Bulgarian NA Speaker’s Visit to Vietnam Sparks New Chapter in Vietnam-Bulgaria Relations

In anticipation of the upcoming visit of Rosen Dimitrov Zhelyazkov, the Speaker of the Bulgarian National Assembly, Vietnamese Ambassador to Bulgaria, Do Hoang Long, highlighted the significant progress made in parliamentary cooperation between the two nations. This collaboration has emerged as a standout aspect of the bilateral relationship, fostering the overall development of both countries.

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Could you please explain the importance and main highlights of Bulgarian National Assembly Speaker Rosen Zhelyazkov’s official visit to Vietnam?

Bulgarian National Assembly Speaker Rosen Zhelyazkov’s official visit to Vietnam in early 2024 is significant due to Bulgaria’s achievements in political stability, economic recovery, and development. This visit aims to enhance regional and international integration, strengthening the long-standing relationship between the two countries. It also marks the first visit to Vietnam by a high-ranking Bulgarian leader in over a decade, since 2013. Moreover, it serves as a reciprocal visit following the official visit to Bulgaria by Vietnamese National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue in September 2023.

The visit showcases Bulgaria’s admiration and affinity towards Vietnam, considering it a traditional friend and a crucial partner in Southeast Asia. It is expected to foster fruitful collaboration between the two countries in various fields, elevating bilateral relations to new heights and establishing a strategic partnership. The visit is particularly significant as it coincides with the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Vietnam-Bulgaria diplomatic relations, from February 8, 1950, to February 8, 2025.

Vietnamese National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue met the Vietnamese community in Bulgaria during his visit to Bulgaria in September 2023. (Photo: Vietnamese Embassy in Bulgaria)

During his visit, Bulgarian National Assembly Speaker Rosen Zhelyazkov will focus on strengthening and nurturing the bilateral political relationship between the two countries, encompassing party-to-party, state-to-state, government-to-government, and people-to-people diplomacy. Additionally, the visit presents an opportunity to explore new avenues of cooperation in sectors where both countries possess strengths, such as trade and investment, education and training, healthcare, culture, tourism, and regional collaborations.

The series of meetings between National Assembly Speaker Rosen Zhelyazkov and Vietnamese high-ranking officials will underline Vietnam’s consistent foreign policy, emphasizing independence, autonomy, multilateralism, and diverse international relations. It aims to convey the message that Vietnam is a trustworthy friend, committed to sustainable peace, and a responsible member of the international community.

Furthermore, the visit will include unique cultural and artistic performances, showcasing Vietnam as a welcoming, peace-loving, and resilient country, determined to recover strongly after the pandemic.

During the previous visit of National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue to Bulgaria in September 2023, the two countries signed several agreements, including a Memorandum of Cooperation between the Vietnam National Assembly Office and the Bulgarian National Assembly Secretariat. What are the recent developments in parliamentary cooperation and the key areas of collaboration between the two countries in the near future?

The visit of National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue to Bulgaria in September 2023 yielded significant results, with various cooperation agreements signed across different sectors. Notably, two cooperation documents were signed through the National Assembly channel – the Memorandum of Understanding between the National Assembly of Vietnam and the National Assembly of Bulgaria, and the Memorandum of Understanding between the Office of the National Assembly of Vietnam and the Secretariat of the Bulgarian National Assembly.

These agreements contribute to enhancing regular, practical, and effective cooperation and exchange between the legislative bodies of Vietnam and Bulgaria. They promote inter-parliamentary cooperation at bilateral and multilateral levels, nurturing traditional friendly relations, and improving the quality of consul work to support the activities of National Assembly deputies, committees, and parliamentary groups.

Parliamentary cooperation has become a highlight in Vietnam-Bulgaria relations, fostering the continued development and expansion of the bilateral relationship.

Ambassador Do Hoang Long welcomed guests to attend the 78th Anniversary of the National Day of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. (Photo: Vietnamese Embassy in Bulgaria)

To effectively implement the recently signed cooperation documents, future collaboration through the National Assembly channel will focus on the following aspects:

  1. Strengthening exchanges between National Assembly leaders, committee levels, and Friendship Parliamentary Groups of both countries, including the Bulgarian Young Parliamentarians Group and the Vietnamese Young Parliamentarians Group, Vietnam Women’s Parliamentary Group and Bulgarian Women’s Parliamentary Group, the Secretariat of the Bulgarian National Assembly and the Office of the National Assembly of Vietnam.
  2. Organizing conferences, seminars, face-to-face and online meetings between the two countries.
  3. Facilitating the exchange of information and experience in parliamentary activities.
  4. Engaging in regional and international conferences and inter-parliamentary forums through exchanges and consultations.

The Bulgarian National Assembly ratified the Vietnam-European Union Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA) ahead of National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue’s visit. How will both sides leverage the benefits of EVIPA to enhance bilateral trade?

The Bulgarian National Assembly’s ratification of the Vietnam-European Union Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA) just before the visit of National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue in September 2023 is highly significant. The approval of EVIPA establishes a vital legal framework for trade and investment cooperation between enterprises in both countries. It also demonstrates Bulgaria’s support for Vietnam’s efforts in promoting EVIPA’s ratification among European Union (EU) member countries.

EVIPA, once fully enforced, will establish a comprehensive and consistent legal framework for investment operations between EU member countries and Vietnam at large, including Bulgaria and Vietnam specifically. This will enhance trust among businesses, develop the competitiveness of both countries’ investment landscapes, and create a favorable environment for collaboration.

