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6th Dec 2019

Bulgaria backpedals on Turkey compensation claim

  • Mr Borissov (l) said that his minister spoke out of line (Photo: European Commission)

Bulgaria's prime minister has threatened to sack one of his ministers in an attempt to make good in a dispute over Turkey's EU accession.

"I have warned Bojidar Dimitrov that the next time something like this happens, we will have to let him go. You don't come out and make such declarations without their having been discussed by the Prime Minister, the cabinet, or the parliament," Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said in remarks cited by Bulgarian TV on Wednesday (6 January).

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Bojidar Dimitrov, a minister without portfolio responsible for the Bulgarian diaspora, told a newspaper on Sunday that Bulgaria would veto Turkey's EU bid unless it pays €14 billion in compensation for Bulgarians driven out in 1913.

A Bulgarian official later said the question is being handled by Bulgarian and Turkish experts and that Mr Borissov will raise it on an upcoming visit to Ankara.

The comments elicited a high-level rebuke from Turkey.

"The friendship between Bulgaria and Turkey is for the good of the two countries. It would be much better if statements that might hurt this friendship are avoided," Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a press conference on Tuesday.

Bulgarian deputy foreign minister Marin Raykov also tried to ease tensions in recent days, saying that there is no threat of a veto and that Bulgaria "backs all the decisions of the European Union, concerning the dialogue between Brussels and Ankara," according to Bulgarian press agency Novinite.

Bojidar Dimitrov is a 64-year-old medieval historian who has in the past attracted controversy over allegations that he was a Communist-era spy, as well as for a book attacking Macedonian nationalism.

The Turkish affair comes in the middle of an already bad week for Bulgaria's EU relations.

A popular investigative journalist, Boris Tsankov, was shot dead in broad daylight in Sofia on Tuesday, compounding the country's reputation as a black spot in terms of organised crime.

Prime Minister Borissov on Wednesday also rebutted an article in Germany's Die Welt which said that the husband of Bulgaria's commissioner designate, Rumiana Jeleva, has ties to the Russian mafia.

"Jeleva a gangster's bride? An absolute lie. Her husband has worked for a bank licensed by the Bulgarian National Bank and the European Central Bank," Mr Borissov said, Novinite reported.

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