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European projects in Bulgaria fail because of a dispute with Turkey about the Armenian genocide

БНР Новини
The Armenians Park in Haskovo, commemorating the victims of the genocide against the Armenian people
Photo: btvnovinite.bg

Today and tomorrow the second round will be held of the bargaining between EU with Turkey to curb migrant crisis. In my previous commentary, I allowed myself to define as blackmail the three conditions posed by Ankara, namely to double the money from three to six billion euros that the EU gave to the country in order to keep migrants flow under control; second, to allow Turkish citizens to travel to the EU without visas; third, to accelerate the procedure for acceding Turkey into the EU. What will happen in the second round is yet to be seen.

The first condition is feasible, the EU has money, and it can pay these 6 billion euros of ransom, but most likely this will be only the beginning. For removing visas for Turkish citizens may also loopholes can be found but the entry of Turkey into the EU in its current form would already be too much.

Ankara increasingly shows that it is far from the principles and moral foundations of the European community. An example is also the behavior of the Turkish authorities in cross-border cooperation with Bulgaria, a member of the EU. These days Bulgarian media once again warned that the municipalities of Burgas, Haskovo and Svilengrad will not receive money from the EU under the operational program for cross-border cooperation between Bulgaria and Turkey. It's about 11 million euros. The reason is the ban on partnership imposed on Turkish municipalities some time ago by the foreign ministry in Ankara as the park in Haskovo is called "Armenians" in memory of the Armenian genocide and the municipalities of Burgas and Svilengrad have adopted declarations recognizing the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire.

The television channel bTV quoted the mayor of the Turkish city of Edirne Recep Gürkan, who said bluntly: "In Haskovo we worked very well, but we already have a ban from our Foreign Ministry and it is final." To fix things, according to Gürkan, they should follow the example of the Bulgarian city of Yambol, where the municipality cancelled its declaration of recognition of the Armenian genocide.

There are other examples, too. Last summer, the Turkish city of Bursa stopped the implementation of the project for low cost flights with its twin Bulgarian city of Plovdiv after the municipal council adopted a declaration recognizing the Armenian genocide.

Let us leave aside the fact that the "war" declared by Turkey to the “disobedient” Bulgarian municipalities is an unacceptable interference in a country's internal affairs and a serious diplomatic scandal. The failure at the fault of Ankara of the projects for cross-border cooperation deprives the three Bulgarian municipalities of funds to improve the environment and reduce the effects of natural disasters that each winter and spring cause significant damage to their territories.

But history cannot be rewritten. In the late 19th and early 20th century the Ottoman Empire committed an act of genocide by killing over a million and a half Armenians. The Republic of Turkey, however, which succeeded the Ottoman Empire, would not even hear the word "genocide." Why? Because according to international law, genocide is a crime that is prosecuted and punished, including through reparations.

There are dozens of countries around the world, however, which have officially recognized the commitment of the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire. This is shared by most historians and researchers. France and Canada even went further by adopting laws that criminalize the denial of the Armenian genocide.

In the Bulgarian Parliament several attempts were made to recognize the Armenian genocide. But the proposals are not accepted due to the active opposition of MPs from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), the party of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria. However in April last year, the National Assembly acknowledged the "mass extermination" of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. MPs did not gather enough courage to use the term "genocide." But excessive servility always proves counterproductive for both sides. It is high time that Bulgaria emancipated itself and started to put its own conditions as a member of the EU.

English Rossitsa Petcova 

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