20 Years Promoting Tolerancein Central, East and Southeast Europe
Published: 09/03/2019

I am a modest representative of the lucky Bulgarian Jewish community that was saved by the brave Bulgarian people during WWII. My first exposure to public political activity was back in 1985 when, at the age of 28, I was one of those who supported the Turkish minority in Bulgaria which was oppressed by the communist regime. Therefore, I gained both personal and family experience of what tolerance is and what is not.

In the mid-’90s I was President of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, the first NGO founded in a Warsaw Pact country, whose goal was membership for our ex-communist countries in NATO and the EU. One of our most prominent programs was ‘Promoting Tolerance‘, under which the Atlantic Club hosted key religious leaders like Pope John Paul II, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Dalai Lama of Tibet. We knew that differences should not be treated as threats but rather as opportunities for mutual enrichment and joint actions leading to a common progress. This is what the Euro-Atlantic values are about. Therefore, in 1995 I was pleased to accept an invitation to participate in the ‘Promoting Tolerance‘ program of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the American Jewish Committee. The program provided me with a great arsenal of fresh arguments and compelling examples about how to defend our common values. My visit to the USA that same year was an eye opener and the lessons learned from ‘Sesame Street’ in New York City are still useful for me.

Later in my career, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chairman-in-Office of OSCE or Chairman of the UN Security Council, negotiator and signatory to Bulgaria’s accession treaties with NATO and the EU, I have frequently had the opportunity to revisit my memories of the AJC-FNF tolerance program and make use of them again. Currently, the Atlantic Club is focused on sharing the Bulgarian experience of its transition to democracy with countries in need. Among them are North Korea, Iran, Cuba and many others. Today we enjoy a new high-tech information environment and we know that the internet will be much faster than Guttenberg’s printing press in bringing the fruits of democracy to enslaved peoples. The Arab Spring is just the beginning of a new political era and, hopefully, a better one!

News around us

Upcoming Events