Sofia, Ankara exemplary neighbours
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov: Relations between Turkey and the EU will normalise
Viktoria Boyadzhieva, Ankara, Monitor correspondent
17 June, 2017
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim discussed the prospect of Bulgaria getting natural gas supplies via the territory of its south neighbour at their meeting in Ankara on 13 June. The Turkish premier used the platform to underline Ankara’s expectations that the government in Sofia will support the country’s European integration.
“Bulgaria and Turkey are exemplary neighbours. The EU is our family and Turkey is our largest European neighbour. We are directly affected by the state of relations between these two parties,” Borisov stressed following his meeting with Yildirim, at whose invitation he had a one-day visit to Turkey on his birthday. “Relations between Turkey and the EU will normalise. They are at their lowest point now. Things were said that would have not normally been said. We need diplomacy and conviction to return to the state of things from 2 years ago,” Borisov said, showing confidence and optimism. The premier believes the current tension arose from the series of national elections but now that they are over the expectation is once again for calm and good tone to settle over the landscape. Borisov reminded of the benefits of the EU-Ankara migrant deal. “The wave threatened to sweep Europe away. We are right next to Turkey,” the premier said. Borisov urged people to remember the height of the refugee crisis and the help provided by our south neighbour. In Borisov’s opinion, Turkey still believes the EU is its future but there is resistance from some Member States. This is why the premier hopes that foreign ministers and diplomats will do a good job.
“Mr Yildirim and I share the same view,” Borisov noted. He outlined the possibility of cooperation with Turkey on natural gas transmission and said that talks will be initiated to that end. “My hope is that the Azerbaijan gas will be included in these talks,” noted Borisov, referring to supplies for the Balkan Gas Hub. “Turkey is our NATO partner in the south. It is all well and good to make strong statements but we should not forget Turkey’s role. Military conflicts are raging not far from us,” he added.
For his part, Yildirim said that Europe’s security starts with Turkey and Bulgaria. “Europe should be mindful of this,” he said. He made it clear that the door to the country’s accession to the EU is open. “Bulgaria is set to assume the presidency of the Council of the EU. This is important to Turkey’s European future. We have steps towards joining the EU. We expect support from Sofia,” said the Turkish prime minister, in whose estimation there are about 3m Syrian refugees residing in Turkey. He called for the idea of visa-free movement of Turkish citizens to get another look. “Europe did not do well during the referendum or the failed coup attempt. Many countries either stayed silent or had an extreme response. Europe should revise its view on Turkey,” he noted but stressed that Bulgaria scored high on this “test”.
Furthermore, Yildirim expressed gratitude for Bulgaria’s good treatment of the Turkish people in Bulgaria. “These people are an important factor in strengthening our relations. The open attitude you show is a credit to you. You are supportive and serve as a corrective influence deterring extreme reactions,” he told Borisov. “The two allied nations will develop their relations and cooperate. We will protect our borders and work to bring prosperity to the region,” Yildirim concluded.
Prime Minister Borisov was welcomed earlier by his Turkish counterpart at the Cankaya residence under the sound of the Bulgarian anthem. He was accompanied by a delegation comprising the Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Culture and Media Vezhdi Rashidov, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva, the head of the political cabinet Rumyana Bachvarova and Bulgaria’s Ambassador to Turkey Nadezhda Neynski. Borisov gifted Yildirim with a replica of a Rogozen Treasure pitcher, while Yildirim congratulated Borisov on his birthday in Bulgarian. Later Borisov met with Turkish President Recep Erdogan at the new Bestepe Presidential Palace in Ankara, becoming the first Bulgarian statesman to set foot in the building.