The main difference between revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989 and the current wave of 'Jasmine Revolutions' is that it is difficult to say which way the unrest in the Arab world is heading and harder to say what each of them is rejecting, Philip Dimitrov, a Bulgarian anti-communist leader, told EurActiv in an exclusive interview.
Philip Dimitrov is the EU's Ambassador to Georgia. He was Bulgaria’s prime minister from 1991-1992 and lost power after losing a confidence vote that he called himself.
He has also served as his country’s ambassador to the UN and the USA.
He was speaking to Georgi Gotev, EurActiv's senior editor.
Mr. Ambassador: you were one of the most prominent leaders of the Bulgarian transition in 1989, leader of the anti-communist Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) and the first prime minister of a UDF government. Do the recent 'winds of change' blowing across the Arab world bring back memories of 20 years ago? If so, in what way?
Naturally they do. The universal desire for freedom is part of human nature. It is natural to sympathise with it.
What is similar and what is different in the 1989 events in Eastern Europe and the Jasmine Revolutions? Don't you think that in the second case, the Western community was caught by surprise?
One similarity is this natural impulse to seek freedom. However, there are two main differences. The first is that we knew very well where we are going. Academics were saying that we were not bringing any new concept. And indeed we had no intention of inventing a new political system. We wanted to join the West. The EU and NATO were the tangible landmarks of a more profound identification with Western values. We believed we were going back home.
The second is connected with the fact that all revolutions set free tremendous potentials of rejection. It is not about where you are headed but also about what you are rejecting. It was clear what we rejected - Communism personified by the Soviet Union. This is why President Havel [Václav Havel, president of Czechoslovakia 1989-1992 and of the Czech Republic 1993-2003] was so keen on pointing that anti-corruption movements are not always bound to establish a democratic government.
In other words the difference is that now it is still difficult to say where exactly each of these revolutions is headed and what exactly does each of them reject.
As a Bulgarian diplomat, you are aware of what the Libyan regime represents, perhaps better than your colleagues from other countries. What lessons should be learned from the sad experience with the Bulgarian nurses? What kind of person is Gaddafi? Was Ronald Reagan right when he called him 'mad dog Gaddafi'?
The TV stations are already labelling the events in Libya as civil war. If this is confirmed, it will mean difficult times for the country. As far as Colonel Gaddafi is concerned I have the impression that the present-day attitude of democratic countries towards him is pretty unanimously negative. The rest is a rather stylistic issue.
What does the future hold for the Arab world? Is there a danger that it could slide into Islamic fundamentalism? What role could Europe play?
Every crisis contains dangers but also opportunities. Let us hope that the determination of Europe to have a strong supportive policy vis-à-vis its neigbours will be a significant factor that will help direct the processes there towards democracy and the recognition and enhancement of human rights.