- Mr. Passy, March marks the 15th anniversary of Bulgaria’s membership in NATO. You first asked this question in August 1990. What are your memories of the time when many people defined as a utopia the dream of the future Atlantic Club in Bulgaria to leave the Warsaw Pact and join NATO?
The years of the Grand National Assembly were years of enthusiasm, construction and many dreams. We seem to have achieved most of them, but now we need new and more ambitious dreams. And this is where the public dissatisfaction comes from – the lack of active national aspirations and longings to motivate us.
Happiness is in the path and the path to happiness, not the final stop of the journey in which the journey has already ended.
At the Atlantic Club, we are giving birth to new and new projects seeking happiness in the future of Europe and the world. But often Europe itself is not working for its future, but for the survival of its leaders, which I hope we will overcome with the help of technology.
- Who were the parties and personalities who were the first to support the idea then, and who were the most difficult to convince?
Memories are subjective and often illusory matter. And, as I told you, for now, I’m focusing on plans for the future, not memoirs.
With these reservations, I would like to mention some of the earliest supporting factors that gave rise to the yeast for the fermentation of the NATO-EU idea:
the first two people – UDF MPs Ivan Pushkarov and Lyubomir Ivanov, today President of the Manfred Wörner Foundation;
the first two parties – the Green (from the UDF) and the MRF (chaired by Ahmed Dogan);
the first institution – the presidential one, personified by Dr. Zhelyo Zhelev, who included the long-term national priority in the catchphrase of 6 words: “Bulgaria – a member of all European structures”, in the presidential team there were many competent Atlanticists;
the first foreign minister – Viktor Valkov (invited the first NATO secretary general in Bulgaria);
the first journalist to influence the nation on a large scale – Ivan Garelov (Mr. Panorama, who initiated the Kuwait Committee);
the first newspaper to publish an interview – the Bulgarian Army newspaper;
the first newspaper that stood 100% next to us – Reporter 7 of Binka Peeva;
the first American, the diplomat (now ambassador) Rod Moore;
NATO’s first secretary general, Manfred Wörner;
the first living God – the XIV Dalai Lama of Tibet;
the first saint – Pope St. John Paul II;
the first king – King Simeon II;
the first Atlantic club beyond NATO – the Bulgarian one!
I certainly miss many…
Of course, the NATO-EU project was a gigantic national effort with many key players at crucial moments. Both Filip Dimitrov, who formulated the motto “Bulgaria – a normal state!”, And Ivan Kostov (with the first full term as prime minister), and, of course, Petar Stoyanov, formulated exactly when the “civilizational choice of Bulgaria” should be, and Stefan Sofiyanski were in office. when they were much needed by the nation. There were many who supported the idea silently and very expertly: Ilko Eskenazi, Stanislav Daskalov, Mario Milushev… Let’s not forget the army of experts, diplomats and military, without whom we would be like on clay feet.
A special role was played by the people who changed the BSP – among the first were Dragomir Draganov, Irina Bokova and to a large extent Elena Poptodorova, who to this day has remained an Atlantic profession – with soul, brain and heart. Deserved satisfaction for all of them was the happy circumstance that Sergei Stanishev became the first Bulgarian Prime Minister of the EU.
Starting with the generation of pioneers who initiated the process, we go through the generation that fermented the national consensus, we come to the third political generation, which conducted the decisive phase of negotiations with the US, NATO and the EU, in an unknown and completely hostile international environment after 9/11. 2001: the NMSS team, composed and led by Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 2001-2005.
But I will end with what I started this answer with – human memories are illusory matter with variable geometry and over the years they become memories of memories…
- What balance should we take now, when we celebrate the 15th anniversary of our accession to NATO? What do you think would have been the fate of Bulgaria if this had not happened?
Politics and life, unlike modern television, do not take the program back. The scenarios in 1989-1990 were diverse and most of them unfavorable, including those for Yugoslavia and its derivatives today, such as Ukraine or even Syria.
But there was no “Bulgaria-Switzerland in the Balkans” scenario, with which the utopia of neutrality of the then populists tried to blind the voter. Today, no one remembers our national reputation problem arising from the assassination attempt on Pope St. John Paul II in 1981. In 1990 we still had to deal with him, which became the cause of the Atlantic Club. And it is no coincidence that only a few months after we overcame this difficult legacy with the papal visit, in 2002 we won the invitation to NATO and the date of EU membership.
I think that from 1990-2007 we got the most out of it. But then we seemed to stumble.
- Can it be said that Bulgaria’s accession to NATO was decisive for its accession to the EU?
From 2001-2005, in the atmosphere of 9/11, we already knew very well that failure with NATO would lead to failure with the EU as well. But success with NATO was by no means a sufficient condition for our accession to the EU, which without the King’s leadership we could not have signed on April 25, 2005.
- What are the pitfalls of today’s NATO-EU relations and how can a closer link be ensured?
The main obstacle to the development of the West is not underwater at all, but protrudes and is visible from everywhere. This is illiteracy-based populism. And it is defined as giving vain hopes to voters who are not trained to judge them and weed out the real. And so they vote for their personal utopias, which turn into national tragedies. See Brexit! But the Atlantic Club has found a cure for this as well: the informed, i-democracy of computer-tested choices. Check out my TEDx lecture on YouTube.
- This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of NATO. What are the current challenges facing the Alliance?
The Alliance must reformulate its goals: from preserving peace in Europe (which we have been doing successfully for 70 years) to preserving peace around the world. But I don’t think the Alliance has yet to have leaders to lead it there.
By the way, in recent days, there has been encouraging news that the Atlantic Club has long anticipated: President Trump has invited the first Latin American country, Brazil, to join NATO. If European leaders and Brazil itself overcome the stereotypes of thinking and this happens, such a development has the capacity to transform both NATO and, to some extent, the EU into global organizations, from which the good of the world benefit.
- You are the president of the Atlantic Club in Bulgaria, which in 2019 turns 28 years old. What has he achieved over these decades and what are your goals for the future?
We could hardly achieve anything without the energy of the nation. But the list of milestones so far includes: NATO, the EU, the first papal visit, a contribution to our presence in Antarctica, a total EU charger for GSM, free WiFi here and there in Europe, space legislation, genotoxic detector, mobile SOS application… , if the reader enters our site, he will see more!
If I want to see a new direction in which the leaders are leading our nation, this is: Bulgaria – a member of the G20. Well, if the Atlantic Club had to do that, we would ask, “Why not the G-7?” A nation is as big as its dreams…
Source: FOCUS News Agency.