Academic collaboration on the Balkans has been especially intensive in recent years. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of our countries signed a large number of agreements and programs which contain the parameters for a constructive joint scientific activity to the benefit of society and academic development. Bilateral and multilateral relations have been established between the separate universities; academic projects have been realized;exchange ofinformation, lecturers and students both within the SocratesII Program and the Erasmus Program, and within other regional and European programs has taken place. It is the European cooperation that is brought to the fore (moreover, not only within the limits of the European Union) in all areas of education, respectively in the higher education and academic science, in the European dialogue and in the process of mutual acquisition of knowledge about the culture and history of European peoples, in the international exchange and dissemination of scientific developments, the mobility of young and senior scientists, fostering students' tuition in the three degrees of higher education – bachelor's, master's and doctoral, the organization of joint projects, the creation of networks and forms for dissemination of ideas, scientific results and academic good practices, the conducting of academic research and comparative analyses, etc.
The Balkans are an area of great historical and cultural variety. This reflects both upon the development of statehood and upon the legal system of the individual countries. Yet, there is still one common starting point which sets the formation of the Medieval Balkan states and determines their further development. This is the organization of this part of Europe as Roman provinces from II - I century BC onwards, and later its inclusion as part of the Eastern Roman Empire. Rome provides these systems with a unified law, whereby it does not obliterate the regional systems and legal customs and allows for their application within a cosmopolitan state, such as the Roman Empire. One of the models of Roman politics is applied on the Balkans which provides for the fairly smooth economic development, non-intervention in the established social and organizational structures, though it gradually imposes the rules of the Roman state whose aim is to ensure the integrity of the territory and its total subordination to the central power.
There are a lot of areas in which research can go in depth, including in terms of comparative lawconcerningour common historical past. Few are the initiatives,however, for such research in a legal aspect. And if the Roman Law tradition in contemporary law is the subject of a lot of discussion, this is primarily the case about the countries of Western Europe and less so with a focus on an individual country in Eastern Europe, respectively on the Balkan peninsula, as well. However, it is time we thought about the creation of a complete picture of the region – both about Antiquity and in relation to the creation and development of contemporary states and legal systems. It seems to me that, currently, we, Roman Law lecturers, have captured the main outlines, but until the full picture is created, a lot more details and images need to be added.
Namely for this reason, we, colleagues from several departments of universities in Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia and Romania, discussing at different Romanist forums, together and individually, for some years now have considered the idea for the creation of an organization which shall unite lecturers in Roman Law on the Balkans. The purpose of such an association is not only the sharing of problems concerning Roman Law education which in the last decades has adopted new dimensions and has been undeservedly ignored along with the other fundamental disciplines in some countries (Fortunately, to a much less degree in the Balkan universities!). The main aim is to organize one truly effective collaboration, to attract and integrate young colleagues – lecturers and researchers and to set a new direction in the teaching and study of Roman Law – not for its own sake, but in relation to the Romanist tradition which had passed through the centuries, and had become part of the institutes of the contemporary public and private law.
The collaboration among lecturers from the universities of the Balkan countries has its specific task of placing Romanist research and the teaching of Roman lawwithin the general European context as well,and in touch with the other colleagues, Romanists. If today people speak about IUS GENTIUM EUROPEUM, we have to look for its foundation in IUS GENTIUM ROMANUM. The classical tradition of democracy and the rule of law do not derive solely from Greek philosophy but also from the specific legal and organizational forms created by the Romans in the period of the Empire and constituting a model for the union of the peoples around common economic, political and social purposes.
The study of Roman private and public law, Byzantine law, barbaric legislations, the reception of the Roman law and the creation of the contemporary codifications has always been of formative importance to would-be lawyers. It is not only an element in the study of history and the acquisition of general legal knowledge but upholds in them a spirit of lawfulness, stable government and the rule of law. Roman law offers to young lawyers not only a solid lexicological and terminological basis but also priceless skills for case solving, law interpretation, adaptation and improvement through administration of justice.
