The Sofia Conversations on Europe on 13 September 2013 occured at a particular and important moment for Bulgarian society. It was a moment of political instability and increased civil society engagement in public life. This was not a situation unique to Bulgaria. There were many demonstrations, protests and citizen uprisings around the globe – Turkey, Brazil, Egypt.
What is special and unique in each and every case is how civil society manages (or does not manage) to develop its own long-term strategy for change and implement it. Because as David Rothkoph said in his recent article "You Say You Want a Revolution?" (Foreign Policy, 1 July 2013): "The greatest force to be overcome in governments and societies everywhere is inertia. Demonstrations are easy. Lasting change is hard."
The Sofia Conversations explored how Bulgarians who are - needless to say - also Europeans, are shaping their own plan and their own aims for development based on the European values of freedom, active citizenship and personal responsibility, but also transparency, openness and accountability of public authorities, etc.
In addition, the Sofia Conversations examined the role of artists and intellectuals in these processes, and moreover, the connections between art and culture and active citizenship. Finally, the Sofia Conversations posed more pragmatic questions about the development of more favourable conditions for arts and culture in Europe and in Bulgaria, including through the financial instruments of the European Commission.
One of the aims of the Sofia Conversation on Europe was to create a platform – on Bulgarian territory – for equal and open dialogue between politicians, citizens, artists and the intellectuals on themes of national and European significance. In addition, the conference organisers aimed to create prerequisites and mechanisms to guarantee the continuation of this dialogue on a long term basis.