Capitals of US, EU, Moldova to Host NATO’s Enlargement Anniversary
Washington, Brussels and Chisinau are the cities where celebrations of Eastern Europe’s 10th Anniversary in NATO will take place.
At a news conference revealing the Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 2014 timetable for celebrations of its 2004 enlargement, the biggest one up to date, details were revealed regarding NATO’s jubilee activities scheduled for the rest of 2014 and set to begin as early as next week.
Apart from Bulgaria, from 2004 NATO includes Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. The organization thus ascribes importance to the 10th anniversary, which marks the fact that an unprecedented number of ex-Soviet states were integrated into its structures.
Moldova's bolstered role
Moldova’s capital, Chisinau, is expected to have a special role in these events alongside Washington and Brussels.
Moldova, an Eastern European Country neighboring Romania and Ukraine, is not currently part neither of NATO (as neutrality is enshrined in its constitution) nor of the EU. However, it is expected to host numerous cultural events involving art, cinema and music dedicated to the ten-year-long history of Eastern Enlargement.
In mid-March, NATO raised fears Russia could carry out an incursion in Moldova’s region of Transnistria, a Russian-populated enclave struggling to break away from the country. It did not immediately become clear whether NATO’s plans for enhancing Chisinau’s diplomatic role in this year’s celebrations is connected to such military calculations.
Bulgaria, on its behalf, has been designated a key role in Chisinau’s activities, as Bulgaria’s Embassy to Moldova is also NATO’s contact point with the country in 2013-2014.
Petyo Petev, who heads the NATO and Regional Security Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, declared that most of the events will be aimed at raising awareness among Bulgaria’s young people, who reached maturity in the years of Bulgarian membership but may not properly realize its meaning, and also among doubtful citizens who are not sure why NATO could be important to Bulgaria.
Petev also said Bulgaria's NATO membership was once more described as a key priority in foreign affairs and an instrument of utmost importance to the country's sovereignty.
Debates and arts - 2014's two top diplomatic priorities
Activities are to be held during the whole year, starting with an international conference in Sofia on April 3-4 to mark the anniversary, bringing together political and defense officials from member states. Bulgaria’s President Rosen Plevneliev is to inaugurate the conference, which will also be attended by Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin and Defense Minister Angel Naydenov. Bulgaria’s former Prime Minister Simeon Sakskoburggotski, who was head of the government at the time Bulgaria joined NATO, will be a special guest.
Issues such as NATO’s open doors, the Trans-Atlantic connection, Bulgaria’s contribution to the functioning of NATO, the future of the organization’s partnerships, and the modernization of Bulgaria’s army were reported to be on the upcoming conference’s agenda.
A concert is also to be held on April 4 in Sofia, on Knyaz Aleksander Batenberg Square, honoring the anniversary, Lyudmila Dimitrova, Director of Bulgaria’s State Cultural Institute, announced at the conference. The access-free event, be a gift to all residents and guests of the capital, will begin at 18.30 and will include music performed by Bulgaria’s National Guard.
Exhibitions, as well as films dedicated to Bulgaria’s membership and to its participation in NATO’s operations and missions are scheduled for the upcoming months.
Arts are expected to become more and more important in such diplomatic jubilees, as Dimitrova explained that she and her colleagues put a strong emphasis on the role of cultural activities in promoting issues in politics and defense to a wider public.
Could NATO become more "popular"?
Lt Col Violina Valeva, who heads the Public Relations and International Activity Department at the G.S.Rakovski Military Academy in Sofia, announced that efforts are already being stepped up to make NATO and defense institutions more popular among the younger generations.
Valeva expressed her belief that children are largely interested in these issues, but are lacking comprehensive communication channels to connect them with institutions, and this can be made in schools, during classes already scheduled to assist pupils in getting to know Bulgaria’s role in the Treaty.
A summer camp for children will also be set up for the first time this year, in cooperation with Nikola Vaptsarov Higher Naval Officer School, located in the city of Varna.
The fact that targeting young people has been a key priority this year was illustrated by the announcement that the preparation of a social media campaign is under way to make NATO more popular. A new website that will be launched on March 29 will also serve that purpose.
Solomon Passy, the ex-Foreign Minister and current President of Bulgaria’s Atlantic Club, who is considered to have had a significant role in Bulgaria’s admission into NATO, was not among those who attended the conference. The organizers chose to skip a question of a Bulgarian journalist who asked why Passy was not present.
His Atlantic Club is nevertheless expected to be active in preparations for this year’s anniversary.
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