Spring University ‘Europe on the Go: Citizen Empowermеnt and Sustainable Development’ in Chiprovtsi, 2014

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Sustainable development is impossible without citizen empowerment.

It is the foundation of Europe’s common future.


During the last three years, the question about the future of the European Union has become increasingly more crucial. On the eve of the European elections, Europe for Citizens stands at a crossroads. It is impossible for the values of the past to be preserved and carried on, unless re-directed today, here and now, to the future. The ideas for a future Europe are not limited to segregation, authoritarianism and inequality, hiding behind the message of ‘two-geared Europe.’ Europe of freedom, equality and brotherhood, of human rights and human welfare, of quality of life, of a reasonable and enlightened society, of democratic culture and human dignity, is still alive in the European public space. Europe’s voice rises from the streets and squares, echoes in the university walls, whistles at us from wall graffiti, shimmers in the electronics of the new media. The future of Europe still has a chance to become part of the democratic projects associated with the survival of the planet: a common home, enhanced by the dream for sustainable development. The voices of disaffected young Europeans from the Erasmus generation are heard ever more often and can no longer be silenced: they are already on the agenda of those who manage to be diverse in their unity and united in their diversity. Varied voices reach us from the European new agoras and carry us irresistibly across the new millennium. Their prominent message embodies our common demand: the need to democratize our democracy. The authentic Europe is on the go, and our genuinely sustainable values can survive only through development. Sustainable development is impossible without citizen empowerment. Europe’s common future depends on it.

The Chiprovtsi 2014 European interdisciplinary university focuses on these problems, since we can no longer hide from them. They flood us from all directions: they cry from Gezy Park, from downtown Madrid, Athens, Paris and London, from every part of Germany, Poland and Hungary, from Rosia Montana in Romania and Eagles’ Bridge in Sofia, from the everyday concerns of people in cities such as Dijon, Grenoble, Banská Bystrica, Krakow and Chiprovtsi, from across the EU. Because these are our problems, of each and everyone of us, of our neighbours, friends, children and grandchildren, of the next generations.

These are the problems addressed by the travelling university, organized by the Place for Future education network during the week of EU elections. Fittingly, its title is ‘Europe on the go: citizen empowerment and sustainable development.’

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For eight years now, Shtastlivetsa Sofia Civic Association has organized interdisciplinary events, lectures, seminars, student practices and internships, film screenings, debates, artistic happenings—all dedicated to the new paradigm of sustainable development, eco-humanism, new science, alternative culture and education, innovative forms of democracy and civic participation, ecology and creating a quality environment for everyone. Thus, as the years roll by, we have been weaving, like a Chiprovtsi carpet, the Place for Future education network, a community drawing its inspiration and invigoration from a young tradition: the international travelling universities in the Municipality of Chiprovtsi and the region of Western Stara Planina.

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The region of Chiprovtsi and Western Stara Planina has often been labelled as the poorest one in the European Union. At the same time, it is one of the richest in ancient nature, history and culture in all of Europe. Its past-future is associated with the oldest remains of human beings on the continent and some of the oldest civilizations in the world, with the first European alphabet and the first Western university in Bulgaria, with the origins of Renaissance Europe: remarkable specimens of art and spirituality, of goldsmithing and weaving, of enlightenment and European diplomacy, of the first modern European self-identification in Bulgarian culture. Chiprovtsi’s history still keeps numerous secrets and offers new horizons to our knowledge and self-awareness. Chiprovtsi is unique in that its link between past and future has never been broken over the millennia. It gives us an opportunity to recall who we are and ask where we are headed. The site from where we human beings once entered Europe is also a site where we may look for an answer: which way now? And we may find this answer: in the air of sensitivity and mysterious depth that permeates everything; in the old houses and pristine mountains with their spirit that captures the ancient symbols, still alive in the tradition of Chiprovtsi carpet-making and the ancient local rites: the immaterial treasures that we can discover, not by digging the earth, but by looking around ourselves with enlightened eyes and minds. The pristine state of the Chiprovtsi Municipality is a unique opportunity for developing the entire region in a sustainable way, towards our common future on planet Earth.

By drawing attention to the Municipality of Chiprovtsi, the members of Shtastlivetsa and their partners hope to infuse new life into the region of Western Stara Planina: a cultural endemic and relict, a living treasure from humankind’s past offering hope for humankind’s future, a dying Noah’s Ark still waiting to be awakened. Shtastlivetsa has been working for years with the local community towards opening the gates of Western Stara Planina to the large European family: to its knowledgeable scholars and practitioners and to its enlightened young people—the future of Europe, whom we still may give the faith in a fair life of dialogue and understanding on our only possible home in the Universe.


