Raising Political Participation and Engagement at Political Science Week

December 01, 2017

In the politically charged climate of 2017 it is more important than ever to stay politically engaged and informed. This was precisely the thought behind this year’s revival of the AUBG Political Science Week.

“I decided to revive the tradition of having such a week, in order to bring politics outside of the classes and raise awareness of some political issues in our society,” said Nino Avreyski, president of the Political Science Club, the organization behind the event. “The message of the week is that we need to be politically active and educated, find political causes that we care about, and take actions to better our communities.”

To bring attention to pressing current issues, the Political Science Week encompassed a variety of events touching upon important topics such as the upcoming Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, lobbying in the EU, immigration, corruption etc.

Nikolay Milkov

The week kicked off on Monday, Nov. 20, with a lecture by Nikolay Milkov, General Secretary of the President of Bulgaria, who talked about the priorities and opportunities for the Bulgarian EU Presidency. He elaborated on some of the main points on the agenda of the government, including promoting the EU integration of the Western Balkans, improving communication along the East-West axis by constructing transportation, energy, economic and digital corridors, increasing public trust in the work of the Bulgarian institutions, and more.

“It is not a coincidence that we started the week with Mr. Milkov,” Avreyski said. “The Bulgarian Presidency will be the spotlight of European politics in the next six months. It was our aim to further elaborate on the priorities of the Presidency after the Minister Pavlova visit on campus the week before and tackle a topic which resonates well with students.”

Another important issue for the week was corruption in Bulgaria. On Tuesday, Yordan Karabinov (’97), President of the Bulgarian Anti-Corruption Fund and the AUBG Alumni Association, gave a talk about identifying and reporting red flags for corruption and fraud in the country.

“We believe that corruption is a very real issue in Bulgaria and it needs to be addressed,” Karabinov said. “The Anti-Corruption Fund systematically monitors publically available information, media outlets, social networks and many other sources of interests. Through this monitoring network, the fund extracts, validates, and expertly analyses information sources for signs of corruption of high public interests and directs evidence to the relevant institution.”

Yordan Karabinov

The week continued with a Diplomacy Simulation on Wednesday where 40 students in seven teams illustrated on a small scale in the classroom how political negotiations work.

The following day Andrea Boccuni, EU lobbyist at Schuttelaar&Partners, shed light on how lobbying in the union works. He made an argument for the importance of the practice, drawing attention to the distinction between good and bad lobbying, and high and low politics. Boccuni also gave practical advice to the audience, emphasizing the crucial role of the political scientists in the 21st century.

“To be a good lobbyist requires three things,” he said. “The know-how, so you know what you’re talking about, the network, so you can get information just by calling, and the business-oriented mindset, so you know how to connect the dots.”

The week ended with a lecture from philosopher, novelist, and former AUBG professor of philosophy Dr. Andrew Bernstein. In his talk Bernstein made both the moral and practical argument for open immigration, using empirical data to illustrate the role of immigrants in the past and present United States.

“Looking at the history of the U.S., the enormous productivity of immigrants vastly offsets any possible cost we have for immigration,” Bernstein said.  “Whether we talk about material wealth or intellectual wealth, every field has benefited enormously from immigrant work. The labor force participation rates in the US do not lie. They show that immigrant workers on any level are the ones most likely to be working, working long hours, and working productively.”

This year’s Political Science week attracted faculty and students from all departments. “My advice to everyone is to be engaged,” Avreyski said. “Read articles daily, attend events and conferences, do internships in different institutions to find the domain of politics or the type of job you would like to have. Create your network and collaborate with professors. You have to be proactive and look for opportunities.”

From left to right, Robert Phillips, Jean Crombois, and Nino Avreyski

Story by Nikol Meshkova

Photos courtesy of the AUBG Political Science Club

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