February 13, 2004

Ambassador Visits Cornell

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Elena Poptodorova, ambassador from the Republic of Bulgaria to the United States, visited Cornell this past week. Poptodorova’s stay, which lasted from Tuesday to yesterday, included several lectures and meetings with Cornell students, faculty and administrators.

Topics focused on the “changes in Bulgaria during the period after they put aside their Communist government — changes in the law and legal system and how [they] affect broader changes in the economy and society in general,” said Larry Bush, executive director of the Clarke Center for international and comparative legal studies at the Law School.

Poptodorova’s visit was sponsored primarily by the Law School and the Einaudi Center for International Studies. On Tuesday, a reception allowed members of the Bulgarian community to meet the ambassador. “I hope that everyone appreciates the great opportunity to interact with her,” said Victor Mikov ’05, president of the Bulgarian Club. Poptodorova was also invited to McGraw Tower to hear the Bulgarian National Anthem played on the chimes that afternoon.


Her lecture on Wednesday, “The Rule of Law in Bulgaria — an Emerging Democracy: New Concepts, New Legal Instruments and New Practices,” was part of the Law School’s Berger International Speaker Series which, according to Bush, brings 10 to 20 speakers a year. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the law students to engage with a policy maker from Eastern Europe who has been personally active in helping her country develop and evolve from its former Communist status to a free society,” Bush said.

Yesterday, Poptodorova spoke on her country’s development at the Einaudi Center’s Peace Studies Seminar in a lecture entitled, “A View From the ‘New Europe.'” She opened by addressing Bulgaria’s rich, but relatively unknown, history. “There is no excessive knowledge of my country in the world,” Poptodorova said.

Poptodorova emphasized Bulgaria’s history of ethnic tolerance, particularly towards Jews during World War II. Bulgarians were responsible for saving the lives of approximately 50,000 Jews, she said. In addition, Bulgaria, located in southeastern Europe, has managed to remain peaceful despite the general turmoil and violence of the region.

Poptodorova next discussed Bulgaria’s improvements since its elections in 2001. Bulgaria, a primarily agricultural country, now has “continuity in foreign and economic policies,” particularly in the tobacco industry and the banking sector.

“Bulgaria is firmly on the road to becoming a really stable solid market economy,” Poptodorova said. She also spoke of Bulgaria’s upcoming membership in NATO and the EU and how Sept. 11 affected her country’s views on membership in those organizations. Sept. 11 “brought realization of the importance of a security alliance, [especially one with NATO],” she said.

Poptodorova responded to questions from the audience after her lecture.

“There were several questions that came up afterwards, particularly concerning potential losses of sovereignty from joining [NATO and the EU] and her view is that there really is no alternative given the current situation. It was a very informative discussion,” said Prof. Matthew Evangelista, government, also director of the peace studies program. Poptodorova also gave a lecture for the International Political Risk Management class at the business school.

Prior to acquiring her position as ambassador in 2002, Poptodorova was a member of the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1975 to 1990. Afterwards, she served as a member of the Bulgarian Parliament until her appointment as ambassador.

Archived article by Diana Lo