Turkish Municipality Cuts Partnership with Bulgarian Cities Over Armenian Genocide

Flags of the European Union and member states.
Flags of the European Union and member states.

Flags of the European Union and member states.

SOFIA(Sofia News Agency) — Three Bulgarian municipalities will not receive EU funding under the cross-border cooperation programs between Bulgaria and Turkey, private bTV station reported.

Haskovo, Burgas and Svilengrad, municipalities whose central cities lie near the border with Turkey, have been barred from cooperating with local authorities in Edirne, the Turkish municipality on the other side of the border.

Edirne Mayor Recep Gurkan has told bTV that the Foreign Ministry of Turkey had explicitly forbidden any interaction with Haskovo due to what it perceives as a controversial position about the mass killings of Armenians in the 20th century. Separately, the local administrations of Haskovo and Burgas earlier adopted statements deploring the Armenian genocide.

Last April, Haskovo and Edirne were deciding whether a park would be named “Armenians.”

Local authorities in Haskovo decided to rename the park in the days when Armenians around the world were marking the Armenian Genocide Centennial.

Mayor Gurkan then called the decision of Haskovo a result of a “unilateral, selective and divisive view of a period that is tragic for the entire population of the Ottoman Empire.”

Mayor Gurkan suggested that the respective local administrations reverse the decision just as the city of Yambol did. Yambol is another municipality located at the Bulgaria-Turkey border with which cooperation was suspended, but then restored.

However, Haskovo Mayor Dobri Belivanov is adamant on the decision and said that “Nobody can interfere (with) how we will name a street or  a park.” The decision to name a park “Armenians” was taken under his predecessor, Georgi Ivanov.

As an external border of the EU, Bulgaria is part of the bloc’s cross-border program whose total worth for the 2014-2020 is an estimated EUR 1 B.

A total of EUR 11 M is potentially available to the three regions of Bulgaria under the cross-border cooperation program. The bulk of this sum has been earmarked for environment preservation and disaster management.

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