The Euro-Atlantic Education Initiative (EAEI) foundation is a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Bulgaria that serves as a public platform for security and foreign policy issues, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Euro-Atlantic values. Its role in public diplomacy is to achieve a greater range of public support and social accountability on these key subjects. For this purpose, the foundation works in close cooperation with other national and international NGOs and governmental organizations, continuously reinforcing established relations and enhancing networking projects among partner organizations.
It disseminates knowledge and information at both the University and school levels operating as opinion maker. And ultimately, it exercises influence on the decision-making process on a national and international level. With its work EAEI represents the new variety of operational levels and actors employed by public diplomacy. It signifies the increased importance of publics to the foreign policy process and the growing need for governments to be actively involved in public diplomacy programs.
EAEI activities include the establishment of educational programs, organization of scientific forums, symposiums, discussions and seminars concerning Euro-Atlantic and European integration processes and perspectives. The main objectives of the organization are to foster specific knowledge about the NATO, the European Union (EU), and the issues regarding the new security architecture within and around Europe. The foundation advocates better understanding of the political, legislative and diplomatic state actions for Bulgarian citizens. In addition, the EAEI provided information about the practical government undertakings pertaining to the EU pre-accession strategy and the enforcement of the obligations of Bulgaria as a NATO full member. These activities represented the organization’s public diplomacy approach for shaping positive knowledge-based public opinion towards the integration processes.
EAEI provides information on the role of civil society and aims to educate the public to understanding the role of Bulgaria as a full member of NATO and EU.
As part of the Public Diplomacy during NATO missions of Bulgarian Armed Forces initiative the organization opened public debates and information campaigns throughout the country and presented an analytical review of Bulgaria’s new responsibilities as a full member of the Alliance in the form of round tables and open discussions. The foundation seeks to improve knowledge and provide high-level qualified information to all civil society representatives through expert qualified consultations. The project focused on the Bulgarian military contingents in NATO operations and the relevant role of public diplomacy in shaping positive public opinion and raising public awareness of the importance of Bulgaria’s active participation in NATO missions. This initiative illustrates the crucial role of civil society understanding and support for collective security mechanisms in order to assure a lasting effect and fulfillment of the new obligations in Bulgarian foreign policy.
In the summer of 2004 as part of the educational program, the EAEI in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense, organized a National round table: Content, teaching forms and methods in High Schools in Bulgaria for explaining the transforming nature of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The round table was a workshop that highlighted reports and discussions of the current situation in the field of education in Bulgaria and also how NATO should appear in Secondary school curricula. These results were presented before the NATO Public Diplomacy Division in Brussels. The main conclusions were used for developing suitable information packages and materials with a pedagogical approach so that teachers can present foreign policy and security issues among secondary school students in an understandable manner.
The EAEI is also involved in a student training program, funded by the EU Youth Program, which is aimed at providing knowledge of contemporary international organizations, their genesis and functions and their role in foreign affairs and development, regional co-operation and mutual understanding. The goal of the project is to foster young leaders with an interest in promoting a peaceful future.
In the beginning of December 2004, with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the EAEI launched an educational reform project on the issue of EU accession and bringing Bulgaria into the Common European Area of University Education. These events initiated fruitful discussions on the role of European universities in developing the European Community as “the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world, the so called Lisbon Strategy 2000.
Another project of the EAEI foundation implemented with the support of the Sofia Open Society Institute focused on Bulgaria’s role for the stability in the Balkans. In early 2005, six Bulgarian cities served as venues for open lectures and discussions with university students on the issue of cooperation between the Balkan countries. The forums discussed the prospects for transforming the negative image of the region as a major precondition for democratic development, economic growth and Euro-Atlantic integration.
In April 2005, EAEI organized a national conference Educating Educators: NATO and Security Issues in High Schools in Bulgaria with the support of the NATO Public Diplomacy Division. The conference provided a forum where teachers, university professors and experts from governmental and non-governmental institutions exchanged views and experience on the subject of security and NATO policy issues and the forms and methods to acquaint young people with security policy issues. One significant outcome of this conference was a plan to publish a NATO manual designed to fit the needs of high-school programs in Bulgaria. The manual will explain NATO issues, such as the principles of the Washington Treaty, the processes of enlargement and transformation of the Alliance, the NATO response to global terrorism, NATO’s partnership initiatives and missions.
The EAEI published a guide NATO …IN BRIEF explaining the purposes of the Alliance in an understandable and objective way, describing the Transatlantic link and security issues with the main goal of facilitating public education. The guide was published in 2006 in Bulgarian and English and by the end of 2006 translations in Albanian, Russian, Serbian and Ukrainian were also made available. Updated guides in Macedonian and Croatian languages will be ready in September 2007. All versions are co-financed by the NATO Public Diplomacy Division.
Another EAEI project - Public Information Forum: Promoting local support and understanding of the tasks and missions of the Bulgarian-US joint bases in Novo selo and Graph Ignatievo was approved by the Democracy Commission Small Grants Program and implemented in the period September 2006 – May 2007. A follow-up Public Information Forum is also scheduled to take place in five Bulgarian cities and two universities in the period September 2007 – August 2008.
EAEI is a partner organization from 2004 to 2007 in the EU Youth Program funded project KERNELS OF OUR FUTURE – fostering leaders by empowering young people to mold a peaceful future. The leading organization is the Greek Association for Atlantic and European Cooperation.
EAEI was also a partner organization in the Strengthening Black Sea Maritime Security international conference, organized along with the NATO Information Centre in Sofia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense with the support of the UK Ministry of Defense: 2 – 3 November 2005.
EAEI is a co-organizer of the Central and South Eastern Europe Security Forum BALKAN MOSAIC, implemented in cooperation with the NATO Information Centre in Sofia, the Atlantic Treaty Association, CASA NATO Romania, the Euro-Atlantic Council of Macedonia, supported by the Danish and Norwegian Ministries of Foreign Affairs, aiming at changing democracy, regional security and human rights concepts in Central and South Eastern Europe – December 2004 – to present.
In May 2007 EAEI published a book with all documents produced by the BALKAN MOSAIC Forum including its Regional Security Strategy. The book was presented to NAC in NATO HQ during the meeting of the Bureau of the Atlantic Treaty Association with NATO Permanent Representatives in the Office of US Permanent Representative to NATO H.E. Mrs. Victoria Nuland.
A delegation of EAEI participated in Junior Security Forum in Struga, June 2007. The meeting was organized in parallel with EAPS NATO Ministerial in Ohrid, Republic of Macedonia. The delegates of the Junior Forum attended the panels of EAPS and had meetings with NATO officials.
Future EAEI initiatives will continue to follow the same line of action. EAEI's role as described by the foundation itself is to provide relevant sources of information, to educate the public on the dimensions of security and to shape positive opinion - thus creating an open forum for public dialogue and cooperation. These goals reflect the three founding points indicated by NATO’s Secretary General, Mr. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer: information, education and dialogue.
The information was provided by Avgustina Tzvetkova, Chair of the Foundation Euro-Atlantic Education Initiative