The Travelling University includes:

  • in the mornings: two parallel seminars in the conference hall of the Chiprovtsi Municipality (in the old school, on the Historical Hill) and in the conference hall of the Historical Museum (in the house of Chiprovska Komuna, on the Historical Hill); 
  • in the afternoons: practical training, meetings with the local community from the Chiprovtsi Municipality and open-air workshops.

All morning seminars include a brief introduction of the topic presented by the lecturer\moderator (10 to 15 minutes), followed by discussion and Q&A session with the participants. There are 10-minute breaks between the sessions (if desired by the moderators and participants).


Working language: English

Interpreters: Kalin NENOV and Yuliana NASKOVA (Shtastlivetsa)


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What is new: expanding our network—from interdisciplinary to transdisciplinary; combining education, practical experience and research; moving to an international level


See also: Western Stara Planina and more about travelling universities


Important stops along our route: Sofia, the hamlet of Zhelen (near Svoge), Chiprovtsi, the Kozarnika Cave near the village of Oreshetesh, Gushovski Monastery, the village of Kopilovtsi and Kopren Peak, Chiprovski Monastery, the scenic area between the villages of Gorna Luka and Mitrovtsi, Belogradchik and the Belogradchik Rocks.



Europe on the Go Spring University 2014: Programme


Participants and organizations present:

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Chiprovtzi_2014 (1)-018THE PARTICIPANTS:

Management team:

Radosveta KRASTANOVA, coordinator of the international team (radosvetakk – (at) – gmail.com), Shtastlivetsa Civic Association, NBU, and the University of Burgundy, France

Petar KANEV, chief coordinator (petardkanev – (at) – gmail.com; 0988884303), University of Library Studies and Information Technologies and Shtastlivetsa Civic Association

Yordanka ZAMFIROVA, coordinator of accommodation and use of local facilities, expert in European projects and programs at the Municipality of Chiprovtsi, CHAR citizens association – Chiprovtsi, Shtastlivetsa Civic Association

Michaela MAHLER, coordinator for Friedrich Ebert Foundation – Sofia

Kalin NENOV, interpreter, Shtastlivetsa Civic Association and Human Library Foundation

Emilia ILIEVA – KRAYNOVA, moderator and facilitator, Friedrich Ebert Foundation – Sofia

Ivan ‘Ivo’ POPOV, animator, facilitator, PR  and cameraman, Shtastlivetsa Civic Association

Yuliana NASKOVA, coordinator for lecturers and interpreter, Andrey Nikolov – The Red House Centre for Culture and Debate, Vlahi Nature School Foundation, Shtastlivetsa Civic Association

Neli STANKOVA, accountant, Shtastlivetsa Civic Association

Lyudmila IVANOVA, cashier, Shtastlivetsa Civic Association


Gilles ROUET, University Matej Bel, Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, Attaché,  university and scientific research cooperation, French Institute in Sofia

Franck DUBOIS, House of Human Sciences, MSH de Dijon – Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France, and Place for Future Education Network

Serge DUFOULON, ‘Pierre Mendes France’ University, Grenoble, France

Jean-Luc and Aleta GUADELLI,  University of Bordeaux IV Montesquieu, France, and Nikolay SIRAKOV (National Institute of Archaeology with Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences) – discoverers of the oldest human remains in Europe (Homo erectus dating from 1.6 million years ago) in Kozarnika cave near the village of Oreshets (near Belogradchik)

Anyuta KAMENOVA – BORIN, Director of Chiprovtsi Historical Museum

Svetlana TRENCHEVA, Headmistress of Petar Parchevich School

Georgi STEFANOV, WWF – Bulgaria (Climate action coalition – Bulgaria), NBU, Shtastlivetsa Civic Association

Filip KIRILOV, Trinoga Association for Sustainable Development, Svoge, Bulgaria

Teodor VASILEV (NC Future Now and Shtastlivetsa Civic Association)

Stoil TSITSELKOV, European Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Shtatlivetsa Civic Association

Desislava ALEKSOVA, International Business School Botevgrad, Bulgarian Chamber of Tourism and Shtastlivetsa Civic Association

Vera PETKANCHIN, For the Nature Coalition and Shtastlivetsa Civic Association 

Lilia SAZONOVA, researcher in the Department of Anthropological Studies at the Institute for the Study of Societies and Knowledge, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, and Shtastlivetsa Civic Association

