Stefan Tafrov (also former Bulgarian official representative in France, the UK, Ireland, Italy, and a former Bulgarian Foreign Minister) gave AUBG students a short lecture, which was part of the Ambassador Elena Poptodorova Distinguished Lecture Series. This is his second mandate as an official Bulgarian representative in the UN, and in his account it will be the easier one. During his first participation the UN global political forum, issues such as 9/11 had to be addressed and dealt with. In Tafrov’s view the latter event changed a number of conceptions across the globe, i.e. ”even the US are not immune any more’‘.
Back then, as Bulgaria was a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, more decisions had to be made and more precise work was needed. Here, Tafrov pointed out the ideological difference between other international organizations and forums and the UN:
”The informal club of nations – G20, deprives small nations of their right to have a say. On the other hand, the UN remains the only international organization that is truly universal.”
A brief comparison between the EU and the UN followed. The main difference Tafrov distinguished was the VETO power. To him, it is a real problem sometimes, when a single country can stop the action of all others, as was the case with the EU possible intervention in Syria.
”In my humble view both critiques and defenders of the UN are right,” was Tafrov’s response to the unasked question as to why he is only presenting the bright side of the organization he represents.
He went on giving a short history lesson on the conception and basic principles of the UN. Thus, he outlined the three pillars of the UN Charter:
1. Тhe self-determination of nations
2. Тhe sovereignty of nations
3. Preservation of human rights (The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ’48)
On the other hand, Ambassador Tafrov outlined the severe challenges the UN has to face in the globalized twenty-first century world. To begin with, despite the growing expectations to the UN for its role as a peace-keeping organization, its structure has not been changed since its establishment. The best proof for the growing role of the UN is the fact that a UN membership is the best legal recognition for any country’s sovereignty. ”And this is the case with Palestine, willing to become a member state, but it is very unlikely that this will happen any time soon,” Tafrov said. Further on, he described the numerous problems of the UN as a partial result from the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the ones that followed in Europe, in that they created a diminishing sense of security among all nations. Other big obstacles are cyber crimes, since in Tafrov’s view ”they are as destabilizing as a conventional war’‘. The fact that the UN is commanding a sort of a ”soft power”, i.e. it does not stand for any particular national interest, works both for and against the organization, as many internal conflicts have arisen.
”Having said all that, to many people across the globe, the UN is the universal symbol of liberation and most importantly the end of war,” Tafrov observed.
”We should criticize the UN, but please do not destroy it!” was Tafrov’s appeal to the young audience, consisting of many political science students and future diplomats.
The curious revelation at the very end of the lecture was that Tafrov, among his many accomplishments, was also involved in the establishment of AUBG. The initial idea was communicated to Tafrov in its early stages, so he took it upon himself to inform Mr. George Soros, the chairman of the Open Society Institute and Soros Fund Management, of the plan for having a liberal arts institution in the very heart of the Balkans. At that point in time, G. Soros had already made a generous contribution to Central European University, back then located in Prague, nowadays in Budapest, Hungary.
”It was a rather funny story. When I asked George [Soros] to meet me for a breakfast, he gladly agreed, but his only question was ”OK, how much is this breakfast going to cost me?” said Tafrov. [laughs] ”And this is how the American University in Bulgaria really came into being.”
After the end of the question and answer part of the open lecture, all students, and Prof. Evelina Kelbetcheva, in her capacity as a lead of the event, wished Ambassador Tafrov a very fruitful and successful second mandate to the UN.