Bulgaria Missing Chance for Strategic Closeness with France on Libya - Ex Foreign Minister

Diplomacy | March 20, 2011, Sunday // 20:10|  views

Former Bulgarian Foreign Minister Passy believes Bulgaria should be more pro-active in the Libya crisis. Photo by nato.int

Bulgaria should be much more proactive in the current crisis with the regime of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in order to build new strategic partnerships, according to former Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy.

Passy told Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) that a more active role on part of Bulgaria in the efforts to impose on Gaddafi the no-fly zone and sanctions mandated by the UN Security Council could only benefit the country, referring to Operation Odyssey Dawn currently carried out by the several Western countries with some Arab states expected to join in.

"In the current international military intervention, Bulgaria is a lot more timid than it was, for example, in Iraq in 2003 and in Kosovo in 1999. Bulgaria can afford to be a lot more active now simply because it does not have all the issues it had 8-9 years ago with its quest for NATO and EU accession. In 2002-2003, thanks to Bulgaria's role as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council we managed to generate close relations with the USA and this helped a lot for Bulgaria's accession to NATO in 2004, which in turn helped for our accession to the EU in 2007. It also helped us to have joint facilities with the US armed forces on Bulgarian soil, and then to attract unprecedented American investments. There is no reason why Bulgaria should not use the present situation to establish a similar close strategic partnership with France, even outside the frameworks of NATO and the EU," stated Passy emphasizing the leadership role of France and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the current Libyan crisis.

Solomon Passy, Bulgaria's former Foreign Minister of Bulgaria in 2001-2005, who was also the Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2004, and is now the President of the Atlantic Club in Bulgaria, was one of the first international voices to call for NATO's military involvement in Libya with respect to a no-fly zone almost a month before the UN Security Council authorized such a measure and before the Western states decided to act more decisively against Gaddafi.

In his comment on Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya, Passy contrasted Bulgaria's current "timidness" as part of the Western club to its role in previous international military operations – not only the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the NATO air strikes against the Milosevic regime in Serbia in 1999 but also Bulgaria's support for the UN-mandated operation against the regime of Saddam Hussein in Kuwait and Iraq in 1991.

"In 1990-1991, under the leadership of then President Zhelyu Zhelev and the Grand National Assembly (in which Passy served at the time – editor's note), Bulgaria – still a member of the Warsaw Pact – decided to take part in the international coalition against Saddam Hussein under American leadership. There was some debate on that in Sofia but this turned out to be the decisive moment in Bulgaria's foreign policy. Bulgaria's leadership should now call French President Nicolas Sarkozy and declare that Bulgaria is ready to support France and to ask him what kind of help is needed. Sarkozy knows what Bulgaria has in terms of resources, and he won't ask impossible things of us. Gestures are remembered and create trust. Right now Bulgaria is suffering from a deficit of trust with the EU and its Western partners," Passy believes.

In the bigger picture, when contrasting the current international military operation in Libya to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, he has remarked some major differences. First, that under the leadership of Sarkozy, France has now managed to become a leader mobilizing the international community and public opinion to tackle the crisis in Libya; second, that US President Barack Obama has managed to turn the United States into a wiser power in terms of multilateral international efforts.

As far as Germany's unwillingness to take part in the military action in Libya, Passy commented that the German position is understandable, and that even though the German public opinion has not overcome yet the concerns from World War II, the German government is a loyal NATO and EU member and has said it will increase its presence in Afghanistan, which would allow other allies to concentrate on Libya.

Passy further thinks that the fact that the current military operation against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi is mandated by the UN Security Council represents a boost for its international legitimacy much the way the 1991 operation against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein after the invasion of Kuwait was seen as unconditionally just by the wider international community. He pointed out that major former "non-aligned" countries and all members of the BRICS grouping (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), which currently happen to be UN Security Council members, have decided not to oppose the international military intervention.

Passy believes that the regime of Muammar Gaddafi is certainly not stronger than those of other dictators such as Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic, and can be expected to crumble within a similar period of time.

As far as the actual military action is concerned, Bulgaria's ex Foreign Minister says that France and Britain can exercise a "pull" on the EU in terms of military technology, which will help the Union achieve the dream of becoming a global power.

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Tags: Solomon Passy, foreign ministers, Foreign Minister, NATO, EU, Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, Iraq, Saddam Hussein, Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, Operation Odyssey Dawn, France, Nicolas Sarkozy, USA, Barack Obama, UK, Britain, Germany, 1991, 2003, 1999, Kosovo war, Iraq War, Zhelyu Zhelev, Warsaw Pact, air strike, air strikes, o fly zone


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