Syria: A Domestic Conflict, Testing International Values
The 4th edition of the Sofia Platform Conference took place on October 31 and November 1.
The Sofia Platform is a venue for dialogue and exchange of views between non-governmental organizations, journalists, politicians and practitioners from Europe, the Middle East and the United States.
This year's conference addressed the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa, drawing parallels with the democratization process in Central and Eastern Europe.
A central topic was the Syrian crisis, its possible scenarios and the refugee issue.
Kristalina Georgieva: Our priority must be Syria's children.
Kristalina Georgieva is the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.
"Access in Syria is essential. The international community must pressure Bashar Al-Assad's regime to be granted a safe channel to deliver medical and food aid. The main focus must be the children, who are in need. We must do everything possible to avoid a lost generation."
Commissioner Georgieva also talked about the refugee situation in Europe.
"Keeping in mind that Syria's neighboring countries have hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees, the 50 000 in all of Europe is not such a high number, as some politicians play it out to be. Syria's neighbors are experiencing their own internal problems, but still do their utmost to accommodate those in need. It is Europe's duty to do the same."
Nikolay Mladenov: Refugee crisis is a test for Bulgaria's values
Nikolay Mladenov was Bulgaria's Minister of Foreign Affairs (2010 – 2013). Currently he heads the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq and is the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Iraq.
"What Europe needs in this moment is to ask itself the question: what do we have in common, rather than what divides us?
In Bulgaria, we talk about the "refugee problem" without looking at the bigger picture. As a nation, which has a historical legacy of tolerance and helping minorities (its Jews in WWII, the Armenians, the restoration of Turkish names), we must prove again that these values make us more Bulgarian, rather than less."
Esref Kenan Rasidagic: Ethnic politics is not the answer in Syria
Esref Kenan Rasidagic is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Sarajevo.
"The consociational model of government, established in Bosnia and Herzegovina through the Dayton Accords, in practice created a paralyzed state. It gave unlimited veto power to each ethnic representation, making it almost impossible to reach agreement and make decisions.
The West should be extremely careful with what political solutions it proposes to Syria, after it comes out of the civil war. I cannot see ethnic politics as a viable form of establishing democracy."