“Kidnapping” NATO SG Manfred Wörner
The Atlantic Trabant first rose to international fame when it was promoted by CNN on 13 June 1991. On this day, Dr. Solomon Passy (Founder & President of the ACB, later the Foreign Minister who negotiated Bulgaria’s membership in NATO) used it to “kidnap” the Secretary-General of NATO Manfred Wörner during the first visit of a NATO SG to Bulgaria. This episode was a powerful expression of NATO’s support for Eastern Europe’s aspiration to reunite with the Euro-Atlantic world. It triggered a tradition for the Atlantic Trabant (or “Trabi”) to become the preferred vehicle for a number of VIPs visiting Bulgaria.
In November 1990, on invitation of NATO SG Manfred Wӧrner and US Permanent Representative to NATO Ambassador William Taft IV, Dr. Passy led the first ever parliamentary delegation from the territory of the Warsaw Pact to visit NATO HQ. During this visit, the hosts blessed the Bulgarian idea to establish the first pro-Atlantic NGO outside of NATO. This was the first documented moment of the birth of the Atlantic movement in New Europe, and Trabi became the official car of the ACB.
Trabi’s CV: 1984 – 2015
The true political performance of Trabi started in August 1990, after the plea of Solomon Passy before the Grand National Assembly for Bulgaria to leave the Warsaw Pact and join NATO.
In October 1991, Trabi welcomed the delegation of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, in Sofia.
In March 1995, Gen. George Joulwan, SACEUR, delivered a speech at the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria and became the first military commander passenger of Trabi.
In May 1996, during his first visit to Bulgaria, after 50 years in exile, King Simeon II became the first royal passenger of Trabi.
February 2002: Lord George Robertson, Secretary-General of NATO.
Further boost of Atlantic movement in the New Europe was encouraged in a joint declaration of Secretary of State James Baker and German MFA Hans Dietrich Genscher, on 10 May 1991.
May 2002: Walter Schwimmer, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
May 2004: Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Secretary-General of NATO.
On 23 – 26 May 2002, Pope John Paul II visited Bulgaria and blessed the Trabant.
But even in Communist Bulgaria Trabi was the vehicle of democratization. In March 1989, after the anti-communist dissident photographer Simon Varsano was shot and wounded by Militia officers, Solomon Passy and the future President of democratic Bulgaria Dr. Zhelyu Zhelev made a clandestine investigation of the shooting site, while riding the Trabi.
Retire with honor
On 16 September 2015, after its successful 31-year-long Euro-Atlantic mission, Trabi was donated by Dr. Solomon Passy to the National Museum of Military History in Sofia, thus commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the organized Atlantic movement in New Europe.
Historical Data and Legacy for Bulgaria
Historical data describes the Trabant as an automobile that was produced from 1957 to 1990 by former East German auto maker VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau in Zwickau, Saxony. It is often regarded as a symbol of the defunct East Germany and of the economic collapse of the Eastern Bloc in general. The car is produced from cardboard, not sheets of steel. In German, “trabant” means satellite. So, Trabi was the real satellite, or life companion, in Bulgaria’s journey from the Warsaw Pact to NATO’s Big Bang (significant enlargement in Eastern Europe) in 2004.
The Trabant in NATO HQ
In November 2019, a replica of the Atlantic Trabant was donated to NATO from Dr. Solomon Passy. The replica was sent to Brussels after a farewell ceremony at the Sofia National Museum of Military History, during which the team of The Atlantic Club of Bulgaria took goodbye with the Trabant. The Trabant was then placed at NATO HQ as part of an art project on the occasion of the 15th anniversary from the membership of Bulgaria in NATO and the 70th anniversary from the foundation of the Alliance.