Reuniting Europe

My old friend Jan Eliasson

We know each other from 1986, when I was a member of the Bulgarian delegation to the CSCE conference on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures and Disarmament in Stockholm. (CSCE was the predecessor of OSCE). This was a very important forum, as it took place after the downing of Korean airliner KAL 007 while the USSR and the USA had basically cut contacts.

Except in Stockholm, where the delegations from 35 countries, including the USSR and the USA, were meeting on a daily basis, and diplomats were delivering speeches, attending receptions and parties almost every evening. And basically fraternising in spite of the Cold War.
Eliasson was the Secretary General of the conference. Sweden was a remarkable host, and provided the magnificent building at Sergels Torg, in the centre of Stockholm, as venue for the conference. As a neutral country Sweden was also a facilitator for compromises.
It was therefore not a surprise when I learned in 2012 that Jan Eliasson, whom I consider a friend, became the UN Deputy Secretary General. It is relatively easy for Swedish diplomats well known by other countries to obtain support across the board for such posts.
I didn’t try to contact him, saying to myself that sooner or later, we will see each other. This happened yesterday in Brussels and I wrote this article: UN’s Eliasson: There is no peace without development
One episode I will never forget during the Stockholm conference was when Gorbachev took over and decided to send a signal to the West that there was a new kind of interlocutor in the Kremlin.
The Soviet general who was the number two in their delegation came to me and two other colleagues of the Bulgarian delegation in the cafeteria of the conference.
He said: Guys, we decided to adopt the American proposals.
We said: That’s a veeery good joke.
In fact, the USA were proposing limits to the number of troops participating in military exercises, and the possibility of sending observers to such exercises. In contrast, the Warsaw pact countries proposed completely different type of measures such as nuclear-weapon free zones. Apparently there was no common ground.
But the general said: In fact, at second reading, the US proposals are not so bad, and we will accept them. I wanted to tell you this before Russian ambassador Grinevsky would announce it.
At this precise moment I realised that the world was going to change more and faster than most people thought. And of course Sweden had been a facilitator for this change.
Yesterday Eliasson recognised me and said: Hey, you still look young.

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