Turkey, Bulgaria And The Eu's Nobel Peace Prize

Hurriyet Daily News
Dec 18 2012

"So where does your government get its strength?" a Bulgarian think
tanker I met at a conference asked me. "From the people," I replied.

"The ruling party got 50 percent of the votes."

"Does it count? In Bulgaria you can still buy votes," he told me. "I
have many criticisms about Turkish democracy, but holding fair
elections is not one of them," I said.

I was, however, astonished to hear about vote rigging in an EU
member country. Obviously I did not want to jump to a conclusion
from just one comment. Still, when this has come in addition to the
anti-democratic steps taken by Hungary, another EU country, on press
freedoms, my invincible conviction about the soft power of the EU as
a transforming force was a bit shaken... until I started to do some
homework about Bulgaria, as I was set to have an interview with the
country's president.

The EU's transforming effects seem to be at work in Bulgaria, and
one of the areas where it is best manifested looks to be Sofia's
relations with Turkey as well as its Turkish minority.

Let's be frank. When you are neighboring an 75 million-strong country
and 10 percent of your own population has ethnic kinship with that
neighbor, this can lead to some uneasiness. Communist Bulgaria's ethnic
assimilation campaigns constitute dark pages of the two countries'
relations. In this respect it has been unfortunate that the Bulgarian
Parliament's adoption at the beginning of this year of a declaration of
apology did not get the attention it deserved from the Turkish press.

The declaration was not adopted as a result of diplomatic pressure
from Ankara. Neither was it pushed by Bulgaria's Turkish party nor
by the European Commission. It was therefore a clear manifestation
of Bulgarian political maturity. Being an EU member has certainly
played a role in attaining this maturity, as has been the case with
all of the other European countries, which explains why the EU has
got the Nobel Prize.

Obviously there is still room for improvement about the demands of
the Bulgarian Turks. The problem over who should be the legitimate
religious representative seems to have been solved according to the
preferences of the Bulgarian Turks. Expectations as to the use of
Turkish, be it in education or broadcasting, have still not been met
fully, but there seems to be a healthy ground for dialogue to solve
the issues. "When you look to the Turkish minority in Greece, you
can't even compare it; the situation is so much better in Bulgaria,"
a Turkish diplomat told me.

No doubt pragmatism also has a role to play in the improvement of
relations between Turkey and Bulgaria. The government in Sofia most
probably sees more room for prosperity when it looks to its east, where
there is a rising economic center like Turkey, than when it looks to
its west, where European states are struggling with financial troubles.

The municipal council in the town of Yambol in southern Bulgaria,
for example, has revoked its October 2010 declaration recognizing
Armenians' claims of genocide because of complaints from a local
organization that said it was hampering their business with Turkey.

The decision, taken last October, was immediately followed by the
visit of the governor of Edirne, who was accompanied by a group
of businessmen.


From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress