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Interview with Ekaterina Dimitrova - Bulgarian Euro Atlantic Youth Club (Bulgaria)

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Ms. Ekaterina Dimitrova

Ms. Dimitrova received her Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Master’s Degree in European Union Law at the Faculty of Law of Sofia University. She worked for the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria (ACB) for four years before transitioning to the Bulgarian Euro Atlantic Youth Club (BEAYC), a branch of the ACB. She has been Secretary General of the BEAYC since 2019. According to the organization’s website, the BEAYC work with youth to help promote Euro-Atlantic values such as democracy and respecting human rights, increase political participation, and provide a platform for youth to use their voice.

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Gender Equality Statistics

Gender Development Index: 0.995

Gender Inequality Index: 0.206

Classification: 1; high equality in human development amongst genders


Interview with Ms. Ekaterina Dimitrova (Shortened Transcript)

Sophia Knapp

As a Project Manager for DNA, what issues did you see as opportunities and hurdles for young girls' digital literacy in Bulgaria? How have social media and technological advancements impacted their lives?

Ekaterina Dimitrova

Great question. So, we've been organizing workshops for coding for kids aged 7 to 18 years old. In general, most of the kids that come are actually boys. We have very few girls. [What is] very interesting is that there are differences in the different age groups. Among those let's say 7 or 8 years old, there is a good gender balance, even 50/50. But then, it changes later, in age groups 13 to 18.

Years ago, the EU published a report confirming that girls are interested in acquiring digital skills, in programming coding, even in engineering. But then since they are 13, their participation in workshops or training drops down significantly. It is then when it seems that they think that they should study something different, so somehow, they're discouraged at this point- at the age of 13- to continue to be interested in the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

So, this is something we’ve noticed, and this is something we address here. We do workshops for girls to teach them coding. Actually, next month we’ll be organizing with Microsoft a hackathon for girls. So, I believe we, in Bulgaria and in Europe as a whole, need to work on that point- the age when girls are discouraged from pursuing a career in STEM or ICT, because we can clearly see that when they're 8 or 9 or even 10 years old, they are interested. They like math, they like coding, but then something happens and it's no longer that way.

Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

Thank you very much. I’m interested in knowing more about the situation of women in Bulgaria. More precisely I would like to know about the role of women in the family in Bulgaria. What can you tell us about that?

Ekaterina Dimitrova

So, women here are generally accepted in any working field. They can pursue a career and have families and raise kids. At home both parents are equally involved in raising the family and also working so they can assure the financial stability of the family.

Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

What about the job market? Do you see differences? Is it more difficult for women to get a job? What can you tell us about your own experience?

Ekaterina Dimitrova

No, I have never found obstacles. I have never heard my friends talking about that kind of problem. There might be in certain sectors, business sectors, or specific sectors that I’m not familiar with, but personally, I have never had to deal with such obstacles.

Delaney Maguire

Are there any fields that you've noticed are more women-dominated than male, as opposed to what the science field is?

Ekaterina Dimitrova

Yes. For example, here in Bulgaria, most teachers are women. I was having a very interesting conversation with a friend of mine who is an economist and she told me, ‘Yes. There are many women. It is a feminized sector. This is not a very high paid job, and if it were male dominated, then their salaries will be higher.’

I said earlier that we're splitting the responsibilities equally within the family. Nevertheless, in most families, the man is the one who has the higher salary because after all, he’s the one who should take care of the family. I do not mean that this an issue if the woman is better paid, but it’s still common that the man is the one who brings more money into the family.

But if we take another example, the ICT sector- it's more male dominated. And especially in the capital, they are really [well] paid. These are some of the best-paid jobs in the country, and it's mainly male dominated. Maybe this is a consequence of what I was earlier talking about, that women are not studying engineering or programming.

Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

Thank you very much, Miss Dimitrov and thank you very much, Delaney. That was a very good question. The last question about women in Bulgaria is about the Bulgarian government. In your opinion, is the Bulgarian government doing a good job in promoting gender equality in Bulgaria?

Ekaterina Dimitrova

Yes, I believe that the government is doing a good job promoting gender equality. For example in politics. We have more and more women involved in politics. Women who deserve those positions. They are not there because we have to achieve parity. They are there because they deserve to be there. Women are among the leaders in all parties here in Bulgaria, as well as in all the governments in this last decade. We've never had a woman President nor a woman Prime Minister, but we had a candidate for the first time in the last presidential elections. It is only a matter of time for us to have a woman President.

There are many Bulgarian women in relevant positions: they're well known in the whole world. Maybe you've heard their names: Kristalina Georgieva- she's the Director of the IMF International Monetary Fund, or Irina Bokova- she used to be Director General of UNESCO. Kristalina Georgieva was also Vice President of the European Commission.

Abby Frazier

What’s your take on the biggest benefit of being in the EU?

Ekaterina Dimitrova

The biggest benefit of being in the EU is the opportunities you have. This is something very important, especially for countries in Eastern Europe, where education is good. Now you don't need to stay in Eastern Europe, in your own country, where you would not be appreciated enough. You can have another life, another career path. This is the greatest benefit.

The economic opportunities that countries, especially the ones that recently joined the EU, have. The living standards here have raised since we joined the EU. It is difficult to imagine that if we weren't in the EU.

Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

What do Bulgarians think about the European Union? Can you imagine something similar to Brexit in Bulgaria?

Ekaterina Dimitrova

No, I don't think so. Most Bulgarians approve Bulgaria’s membership (EU and NATO).

Bulgarians believe this membership gives us, as I said earlier, more opportunities. It’s good for us. I don't remember if that was a topic during the electoral campaigns in recent years. So, no, I don't think we will face such a problem as Brexit in Bulgaria.

Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

Thank you very much, that was very interesting Ms. Dimitrova. Talking about the European Union, there are political leaders in Central and Eastern Europe who claim that their countries are “second class countries” in the European Union. Do you believe that your country is at the same level as any other country, even the founders of the European Union?

Ekaterina Dimitrova

It is difficult to imagine the European Union without Germany and France, and everybody knows that the so-called “two-speed” Europe exists, but I don't think most Bulgarians see this as a huge problem with major consequences.

Everyone needs to earn their own place in this Union. Negotiations and leadership are important in this case. It is up to us, Bulgarians, to convince the EU members that our country matters, that we don’t need a “second speed,” that we are not only taking much of the solidarity funds. I believe that our political leaders should do their best to show clearly what we can bring added value to the EU. that will help us to have our own role in the Union.

Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

Do you think that Bulgaria, a young democracy, is also a strong democracy right now?

Ekaterina Dimitrova

Bulgarian democracy can be stronger. We need to improve our democracy. The influence of the Communist period is still relevant to some extend among our politicians. I am not optimistic about this generation of political leaders. I think it will be the next generation of Bulgarian political leaders that will get rid of corruption, the most important problem we have now. Young Bulgarians are tired and wishing to put an end to corruption, and there is a new generation of political leaders that will accomplish that goal.

Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

It seems that our political leaders, regardless the country, cannot solve the most important problems we have. Unfortunately, some people identify this inability with the system, and not with the leaders. And as a consequence of that they question the democratic system. Can you see that reaction in Bulgaria too? Can you see people trying to go back to Communism, because this is not the promised land they were expecting?

Ekaterina Dimitrova

No, I don't think Bulgarians have doubts about the democratic system. After decades of totalitarian regime, they know democracy is not the perfect system, but the best we know. They know it is much better than the old one. Bulgarians know that we need better more skillful politicians to improve our democracy.

Owen Harrison

… While we're on the topic of corruption, I wanted to ask what Bulgarians consider the role of the media to be, and whether they try to play an active role in putting a check on corruption?

Ekaterina Dimitrova

It is well known here in Bulgaria, like in many other countries, that there are certain media outlets that are closer to specific political circles. But Bulgarians are denouncing certain media outlets that are being paid by the government to promote its campaigns or even achievements. In these cases, it is not clear how accurate these publications are in these cases. According to Reporters Without Borders Bulgaria is number 112 in the world in its Index of Freedom of the Press (there are only three European countries where the situation is worse than in Bulgaria: Russia, Turkey, Belarus). Bulgaria needs real freedom of the press to improve its democracy.

Emme Gibson

I was looking at the Atlantic Club’s mission statement and it says that it aims to establish and promote Euro-Atlantic values. Could you please define these?

Ekaterina Dimitrova

European countries have certain values in common with the US and Canada. This is essential to understand the origin of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, their good trade relations or any type of multilateral and bilateral relations.

We all believe that our governments must be democratically elected, with checks and balances, with freedoms, respecting Human Rights, pursuing peace… This is what we did not have during the Communist period… And this is something I believe is common to European countries, the US and Canada.

Amelia Boatwright

I saw Pan-Europa’s vision included peace and integration within Europe, and I was wondering how they responded to the Syrian refugee crisis? And also, as an organization, how do they treat migration in general and how does that play into modern European politics?

Ekaterina Dimitrova

We don't have a specific policy about migration. But we believe that it is a multifaceted issue: it is necessary to help those who are coming to Europe seeking shelter, but it is also very important to integrate them into our societies. It is also important not to forget the situation in Europe, the differences between European countries. Italy, for example, is one of the doors to the European Union, one of the goals of those leaving their homeland is looking for a better life. While Germany and Sweden are not an

external border of the European Union. It is logical that Italians disagree with Germans and Swedish about migration policy.

Its location makes Bulgaria a very important country in this demographic movements from the Middle East: migrants try to go from Turkey to Bulgaria to enter the European Union. So, since the beginning of the Afghan crisis, there has been a major political debate about what should be the position of our government in this case. The issue here is mostly how we should protect our borders. It's not about how we can integrate those looking for a new life: most try to go to different countries like Germany and the Scandinavian countries, where they believe they will find a better life.

Abby Frazier

I saw that one mission of the Atlantic Club was to advocate for US and Bulgarian relations, so I was just wondering, if you find that this relationship is supported and desired by the general Bulgarian public?

Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho

This is a very interesting question. Please, allow me to rephrase it. In Spain at the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s there was a political transition from a dictatorship to a democratic system. And it was then when my generation thought that the United States was the “perfect democratic system.” That was the model to follow. They identified the United States and democracy and democratic values. Nevertheless, during the last decade every time I go to Spain, I can see that that idea that has changed: the United States is not the model anymore. Have you seen this change in Bulgaria? And, according to the evolution of the political system in the United States, what do Bulgarians think about the United States?

Ekaterina Dimitrova

I am not sure if that is the case in Bulgaria. Bulgarians are in favor of a good relationship with the US, especially since the Crimean Crisis in 2014. Since then, the

relation between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Russian Federation is more difficult. The Russian Federation has been developing campaigns of disinformation. Bulgaria has become a playground for fake news, constantly brought by the Russians regarding the US and NATO. Unfortunately, in some cases, the opinion about the US is inevitably based by this disinformation war. On the Balkans the Russian initiative is important quite active and stands for a great part of the Russian foreign policy. It had a big impact in Russian influence in the region. This is the way Russia tries to undermine the connection between these countries and the European and North American partners.

We have been working with experts in cyber security, and they claim that Russia has special centers for misinformation using the local language of the media readers.


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