Bulgaria, National Democratic Institute Vow Joint Middle East Democratization Efforts

Diplomacy | April 28, 2011, Thursday // 17:54|  views

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov (left) with NDI President Kenneth Wollack in DC. Photo by NDI

The National Democratic Institute, a US NGO, and the Bulgarian government have signed a memorandum of understanding to help reform in regions in transition towards democracy around the world.

"As democratic activists in the Middle East and North Africa have stepped up their fight for freedom, NDI and the government of Bulgaria have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to cement their partnership in aiding reform movements in the Muslim world and other transitional regions," the NDI announced.

The memorandum was signed by Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov and NDI President Kenneth Wollack.

"As a country that has spent the past two decades undergoing a massive and often difficult transformation from dictatorship to democracy, Bulgaria has much to share with those who are now struggling to instill those same changes in their societies," Bulgaria's Foreign Minister is quoted as saying in Washington, DC, where he also had meetings with the Obama Administration.

The partnership envisions cooperation between NDI and the Bulgarian government to organize and host study missions for elected and appointed public officials and civil society activists. Trainees would come from the Middle East, the Western Balkans and the Black Sea region.

"Democratic transitions in Europe and in Bulgaria provide examples for new political leaders seeking to overcome legacies of autocratic rule. Understanding the impact of rapid political change can help them avoid certain pitfalls and remain on course during a challenging time," National Democratic Institute head Wollack said.

The NDI points out that in past years it has brought participants from its program in Iraq to observe elections and meet with counterparts in Bulgaria, as well as Romania and Serbia. Under the newly signed MOU, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry and its Diplomatic Institute would assist NDI in sponsoring and organizing such visits to Sofia. The collaboration recognizes both the Institute's long-standing expertise in the field of democracy development and Bulgaria's firsthand lessons in the challenges of a democratic transition, the NDI says.

"Bulgaria's willingness to step forward as a contributor nation and share its experiences is an indication of the dramatic makeover it has undergone since 1990, when it overthrew its communist government in favor of democracy and western alliances. Since then, it has attempted to reform virtually every aspect of its political and economic systems, culminating in invitations to join NATO in 2004 and the European Union in 2007. However, Bulgaria continues to face its own challenges, primarily rampant corruption, which it is struggling to combat," the Institute comments.

"No one is suggesting that Bulgaria is the sole model of democracy. Each country must pursue its own vision of political change, based on its culture and history. Nonetheless, we believe that our experiences, both positive and negative, can offer valuable lessons to those who are now embarking on the path toward democracy," Foreign Minister Mladenov stated during his meeting with Wollack.

Mladenov has participated in past NDI programs in Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere.

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Tags: National Democratic Institute, Kenneth Wollack, NDI, Nikolay Mladenov, Foreign Minister, Middle East, Arab world, Muslim World, North Africa, Iraq, Western Balkans, Black Sea region, sofia, democratization


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