History was made on 29 September 2008 at Harvard University, where Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev delivered a public address entitled “Bulgaria as a Stabilizing Factor in Southeast Europe and the Black Sea Region.” Organized by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Kokkalis Program, it was the first lecture at Harvard by an active Prime Minister of Bulgaria, and received an enthusiastic reception by Harvard students, faculty and senior administrators. The event, which was co-sponsored by Harvard’s Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, highlighted Bulgaria’s crucial role in the development of Southeast Europe and the Black Sea Region.
During his visit to Harvard, Prime Minister Stanishev also met and exchanged ideas with the Deputy Dean of the Kennedy School, Dr. Joseph McCarthy, University Marshal Jacqueline O’Neill, and noted scholar of international relations Dr. Joseph Nye. It was stated during the meeting that Bulgaria ranks fifth in terms of number of foreign students at Harvard College.
In his address, Stanishev outlined several key points, first noting Bulgaria’s crucial role in the recent transformation of Southeast Europe from the powder keg of Europe to a region of ever-increasing cooperation, stability, and development. He argued for the importance of striving toward European Union and NATO membership, crediting both organizations with promoting democratization, good governance and economic prosperity in the region. Stanishev recommended that European nations reach agreements on energy and environmental goals, and called for the promotion of neighborly and constructive relations with Russia, Georgia, and South East European nations. Stanishev also encouraged Bulgarians educated abroad, along with other members of the Bulgarian diaspora, to return to Bulgaria, where new job opportunities are being created in the educational, technological, and other sectors.
The lecture was part of the Kokkalis Foundation and Kokkalis Program’s sustained commitment since their establishment in 1997 to build closer ties between the countries of Southeast Europe and to promote the region internationally. Through its continued support of a growing number of Southeast European students and professionals at Harvard, the Kokkalis Foundation has become a leader in promoting regional development through education.
Sponsoring Bulgarians in Harvard Kennedy School degree & executive programs
Recognized by Harvard as a model program for regional scholarships at the university, the Kokkalis Program’s fellowships has supported over 30 Bulgarians to complete graduate degree and executive training programs at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). The foundation supports graduate studies in public policy, public administration and international development. It also sponsors HKS executive training programs in strategic management, leadership, negotiation, innovations in governance and other fields.
The Kokkalis Program has also sponsored numerous Bulgarian post-graduate students and scholars for research visits or to participate in the program’s annual Graduate Student Workshop on Southeast Europe at Harvard University.
Organizing world class initiatives to promote Bulgaria’s ongoing development
Since 1997, the Kokkalis Foundation runs a series of educational, research, and outreach activities connecting Bulgarian policy-makers, scholars and students; preparing Bulgarian leaders for public service; and sparking original thinking to confront complex public policy problems and developmental challenges. As part of this initiative, the foundation has organized numerous events in support of Bulgaria’s European Union membership bid.In 2002, the foundation organized a conference in Sofia, “Bulgaria in Europe,” to address social, political and economic issues concerning Bulgaria’s EU accession. This event gathered high-level experts, including: Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, distinguished economist and advisor to then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan; Deputy-Minister of Foreign Affairs Lyubomir Ivanov; Minister of European Integration Meglena Kuneva; and Senior Analyst of The Economist Laza Kekic.
Other international conferences included the 2003 tri-city videoconference between Cambridge/Harvard University, Sofia and Istanbul – featuring a lecture by Dr. Ronald Heifetz; co-founder of HKS’ Center for Public Leadership and senior lecturer in public leadership.
At Harvard and in Athens, the Kokkalis Program and Kokkalis Foundation have hosted many other Bulgarian leaders at lectures, roundtable discussions, and other forums, including: Former President of Bulgaria Petar Stoyanov (2002); Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy Nikolay Vassilev (2002); Ambassador of Bulgaria to the United States Elena Poptodorova (2005, 2007); Executive-director of the International Commission on the Balkans and chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies Ivan Krastev (2005); Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin (2006).
In 2001, the foundation and program also organized a roundtable discussion on “Bulgaria and Romania: EU Accession and the Challenges of Development” with U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria Richard M. Miles; Deputy Minister of Economy Sophia Kassidova; and Director of the Refugee and Migration Protection Program of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Tania Marincheska.
The Kokkalis Foundation and program additionally supported the establishment of the Harvard Club of Bulgaria in 2001, and co-organized the club’s inauguration event in Sofia.