Monday, March 10, 2008

Turkey Blocks EU Funds over Bulgaria's Burgas Recognition of Armenian Genocide

10 March 2008, Monday
Sofia News Agency, Bulgaria

Turkey's government declined to sign a EU-funded cooperation agreement with Bulgaria because of the decision of the city council in the Black Sea city of Burgas to recognize the genocide of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1922.

The funds blocked by Turkey under the PHARE Trans-border Cooperation Program amount to EUR 32 M, the Bulgarian private TV channel BTV reported. EUR 12 M of these are for the 2007-2009 period.

The agreement was supposed to be signed on March 6 by the district governors of the Bulgarian Burgas District, and the Turkish Edirne District but the meeting was canceled by the Turkish side.

"It is not within the authority of the Burgas City Council to take decisions on political matters, especially with regard to this issue as there is no consensus between Turkey and Armenia over it, and the interference by a third party will not be of any help", declared Turkey's General Consul in the city of Burgas on Sunday, March 9.

The Burgas Mayor Dimitar Nikolov also received Saturday a letter from the Edirne District Governor regarding Burgas City Council's decision to recognize the Armenian genocide stating: "This decision is offensive and we denounce it. Until it is canceled we will discontinue all social, cultural, and economic contracts with your district."

Mayor Nikolov, who is from the Sofia Mayor Boyko Borisov's GERB party, expressed his surprise over Turkey's sharp reaction. He said the City Council was going to discuss the matter during its next session.

The Burgas City Council is dominated by members of the extreme right Ataka Party, and of the GERB party. On February 28 it voted to recognize the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire, and declared April 24 Day of Remembrance.

Last week members of the rightist Democrats for Strong Bulgaria party of the former PM Ivan Kostov tabled a proposal for recognizing the Armenian Genocide to the city council in Bulgaria's capital Sofia.

Bulgaria's parliament has rejected similar motions by the rightist opposition several times, allegedly because of the ethnic Turkish part Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which is a junior partner in the governing three-way coalition.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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