SOFIA (Bloomberg)–Bulgaria distanced itself from a proposal to block Turkey’s European Union membership bid unless it gets $10 billion in compensation for property Bulgarians lost during forced migrations a century ago.
“Bulgaria’s official position on Turkey’s EU membership bid coincides with that of the European Commission,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Dragovest Goranov said in a phone interview on Thursday, adding that the government “fully” supports Turkey’s efforts to meet membership requirements. “We have unresolved bilateral issues, as all neighboring countries do, and we discuss those separately.”
The dispute is tied to a 1913 move by the then Ottoman Empire to expel hundreds of thousands of ethnic Bulgarians from lands lying west of the Bosphorus Strait. The Republic of Turkey in 1925 recognized the rights of the displaced people in a treaty whose terms were never implemented.
Bulgarian minister without portfolio Bojidar Dimitrov, who runs the country’s Agency for Bulgarians Abroad, said on Jan. 3 the government was preparing an official application for compensation and that its support for Turkey’s EU membership bid was conditional on payment.
Prime Minister Boiko Borissov rebuked Dimitrov on Jan. 6 for expressing his personal views as government policy, without discussing them with other Cabinet members. A government spokesman working with Dimitrov was fired. Borissov plans to visit Turkey in two weeks, Goranov said.
“The issue dates back to more than 80 years ago, negotiations are ongoing, though it is a delicate matter,” Goranov said. “It is in no way linked to EU enlargement.”
Turkey started negotiations to join the 27-nation bloc as the first predominantly Muslim member in 2005, opening talks in 11 of 35 policy areas and completing one. Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007.