The Atlantic Club of Bulgaria turns 20

Photo: Архив
It took one Trabant (a make of popular East-German cheap mini-cars), an eccentric young politician and a group of enthusiasts to found the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria (ACB) 20 years ago. The Trabant became the symbol of the Atlantic idea as well as the symbol of Bulgaria’s transition from socialism to democracy. This was so because the owner of the Trabant at stake was no other than the eccentric politician Dr. Solomon Passy – founder and president of the club. As the epitome of socialism the Trabant was a great adventure for the then NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner. When Woerner visited Bulgaria in 1991 he had the “honor” of being shown around downtown Sofia in the Trabant of the president of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, Dr. Solomon Passy.
“The history of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria is closely related to the newest history of the whole country,” says Solomon Passy in a Radio Bulgaria interview. “It is very difficult for me to separate the club from the state. Both are so much interrelated that they stand as one in the minds of many people. From April 2011 until April 2012, when we’ll be marking the 20th anniversary of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, we don’t plan to focus on the past. It is true there are a lot of events that need to be reminded such as Bulgaria’s accession to NATO and EU, the country’s participation in the conquering of Antarctica, the visit of Pope John-Paul II in Bulgaria and others. We want to look forward to the future, to the next 20 years and to see what we can do for our posterity. I think that as a respected member of EU, NATO, OSCE and other international organizations Bulgaria can contribute greatly to global development. This is in fact our main goal at present. Of course, the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria as a think tank will continue to generate ideas but it is very important there’s someone to carry them out.”

Founded in April 1991, the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria is the first pro-Atlantic non-governmental organization set on the territory of a former East European state. Between 1991 and 2004, ACB succeeded in changing Bulgarian public opinion to NATO and globalization on the whole. Where the first steps difficult? 

“The Atlantic idea was initially met with great hostility in the summer of 1990 by all MEPs. However, there were people and institutions that had a vision of Bulgaria,” says Solomon Passy. “I will quote the then president of Bulgaria Dr. Zhelyu Zhelev who formulated a statement at that time valid to-date: ‘Bulgaria has to participate in all European structures.’ In this train of thought, we need to gain accession to the Schengen Area and the Eurozone. There is one high-priority goal that no government has so far embraced, namely, Bulgaria’s accession to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This is a very important organization because it is the so-called club of 30 wealthiest nations in the world. If a country gains membership to OCDE, then it gets on the fast track of becoming rich. I think the current as well as future Bulgarian governments should have that priority in mind.”
To what or who is the legendary Trabant more related to – to the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, to the former foreign minister Solomon Passy who applied for NATO Secretary General, to Bulgaria’s transition to democracy…?

“The Trabant is related to all of these to a larger or lesser extent,” says Solomon Passy. “It is by no accident that it found its final resting place in the museum of military history.”
In Bulgaria’s newest history there’s a very touching moment – the country’s NATO accession in 2004. When the Bulgarian flag was being raised, all Bulgarians and international news agencies saw the tears in Solomon Passy’s eyes. How did you feel at that moment?

“I felt wonderful,” smiles Solomon Passy. “At that moment, 14 years of my life flashed back. Since then, whenever I hear the Bulgarian anthem, I think of that moment on the meadow before NATO headquarters in Brussels.”

English version: Delian Zahariev

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