To avail themselves of the benefits accruing from EVIPA, Vietnam must meticulously prepare for its implementation. This includes enhancing the country’s economic competitiveness and readiness to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the Agreement. Vietnam must focus on increasing investment attractiveness in sectors where the EU possesses potential, strengths, and high-quality investment capital. These sectors include technology-intensive processing and manufacturing businesses, clean energy, and renewable energy.

EVIPA will bring about greater challenges, necessitating continuous coordination and improvement of institutions, policies, and laws to ensure consistency, fairness, transparency, and non-discrimination. Vietnam must perfect its legal framework, adhering to the procedures and roadmap stipulated in EVIPA.

Moreover, Vietnamese enterprises should familiarize themselves with the commitments under EVIPA and reference the Vietnam-European Union Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) to actively engage in investment and business cooperation with Bulgarian enterprises. It is crucial to protect the legal and legitimate rights of workers and mitigate potential disputes and risks.

EVIPA, in conjunction with EVFTA, is expected to stimulate trade and investment between Bulgaria and Vietnam.

In the past, Bulgaria has played a significant role in training Vietnamese officials and technicians, including many high-ranking Vietnamese leaders. How will both countries collaborate in this field in recent and future endeavors?

Bulgaria was among the first ten countries worldwide to recognize and establish diplomatic ties with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the predecessor of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, on February 8, 1950. Throughout the arduous years of struggle for national independence and development, Bulgaria has continually provided valuable support, materially and spiritually, to the Vietnamese government and people. This assistance includes training over 3,600 scientists, experts, and more than 30,000 skilled workers in various fields such as construction, architecture, information technology, biochemistry, agriculture, machine manufacturing, and medicine.

Many of these individuals have become high-ranking Vietnamese leaders, including former Chairman of the National Assembly Nguyen Sinh Hung and former Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan, among others. Numerous leading Vietnamese scientists, experts, and engineers have made significant contributions to the development and defense of the country. These individuals represent invaluable assets and positive factors contributing to the enduring friendship between Vietnam and Bulgaria.

In recent years, traditional areas of cooperation, such as education and training, cultural exchange, tourism, and labor, have continued to thrive through extended and newly signed agreements. National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue’s visit to Bulgaria in September 2023 witnessed the formulation of agreements that set important directions for future cooperation.

In the field of education and training, both countries are committed to enhancing cooperation in training, scientific research, and exchange programs for lecturers, graduate students, and students in areas including healthcare, biotechnology, agriculture, environment, and natural resource management.

In terms of labor cooperation, both nations will bolster the implementation of the Labor Cooperation Agreement signed in 2018. This will create favorable conditions for businesses from both countries, enabling the long-term or seasonal employment of skilled workers in sectors such as agriculture, industry, construction, and tourism.

Cultural collaboration will continue through the organization of events like Cultural Days, painting exhibitions, film weeks, art performances, and food fairs. These initiatives aim to deepen mutual understanding of Vietnamese and Bulgarian cultures, fostering cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

These efforts will serve as a foundation to unlock vast potential for bilateral cooperation, propelling Vietnam-Bulgaria relations to new heights in anticipation of the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries (1950 – 2025).

The Vietnamese community in Bulgaria is stable, well-integrated into the host country, and acts as a bridge between the two nations. How do people-to-people exchanges and cultural connections facilitated by this community contribute to fostering friendship between Vietnam and Bulgaria?

Compared to other Eastern European countries, Bulgaria is home to a relatively small Vietnamese community, comprising approximately 1,000 individuals primarily residing in Sofia, with a few others scattered across Pernik, Blagoevgrad, Burgas, Varna, Pleven, Ruse, and Vidin.

Generally, the Vietnamese population in Bulgaria is united, hardworking, law-abiding, and actively participates in events and initiatives organized by local authorities and the Embassy.

The community’s associations, including the Vietnamese Association, Women’s Association, and Business Association, play a vital role in fostering solidarity and uniting community members, promoting Vietnamese cultural identity in Bulgaria.

Bulgarian young people dressed in traditional Vietnamese costumes and danced to Vietnamese music. (Photo: Vietnamese Embassy in Bulgaria)

In recent years, community organizations and individuals have collaborated actively with the Embassy, organizing various high-level foreign affairs activities. These activities, including those following the official visit of National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue to Bulgaria, have served to stimulate people-to-people exchanges and promote Vietnamese culture in Bulgaria.

Some notable achievements of the Vietnamese community in Bulgaria in 2023 include organizing meaningful events related to National Day, Lunar New Year, War Invalids and Martyrs Day, as well as reopening summer Vietnamese language lessons for children. They have further engaged in cultural and sports festivals, not only within the Vietnamese community but also with neighboring countries. Additionally, they have organized gift-giving events on Children’s Day and Mid-Autumn Festival.

In February 2023, the Vietnamese Association in Bulgaria initiated a charitable donation to aid individuals affected by the earthquake disaster in Turkey. This act exemplified the long-standing tradition of mutual support among Vietnamese people and garnered great appreciation from the people of Bulgaria and Turkey.

The Vietnamese Women’s Association in Bulgaria established the Lotus Dance Club, regularly conducting rehearsals for special performances, including hat dance, lotus dance, and fan dance, as well as participating in Asian cultural events. Ballet artist Tran Chung founded the Hat Dance Club, which comprises Bulgarian students studying Vietnamese.

The performance of Bulgarian young people dressed in traditional Vietnamese costumes and dancing to Vietnamese music attracted considerable attention. Although the Hat Club is still in its early stages, it has already achieved remarkable success, winning first place at the Pernik Morning Star National Dance Competition in April 2023 and second place at the Sozopol International Youth Art Festival in July 2023.

Phuong Nguyen
Epoch & Vietnam