Reuniting Europe

Congratulations Bokova!

My compartiot and good friend Irina Bokova was elected yesterday night Director General of UNESCO. You can find details here.

I have worked under Bokova in the mid nineties, when she was deputy foreign minister, responsible for European integration, while I was a diplomat in Brussels, accredited to the European Communities. I think Bokova made a huge contribution to Bulgaria’s EU membership bid at that time. This is the history as I saw it:

At that time, Bulgaria had a socialist prime minister, Zhan Videnov, who was under the influence of counsellors, some with anti-European views. This is the main reason why Bulgaria was late in handing over its accession application. Hungary had applied on 31 March 1994, Poland on 5 April 1994, even Romania had applied on 22 June 1995, but by the end of 1995 the Bulgarian application was still delayed for some strange reason.

At that time, EU pundits told me that seen from Brussels, Bulgaria was probably considering not becoming an EU member, and was rather seeking a different kind of relationship.

I wrote immeditely a coded message to Sofia, where Bokova was the main contact, expressing our Mission’s worries. What I know for sure is that she did put pressure on Videnov and obtained his signature. The Bulgarian application was handed over in Madrid, under Spanish presidency, on 15 December 1995, to the then foreign minister Javier Solana.

A funny story: this application was ultimately lost. My counterpart from the Council (I was the person habilitated to sign the official documents under the Assoctiation Council) came to see me, and told me confidentially, that the Spaniards had lost the application. I was asked discretely to get him a ‘second original’, because the EU couldn’t proceed with our euro-integration without this piece of paper. That’s what I did, and in fact I handed over my country’s accession bid, which now lies in EU archives for eternity…

I would not write about this these ‘secret’ if it had not already been disclosed by Margot Wallstrom, who wrote an article with funny stories from our country’s accession, for a Bulgarian daily. I can only confirm this funny story is 100% true.

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