In our complex times, the realization of these ideas for cooperation did not turn out to be a simple task. Between 1992 and 1993 at the University of Rome "La Sapienza" I met with Prof. Pierangelo Catalano and Prof. Gabor Hamza. It was then that the idea for collaboration was born in relation to the comparative study of prof. Hamza on the development of the European legal culture which he brilliantly carried through. Back then, in Rome, there was also present his young Assistant Professor from the State University of Istanbul, Havva Karagyoz, with whom we considered the way we were going to bring this idea to life. It took a great deal of networking, time, will and, last but not least – funding, which was particularly complicated in view of the situation on the Balkans at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century.
The idea has been discussed many times with our colleagues, Romanists, every time we met at different academic forums. It was warmly supported also by Prof. Hans Ankum and Prof. Laurens Winkel from Holland, Prof. Fernandez de Bujan from Spain, Prof. Pichonnaz and Prof. Dunand from Switzerland and many other renowned colleagues of ours who kept encouraging us to take concrete steps for its realization. This led to a meeting in the beginning of 2016 with our colleague from Nis, Prof. Maria Ignatovic and our colleague from Skopje, Prof. Gotse Naumovski on the occasion of the international academic colloquium "Roman and Contemporary Commercial Law" organized by the Faculty of Law at Sofia University. We were joined also by Prof. Marco Petrak from Zagreb and Prof. Valerio Chuka from Cluj and then the preparation for this conferencestarted. I would like to express my special thanks to our colleague, Assoc. Prof. Samir Alichcich who has helped us a lot in finding the names and addresses of the lecturers in Roman Law from the universities in our countries and in sending them invitations whereby he committed himself to the cause of the Association and its presentation on the Balkans and in Italy. I hope it will not sound boastful but, we – one professor, three assistant professors and several students from the Roman Law Workshop at the Faculty of Law at Sofia University got the task to fulfil the concrete actions for the preparation of the establishment of the Association – the drafting and translation of the Statute and the other instruments, the invitations, the coordination of arrival and accommodation of participants, halls, etc. We highly appreciate the contribution of Prof. Ignatyovic and her student and assistant Alexander Arsich from the University of Nis – his work is the logo of the Association. And last but not least, not in the least, but rather in the first place, the rector Prof. Atanas Gerdzhikov, the deputy rector Assoc. Prof. Yurii Kuchev and the Dean of the Faculty ofLaw at Sofia University Prof. Sasho Penov supported unreservedly this initiative and did everything they possibly could for it to take place namely in our university. We are happy to welcome among us Prof. Gabor Hamza, member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and one of the most prominent Romanists with exceptional contribution in the research of the Romanist tradition in Europe, Prof. Sebastiano Tafaro and Assoc. Prof. Michele Indelicato from the Aldo Moro University in Barry, Assoc. Prof. Pietro Onida from the University in Sassari – assistant of Professor Catalano – the true initiator of the idea for the creation of the Association and present here as its representative, Prof. Georgio Barone Adesi from the University of Catanzaro and Prof. Vanesa Ponte from the Cordoba University with whom we have had long-lasting collaboration and partnership in our academic work.
The first Romanist website in Bulgaria created on the faculty's project and funded by Sofia University will also be the first virtual home of the Association. In Issue 2 of the electronic journal IUS ROMANIUM, which is on the same site and already enjoys wide popularity and authority, papers and articles from The First Balkan International Academic Conference "The Study and Teaching of Roman Law in the Beginning of 21st Century", which will begin tomorrow,will be published. The funding of the entire organizational, editorial and administrative activity on creating the virtual space for our Association, for its members' publications and registration will be funded and effected by the Faculty of Law at Sofia University.
I am not going to take any more of your time and attention now. You have at your disposal all the inaugural documents which had been sent for preliminary discussion prior to today's meeting. Before proceeding with their voting, I would like to give the floor to two more members of our so-called Steering Board with whom we met many times and clarified all the details about the present day – Prof. Maria Ignatovich from the University in Nis, Serbia and Prof. Gotse Naumovski from the "St Cyril and Methody" University in Skopje, Macedonia.