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DSD pupils in discussion with the heads of state of Bulgaria and Germany

Date 2016/07/01

On 23 June 2016, DSD pupils from Bulgarian schools had the opportunity to enter into direct dialogue with the heads of state of Bulgaria and Germany, President Rossen Plevneliev and Federal President Joachim Gauck.

The heads of state at the discussion event Discussion with the heads of stateSource: German Embassy Sofia, Press and Culture department

Along with around 250 other young people and young adults, 25 pupils from Bulgarian schools in which the German Language Certificate (Deutsches Sprachdiplom, DSD) can be acquired had a unique opportunity on 23 June to put questions to the Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev and German Federal President Joachim Gauck, who was in Bulgaria on an official state visit. Students from the four DSD schools in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia made the most of this opportunity, as did the Year 10 and 11 pupils from the foreign language high schools in Pernik, Pazardshik, Lovech, Montana and Plovdiv.

"Bulgaria and Germany - partners in Europe"

In the large lecture theatre of the Sveti Kliment Ochridski State University in Sofia, the heads of state took questions on the topic "Bulgaria and Germany – partners in Europe". In his brief opening speech, the German Federal President had already set the tone for the event, which lasted a good hour: the two states are clearly committed to a common Europe and see it as their task to preserve, stabilise and develop the European Union, even in times of crisis. Both Plevneliev and Gauck made it clear that they see themselves as committed Europeans and intend to guide the progress of their countries within a strong European community.

Federal President Gauck during his opening speech Discussion with the heads of stateSource: German Embassy Sofia, Press and Culture department

The interesting questions of those present also addressed the future of Europe. Maria Ivanova, a pupil from the Erich Kästner School Sofia, asked with some concern whether the threat of an exit from the EU by Great Britain could lead to a disintegration process in the community. Federal President Gauck replied in the negative. He made it clear that he regards the British as an important part of the EU and would therefore consider a "Brexit" extremely regrettable. In all the critical questions about the future shape of the Union and its bodies, however, the number of supporters of a strong community in the member states remains the majority.

Georgi Rushkov, who also attends the 73rd School, asked the Federal President for his assessment of whether the decision of the German government to open its borders to refugees to a large extent in autumn 2015 was wrong in retrospect. In his detailed and open response, Gauck underlined the fact that Germany feels committed to a value-based policy in which solidarity, sympathy and assistance for those in need of protection play a central role. This also manifested itself in the overwhelming willingness to help from many citizens, giving rise to the notion of the "welcoming culture". However, the Federal President also mentioned that in future decisions of a similar sort, partners in other countries would have to be involved more closely.

For a single, strong Europe

Maria Zlatkova, who attends the foreign language high school in Pazardshik, referred in her question to the dual vocational training pathway in Germany. She asked whether this could also be a model for Bulgaria. Gauck paid tribute to the achievements of the training under the dual system, which is one reason for the economic strength of Germany and its low youth unemployment rate. He emphasised that he would be very happy to pass on Germany’s experiences to other countries and stressed that attractive, rewarding vocational career profiles that are appropriate for the future also exist alongside academic training.
The Bulgarian President Plevneliev stressed in his contributions that all citizens on the European continent should keep in mind the huge achievements of the unification process over recent decades, with a view to concentrating their energy and creativity on a better form of cohabitation.

By the end, all of those present at the discussion were impressed by the clarity and passion with which the two heads of state supported a single, strong Europe. The event left a lasting impression on the pupils from the language diploma schools.