On 09 May 2020, Commissioner Mariya Gabriel participated in an online Citizens' Dialogue on the occasion of Europe Day, moderated by Dobrina Cheshmedjieva, a journalist from Bulgarian National Television.
The dialogue was the culmination of the Europe Day online events in Bulgaria. It was held in a positive atmosphere despite the COVID-19 situation with very specific and up to the point questions from the online audience.
During a brief opening speech, Commissioner Gabriel congratulated the audience on the occasion of Europe Day, “a day for hope and solidarity”, and thanked the medical staff, teachers and researchers for their work in recent months.
She emphasized the EU's leadership in science, which has been achieved through the rapid exchange of data and results. Commissioner Gabriel noted that in the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis the EC was a little slow to react, but that at present the EC has taken concrete and efficient measures to help Member States to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. Mrs Cheshmedzhieva recalled the commissioner's broad portfolio, whose areas are of key importance in fighting the virus.
Questions from the audience addressed a large list of topics linked to European medical research, disinformation, distance learning and the future of programs like Erasmus+. Many participants expressed concerns about the violation of the principle of the free movement of people and the online learning challenges that many are facing. Others expressed expectations that the current crisis could be seen as a new beginning for the EU.
A representative of the European information networks in Bulgaria enquired about the support that the EU would provide to the cultural sector with the new budget. Commissioner Gabriel emphasized the need for coordinated actions of the Member States in order to help the freelance artists, families with financial difficulties and the young people who want to explore the EU and put a special attention on the need for an increased Erasmus+ budget for the next programming period.
One of the participants brought up the question of the development of audiovisual archives and the distribution of audiovisual content in Bulgaria and the role Commissioner Gabriel`s new portfolio plays in that area.
Another online question related to the European Solidarity Corps and its role in the crisis. Commissioner Gabriel explained that the health of the volunteers is a priority and that is why there are not so many activities in the current situation but there are some great examples across Europe for people that help.
The CD ended on a positive note, asking Commissioner Gabriel to explain with three words for what kind of Europe she‘s dreaming of after the pandemic. For Commissioner Gabriel these were an innovative Europe, a Europe of knowledge and solidarity.