Emmy Barouh: Image, Rhythm and Dance Could Bring Bulgaria Closer to EU

Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | September 21, 2002, Saturday // 00:00

Emmy Barouh is journalist, translator and publicist. She is among the pioneers of Bulgaria's independent press established after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Barouh has worked as press secretary and culture attachй for Bulgaria's embassy in Brussels as well as for the Helsinki Committee For Protection of Human Rights and other NGOs. Emmy Barouh now heads the national committee that organizes Bulgaria's performance at the international festival Europalia 2002.

Created in 1969 in Brussels, the Europalia festival was established to highlight the culture of a chosen country, member states of the European Community first and subsequently more distant countries. King Albert of Belgium and Bulgaria's President Parvanov will inaugurate on October 2 the Europalia Festival that in 2002 is specially dedicated to Bulgaria.

Ms Barouh answered questions of Milena Dinkova


Q: How will Bulgaria's international image benefit from Europalia 2002?

A: The festival Europalia - Bulgaria 2002 will take place in a year charged with great expectations for Bulgaria's foreign policy. I think that the festival conveys a clear political message. It says Bulgaria wants, could and knows how to participate in Europe's life. The scarce popularity of the country is logical consequence of the decades of isolation. In those years, Bulgaria's image has faded and a string of clichйs has been attached to it, clichйs that used to go with everything Eastern of the Iron Curtain. I think a lot of warps have been accumulated about the signals that Sofia sent into the world. It is not easy to change such attitudes. It takes the joint efforts of Bulgaria's new political elite, the state administration and the country's intellectual and artistic community. In that sense, the Europalia project could have a crucial contribution to Bulgaria's negotiations with the EU. I have been told several times that Bulgaria's negotiating team led by Meglena Kuneva are regarded with respect by their Western partners. The National Committee Europalia 2002 is trying to help with other means. I think our approach is very powerful and different from what is usually done. We don't handle chapters, counties, pre-accession funds and capitals. We use images, rhythms, dances and emotions.

Q: Which events are expected to attract most visitors?

A: If we care for statistics, there is no doubt that will be the two exhibitions "Golden Thracia - Bulgaria's Treasures" and "Christian Art on Bulgaria's Territory ". But for me, the more important thing is who are the visitors rather than how many. In other words, I don't care so much about the tickets sold; I care about the quality of interaction. I want the message to be clear and well targeted and kept that in mind while drawing up the agenda. I want us to reach all social groups and people with different occupations. We need to communicate with the academics and the high rank EU officials. But we also need to reach Belgian children and their parents. For the latter group we have specially prepared a comprehensible presentation of the ancient Thracians' history.

Q: Which of Bulgaria's world-renowned artists will take part in Europalia?

A: "World-renowned" is too pretentious wording... Today's popularity goes with media and, you see, CNN's owner is not Bulgarian. Nevertheless, in this category I would mention the Bulgarian opera singers that represent the so-called "generation of the Great" - Anna Tomova-Sintova and Nikolay Gyuzelev, as well as their worthy followers Ina Kuncheva nad Kaludi Kaludov. Their voices could be enjoyed at the gala concert of the festival. I would also like to mention the folklore ensemble "Fillip Kutev". Some of the best Bulgarian cartoon makers led by Anri Kulev as well as some wonderful puppeteers will also come to Europalia. I wouldn't permit myself to miss the European premiere of the famous writer and Nobel Prize aspirant Yordan Radichkov. As I don't want to go all the way through the agenda and I will only add the name of singer Valya Balkanska. One of her songs flies onboard the Voyager satellite that set off for distant galaxies searching for extraterrestrial civilizations.

Q: The forum will feature many seminars and discussions. What are the most significant topics?

A: "History and Memories: Bulgaria versus the Holocaust" - this is the title of the colloquium to be attended by the prominent academic Sigmund Bauman. He has been awarded the European sociology prize Amalfi for his book "Modernity and the Holocaust". A few months ago, Sofia University conferred on him the title Doctor Honoris Causa. The fate of Bulgarian Jews during World War II defers from the tragic fate of other European Jews. Regrettably, this fact is not very well known to the world. The salvation of Bulgarian Jews is one of the paradoxes of the Holocaust's history that has been given many explanations. So, this is one of the topics as we aim at a large-scale reflection on the history's lessons.

Q: Have internationally prominent people shown interest in the Europalia 2002 events?

A: I have already mentioned Professor Sigmund Bauman. Europalia will feature a special lecture by Yulia Krusteva. Xavier Solana will take part in the conference called "NATO Enlargement: New Opportunities in a New Security Environment" that will also be attended by Bulgaria's President Parvanov and the foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Belgium and Romania. Timothy Garton Ash from St Antony's College, Oxford and Misha Glenni have already confirmed their participation. I expect confirmation for the projected lecture by Christo Yavashev and Jeanne-Claude.

Q: How many EU aspirants have had their turn at Europalia? Will Bulgaria tap their experience?

A: Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland already had their Europalia. Their experience, especially that of Poland whose festival closed in early 2002 has been very useful to us. Following in their footsteps, we took on to organize Bulgaria's promotion in Brussels and the other big cities of Belgium where poster ads of Bulgaria will feature in the public transport. The slogan "La Bulgarie - millenaire, magique, moderne" will flash on Brussels' busses, trams and underground trains for three months.

Q: How is Europalia 2002 financed?

A: Bulgaria's state budget has granted BGN 1,8 M. In addition, many Bulgarian institutions provided free services that proved priceless. Without their contribution, we wouldn't be able to do our job. At the top of my acknowledgements I place the Foreign Ministry and the team in Bulgaria's embassy in Brussels. The president's administration, the National Security Service and Air Unit 28 have also been very helpful. The contribution of all artists and intellectuals who will take part in the festival and who refused to be paid is really great. I think these people are the greatest sponsors of Bulgaria and we should pay them an enormous tribute.

Q: What is the political significance of Europalia 2002?

A: President Georgi Parvanov and the first lady Zorka Parvanova agreed to promote the Bulgarian Europalia on their first visit to the EU administrative capital Brussels. This fact speaks of at least of two positive things. Firstly, there is the will of the now ruling elite to continue the efforts of their predecessors - a sign that is very well understood by the international community. Secondly, it is obvious that this political elite plays an active role in the biggest PR campaign Bulgaria has ever launched. In other words, rulers demonstrated a real commitment to Bulgarian artists and intellectuals. The politicians showed they are willing to transmit a robust signal to Europe in displaying Bulgaria's charms and magic.

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