute Member of theCommittee on Legal Affairs (JURI) and the Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN). Kyuchyuk started his career as a member of the Youth MRF (since 2005), after which he was elected Chairman two consecutive times. Kyuchyuk holds a Bachelor's degree in PoliticalScience and Management (2004-2008) and a Master’s degree in Law (2005-2010), both from the ‘St. Cyril and St. Methodius’ University of Veliko Turnovo.
Dr. Solomon Passy
President of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria
Dr. Solomon Passy is a Bulgarian scientist, politician, and innovator, who is also the foundingPresident of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria. Dr. Solomon Passy was the Bulgarian Minister ofForeign Affairs from 2001 until 2005, and was chairman-in-Office of the Organization forSecurity and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in the year 2004. Passy was also a Member ofParliament in three legislations, Chair of the Transparency and Accountability Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, and the first CEE Vice-President of the AtlanticTreaty Association (ATA). Passy also holds a PhD in mathematical logic and was a computer scientist at Sofia University and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
Alva Finn
Executive Director of the European Liberal Forum
Alva Finn’s work has had a profound impact on society across various policy, advocacy, and management fields. As the Executive Director of the European Liberal Forum Alva plays a pivotal role in shaping policy and advocacy initiatives in the Brussels Region of Belgium. In their previous role as Secretary General of Social Platform, Ms Finn fostered a sense of unity and progress among the organization's members. Through their work at Save the Children International, Save the Children Europe, and Mental Health Europe, Alva promoted the welfare and rights of children, as well as advanced mental health policies across Europe. Alva's commitment to human rights is exemplified by her involvement with organizations such as the UNHCR, Eurochild, the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, where they consistently championed the rights and well-being of vulnerable populations. Alva Finn hols a Master of Public International Law from the University of Amsterdam.
Lyubomir Kyuchukov
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria (2005 - 2009)
Lyubomir Kyuchukov is a career diplomat and politician. He served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, a member of the Council on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration to the President of Bulgaria, a member of the National Security Council, and as ambassador to the United Kingdom. He was a member of the Board of Editors of International Relations and Novo Vreme magazines (Sofia). Currently Mr. Kyuchukov is Director of the Economics and International Relations Institute (EIRI) and member of the Board of the Bulgarian Diplomatic Society.

Agenda 2023

16 May 2023
Sofia Tech Park, John Atanasoff Hall
REGISTRATION 
09:00 – 10:00
Opening
10:00 - 10:30
Masters of Ceremony:
Ali Aslan, International TV Presenter, Moderator, Talk Show Host & Journalist
Iva Doychinova, Talk Show Host and Journalist
| Ilhan Kyuchyuk MEP, ALDE Party Co-President
| Ivan Kondov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria
| Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament (Video Message)
| Dr. Solomon Passy, Founder and President, Atlantic Club of Bulgaria
| Alva Finn, Executive Director, European Liberal Forum 
FOREIGN MINISTERS TAKING THE STAGE: ADDRESSING COMMON CHALLENGES
10:30 – 10:50
Moderator:
Ali Aslan, International TV Presenter, Moderator, Talk Show Host & Journalist.