Dragomir KONSTANTINOV, civics policies expert, Zelenika (Greenfinch) Foundation

Etienne CIAPINE, ‘Pierre Mendes France’ University, Grenoble, France

Julien DOUTRE, ‘Pierre Mendes – France’ University, Grenoble, France

Yordanka DINEVA, (For the Nature Coalition and Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation)

Rosen VASILEV (Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation)

Sevka BARDINSKA, master carpet and tapestry maker

Yulia IGNATOVA, teacher at Peter Parchevich School, master carpet weaver

Nikola NIKOLOV, teacher at Peter Parchevich School, local anthropologist

Anatoli PARVANOV, Mayor of Chiprovtsi

Regine SCHUBERT, Director of Friedrich Ebert Foundation – Sofia

M. Xavier Lapeyre DE CABANES, the French Ambassador in Bulgaria

… and students and volunteers from various European universities and nationalities.


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1. During our bus ride on 19 May, we will explain the purpose, evolution and perspectives of the international travelling universities organized by the Place for Future interdisciplinary education network in Chiprovtsi. We will finalize the accommodation lists and the meal arrangements in Chiprovtsi (vegetarian and non-vegetarian menus). We will also assign all participants to the parallel seminars and create various working groups made of students and their leaders.

2. We may have to hike (walk on foot) in the wild, including in the Kozarnika Cave. Climate change caused floods and heavy rains in Western Stara Planina in April and May 2014. That’s why ALL participants must bring suitable clothes and shoes: woollen sweaters, raincoats, waterproof warm jackets, hiking (mountain) shoes. All participants who have any health problems preventing them from hiking must inform the organizers beforehand and remain in the bus or in their rooms.

3. The heavy rains have damaged the roads in the region. Therefore, we may have to cancel some of the trips or hikes if the places become inaccessible or the weather is too extreme.

4. In Chiprovtsi, there are many animals: almost each house has herds of sheep or goats. Since there’re few poisonous pesticides in the area, you may have problems with various insects, including lice, bedbugs, ticks, flies and mosquitoes. All participants who are allergic to them should bring anti-insect sprays and appropriate medicines.

5. The mountain is often cold and wet, but when the sun shines, it can become very hot and your skin may burn. Please bring sunscreens with a sun protection factor suitable for your skin.

6. Chiprovtsi is situated in the border area between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Republic of Serbia, which is not a member of the European Union. Because of the current refugee issues, there is a police checkpoint at the entrance of the town and frequent border patrols. Please BRING your personal ID and international passport; if you forget them, you may cause problems to the entire group of the travelling university.

7. Chiprovtsi is a small, easy to navigate town. Wherever you are, you can get to its centre easily–where all of us will have meals at the Pavlova Kashta hotel–and also to the Historical Hill, where the seminars will take place. The seminars will be in two buildings (Punkina Kashta and the old school) which face each other from the two sides of the hill. Between them, you will find the Chiprovtsi Historical Museum and the ruins of the old Catholic cathedral where the university (seminarium) used to be. The central town square is nearby, right at the foot of the Historical Hill. The Chiprovtsi Municipality, the Katerinina Kashta museum, the Culture House and the Petar Parchevich school, where some of our events will take place, are also nearby in the central parts of the town.

8. Participants will be housed in various family hotels and guest houses in Chiprovtsi. The Pavlova Kashta hotel will house the team of Friedrich Ebert Foundation, while the Torlatsite hotel will accommodate all French lecturers and the French ambassador. Most students will stay in the BIDIM guest house on the outskirts of Chiprovtsi, where they can have working meetings in the yard, the common areas or the kitchen, as well as artistic events and friendly chats late at night. There are no landlords or hoteliers in the house, so you will be in charge of it. Please keep it clean and whole. In order to keep to our schedule, we ask everyone to come on time for the events. For this reason, there will be a member of the Shtastlivetsa organization team in each guest house, who will take care of students’ needs and questions. Feel free to speak with them about any problems.

9. Meal expenses are covered only for the pre-arranged menu at Pavlova Kashta. It does not include any drinks! Therefore, please bring money for food and drinks while travelling (including lunches on the road, such as the lunch in the Mislen Kamak restaurant in Belogradchik), and also for museum tickets, gifts and any other personal expenses. Please also bring your own medicines: in Chiprovtsi, there is no pharmacy working at night and no medical centre.

