Our visit in Brussels proved we’re on the right track

Mrs. Manolova, a few days ago a delegation of the Council of Business Women in Bulgaria returned from a working visit in Brussels. During the visit you had numerous meetings with senior representatives of the European institutions. How did this visit happen?

On June 22 to 23 a delegation of the Council of Business Women in Bulgaria was on a two-day visit to the “capital” of Europe Brussels at the invitation of Bulgarian MEP Maria Gabriel and Eva Paunova (EPP), Filiz Hyusmenova and Iskra Mihaylova (ALDE). The delegation includes 13 ladies members of our organization, representing some of the major Bulgarian and international companies in the sphere of technology, finance, banking, food industry, consulting services and other.

We had many fruitful and interesting meetings with European Commission representatives, the European Parliament and with the major political forces, including the European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources Kristalina Georgieva, Vice-President of Parliament Mairead McGuinness, MEP Martina Dlabayova and Angelika Niebler and ALDE Party Gender Equality Network (GEN) president Flo Clucas. We discussed a wide range of subjects and set the beginning to new partnerships.

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What was the purpose of the visit?

The Council of Women in Business in Bulgaria is a relatively young organization. However, in just a few years we managed to gain impressive speed and to realize very interesting projects such as the Leadership Academy and the National Internship initiative, which have received great attention.

The purpose of our visit to Brussels was to expand our network of contacts and to seek opportunities for collaboration and partnerships at a regional and international level. We received very strong support for our mission from European officials with whom we spoke, we found a number of common points and we received valuable advice and guidance on how we can continue to expand our activities.

The second objective of the visit of the delegation of the Council was to promote and gather support for the Sofia Declaration, adopted at the Global Women Leaders’ organized by us in cooperation with UNESCO at the end of May 2016. The declaration calls on all concerned sides to take measures to promote equal participation of women in all spheres of social, political, economic and cultural life, as well as providing access to different educational, economic and other resources.

We are glad that we managed to convey these messages to our interlocutors in Brussels and to see and hear their positive response.

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What impressed you the most during these talks?

The people we met. Thanks to the assistance of the Bulgarian MEPs we had the opportunity to speak with outstanding personalities on leading positions in the European institutions. I would like to share my personal admiration of the Bulgarian EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, whose career and personality are the most convincing proof of what women can achieve. We are pleased that she accepted our invitation to become an honorary member of the Council of Business Women in Bulgaria.

But our other interlocutors in Brussels were not less impressive. These are men and women who are sincerely devoted to their work and which fascinate with their competence, enthusiasm and a desire to change things. Each of our meetings brings something new as information, guidance, support, advice and positive emotions.

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I would like to thank the Bulgarian MEPs, namely Mrs. Eva Paunova, who is the patron of our National Internship initiative, Maria Gabriel, Filiz Hyusmenova and Iskra Mihaylova, who managed to organize such an intensive program of discussions with incredibly interesting interlocutors. I was very impressed by the enormous respect and recognition with which they are accepted not only among their colleagues in the Parliament, but also in other European institutions. They are a great example of how joint efforts can change the image of Bulgaria. At each of the meetings attended, Bulgarian officials were cited as an example of competence, dedication and professionalism. And this makes us happy as Bulgarians.

What are the results of Council meetings in Brussels?

During the debate issues related to the promotion of gender equality and professional development of women, gender quotas in the private sector and in politics, digital skills and active participation of women in politics were discussed. I think that the conclusion of these meetings was clear: women are a very important part of the labor market and their economic and leadership potential must be used and developed if we are to live in prosperous economies and just societies.

We had a very interesting discussion about the jobs of the future and the necessary skills for them with Ms. Ann Mettler, head of the EPSC Juncker. According to her, present working models will be replaced by alternative forms of working time thanks to the entrance of technology in our daily lives, the digitization and automation of routine work. I was very impressed by the visionary approach of the European Commission, which is not just trying to identify the jobs of the future, but works purposefully to build the necessary qualities and skills among young people so that they can be better prepared for the future.

Another result from the visit in Brussels was to reinforce our understanding that partnerships are a natural way for the development and growth of our organization. Contacts, which we established, also the recommendations we received, were priceless and I believe they will give a new impetus and new directions to our activity.

In Brussels we had an opportunity to present some of our future projects including the new edition of the Leadership Academy, the National Traineeship Initiative 2016, as well as the new international conference on women, which we are planning to organize next year. It will be a continuation of the themes and issues raised during the Global Women Leaders’ Forum in May, adding new guidelines, accents, panelists and perspectives. So we have a lot of work in the coming months and years, but I believe that we are on the right track.

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