| Olivér Várhelyi, EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement 
DISCUSSION
10:50 - 11:40
| Danijela Đurović, President of the Parliament of Montenegro 
| Besnik Bislimi, First Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration of the Republic of Kosovo
| Burak Akçapar, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Türkiye
| Megi Fino, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Albania
| Agneza Rusi Popovska, Ambassador of the Republic of North Macedonia to Sofia
Balkans: conflict or dialogue?
11:40 - 12:00
Moderator:
Boyko Vassilev, Journalist, Bulgarian National Television
| Dušan Janjić, Principal Research Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences in the Republic of Serbia
100 YEARS OF TURKISH FOREIGN POLICY
12:00 - 12:50
Moderator:
Shada Islam, Editor of EUobserver Magazine, Moderator
KEYNOTE:
| Prof. Dr. İlber Ortaylı, Leading Turkish Historian, Galatasaray University
| Aylin Sekizkök, Ambassador of Republic of Türkiye to Sofia 
| Dr. Dimitar Bechev, Lecturer, Oxford University and Visiting Scholar  
| Amb. Selim Yenel, President, Global Relations Forum 
THE DEEPER BALKANS REGION: SOUTH EASTERN EUROPEAN UNION INITIATIVE (BULGARIA – GREECE – ROMANIA)
12:50 - 13:40
Moderator:
Anna-Maria Konova, Talk Show Host & Journalist, NOVA TV
| Adrian Davidoiu, Special Representative for the Western Balkans Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania
| Amb. Bisserka Benisheva, Head of EU Affairs, PanEuropa Bulgaria 
| George Kremlis, Advisor to the Greek PM on environment, climate and circular economy
| Prof. Dr. Leander Litov, Board Member, CERN, President of the Board of the South East European Institute for Sustainable Technologies
|Matthew Boyse, Hudson Institute Senior Fellow, DAS, European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State (2018 - 2021)
| Thorsten Geissler, Director for Regional Cooperation, Atlantic Club of Bulgaria 
LUNCH
13:40 – 14:30
BUFFET LUNCH HOSTED BY THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE REPUBLIC OF BULGARIA
WALKING TOUR BY INVITATION
13:40 – 14:30
THE BULGARIAN SUPERCOMPUTER DISCOVERER: THE MOST POWERFUL MACHINE IN SOUTH EASTERN EUROPE
UKRAINE RECONSTRUCTION: EURO-ATLANTIC AND GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
14:30 - 15.20
Moderator:
Yordan Bozhilov, Director of the Sofia Security Forum
| Dr. Maria Alesina, Policy and Research Officer, European Liberal Forum
| Ribal al-Assad, Founder and Director, Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria 
| Dr. Sameer Patil, Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation 
| Vincent Campos, Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State (2004 -2022)
BIG BANG NATO ENLARGEMENT: MINISTERIAL REUNION
15:20 -16:10
Moderator:
Svetoslav Ivanov, Talk Show Host & Journalist, BTV Media Group
| Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo, NATO Deputy Secretary General (2001 – 2007)
| Antanas Valionis, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania (2000 - 2006) 
| Dr. Ioan Mircea Pascu, Vice President of the European Parliament (2014 - 2019)
| Kristiina Ojuland, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia (2002 - 2005)
| Lyubomir Kyuchukov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria (2005 - 2009) 
VISITING TOUR OF SOFIA TECH PARK
16.30
WALKING TOUR BY INVITATION
16:30 – 16:50
THE BULGARIAN SUPERCOMPUTER DISCOVERER: THE MOST POWERFUL MACHINE IN SOUTH EASTERN EUROPE

SPEAKERS' 2022

Roberta Metsola
President of the European Parliament
Olivér Várhelyi
EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement
Olha Stefanishyna
Deputy Prime Ministerfor European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine
Teodora Genchovska
Minister of Foreign Affairs (2021-2022)
Federica Mogherini
Rector Collage of Europe, HR/VP of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (2014-2019)
Baiba Braže
Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, NATO
Bujar Osmani
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic ofNorth Macedonia
Donika Gervalla
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Kosovo
Faruk Kaymakcı
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director for EU Affairs, Republic of Türkiye
Megi Fino
Deputy Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Albania
Josip Brkić
Deputy Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Snežana Radović
Deputy Foreign Minister of Montenegro
Miroslav Lajcak
EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue and other Western Balkan regional issue
Sir Stuart Peach
UK Special Envoy to the Western Balkans
Ali Aslan
-
Matthew Boyse
Deputy Assistant Secretary
Shada Islam
Editor of the EUobserver magazine publication
Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo
Deputy Secretary General of NATO from 2001 to 2007
Ilhan Kyuchyuk
MEP, Co-President of ALDE Party
Dr. Solomon Passy
President of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria
Boyko Vasilev
Journalist, BNT
Majlinda Bregu
Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council
Nafisa Latic
Journalist, TRT World
Elena Poptodorova
Vice President of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria (ACB) and Founding Memberof the ACB Board
Daniela Gîtman
Secretary of State for European Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania
Alper Coşkun
Senior Fellow of the European Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Sabina Ćudić
Member of Parliament of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Kiril Valchev
Director-General, Bulgarian News Agency
Vice admiral Mitko Petev
Bulgarian Military Representative to NATO and EU MC
Peter Horrocks
Former Director of BBC World Service Group
Tanya Mihaylova
Director of the Bulgarian Diplomatic Institute
Dimitar Ganev
co-founder ofTrend Research Center
Batu Kutelia
Vice President of the Atlantic Council of the Republic of Georgia