10. Student working groups will be given keys for the places where they will work together. One group will meet in the common area of the BIDIM guest house; another, in the municipal hall of the old school on the Historical Hill; the third one, in Punkina Kashta; and the fourth one, in the Youth Club at the Municipality. Please take care of the keys and the rooms.

11. After each seminar, the seminar halls will be locked. Please do not go over the time limits for discussion and do not be late for the next events; Yuliana Naskova, who is in charge of the keys, will kindly ask you to leave the halls. If you’re in the middle of an exciting debate, you’ll have the opportunity to carry on with it during meal time or after the end of the day’s schedule.

12. The purpose of our international interdisciplinary university is to be what it says: international and interdisciplinary. That’s why working groups will be split in such a way that each group contains students from different countries and different academic fields.




Students, divided into three or four working groups, each with two leaders from our team, will watch for certain topics during the seminars, writing them down and systematizing them. A possible list of focal topics follows:

  • problems on the road to citizen empowerment and sustainable development;
  • citizens’ achievements that have already happened;
  • ideas and suggestions for the future;
  • communication problems, including between different levels of decision making;
  • (maybe) practices and potential for regional sustainable development.

The leaders of the working groups and the students will define the specific tasks of each group and how the results will be presented (a presentation, short film, report, discussion, video, etc.). Each morning, right after breakfast at Pavlova Kashta, our group facilitator Emilia Ilieva-Kraynova will summarize the daily tasks, with the assistance of the students and their leaders; and each evening after dinner, the daily results.

Leaders of the working groups: Etienne Ciapin, Serge Dufoulon, Franck Dubois, Stoil Tsistelkov, Desislava Alexova, Yuliana Naskova, Lilia Sazonova, Emilia Ilieva-Kraynova

Let’s play a game! Each group may receive scarves in different colours signifying:

  • problems: red;
  • achievements: white (or green);
  • future ideas: blue;
  • poor communication: yellow;
  • (maybe) sustainable regional development: green.

At the final student conference, students will be the speakers, and lecturers will be the audience, asking them questions.

Bonus assignment for students: Based on their analysis, to compile a text with suggestions for empowering citizens and for the future of Europe, which we will send to the European Commission and the European Parliament and also publish. Deadline for completing the text: 30 June 2014. Before sending it, we should translate the text into the languages of all participants in the travelling university.




Links and contacts:


Shtastlivetsa Civic Association, Sofia

New Bulgarian University

Institute for the Study of Societies and Knowledge, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Chiprovtsi Historical Museum

Chiprovtsi Municipality

La Maison des Sciences de l’Homme de Dijon

Matej Bel University, Banska Bystricá, Slovakia

Pierre-Mendès-France University, Grenoble, France

University of Burgundy, Dijon, France

University of Bordeaux IV Montesquieu, France

Friedrich Ebert Foundation Sofia

French Institute Sofia

Place for Future Education Network


Lecturers and their organizations:

Trinoga (Tripod) Association for Sustainable Development

Petar Parchevich School

WWF Bulgaria 

Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation

Zelenika Foundation

European Association for the Defence of Human Rights - Bulgaria 

For the Nature Coalition

Let’s Save Irakli civic group

Citizens for Rila civic group 

CHAR Association

Katerinina House Ethnographic Museum

Human Library Foundation

NC Future Now  

Vlahi Nature School


Accommodation and meals:

Pavlova Kashta hotel

Torlatsite hotel

Raysko katche 

BIDIM: 0988881088

All hotels in Chiprovtsi

Accommodation in Chiprovtsi 

Mislen Kamak Restaurant in Belogradchik 


Tour operators and transport companies:


Gregory Trans, Montana 

Tempora Travel, Dian Karageorgiev (NBU) – 0895708033

4 thoughts on “Spring University ‘Europe on the Go: Citizen Empowermеnt and Sustainable Development’ in Chiprovtsi, 2014

  1. Венета Лобутова

    Има ли още места за да се включа в пролетния университет?

    1. Petar Kanev Post author

      Здравейте Венета, вие заемате едно от трите свободни места. Записваме ви. Очакваме ви в понеделник в 8,00 часа на площад Александър Невски, според програмата пред автобуса с картинките от приказки на транспортна фирма Интеркарс. Свободните места вече са две. Понеже ще е жалко да не се заемат, може да споделите и на свои приятели и познати. Сърдечни поздрави и до скоро! Петър Канев

  2. Pingback: Покана за Пътуващ университет “Място за бъдеще” 2016 в Западна Стара планина и Чипровци (26 май- 1 юни 2016 г.) | Място за бъдеще

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