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The Turkey accession to the EU?:The Rebate of the Debate

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Babel Sofia


We were tempted to start this blog entry by retelling you a scene from “Pearl” ("Gumus") but we couldn’t. Why? Simply because none of us has even a clue what the plot is about or has watched a series. For better or for worse, it has turned out that this is what defines the Bulgarian public opinion on Turkey. To be or not to be?

On 26 February 2010 an event organised by Cafe Babel Sofia, was supposed to take place; a debate on the role of Bulgaria for the accession of Turkey to the EU. The event took place indeed. The debate itself couldn’t succeed to step up behind the stock phrases and the well-learned clichés.

Although the high participation of his Excellency, Mr Mehmet T. Gücük, Ambassador of Turkey in Bulgaria, Mrs Gergana Passy, Chairwoman of the Pan-European Union Bulgaria and former Minister of European Affairs (20075-2009), the sociologist Mr Antoniy Galabov and Mr Andrey Kovatchev, Member of the European Parliament, clear cut statements and line-to-takes were missing. Each and every of them was tempted to explain how important is to have a debate on the issue, mentioning the strategic position of Bulgaria as a neighbor country. But the answer of the question “What’s the role of Bulgaria?” was nowhere to be found.

P2260581.JPG Only a day earlier, the electronic version of the daily newspaper “Dnevnik” informed about the event. The reactions under the article were mostly negative:

“Only selected speakers…… I guess that there are money to be spent.”

“What Turkey in EU, are you crazy? Turkey is not a normal European country and this has nothing in common with the five-hundred-year yoke or the Movements for Rights and Freedom.”

“Turkey is a Muslim country with a Muslim government and it has not place in the EU.”

“For 50 years Turkey has 4 coup d'etat. Who in Europe does this? Is a normal for a country the democracy to be based on the weapons of the army?”

The moderator of the debate Hristo Anastassov (“Courrier de la Bulgarie”) tried to explain that the accession of Turkey could not be mixed with the five centuries of Ottoman occupation or Bulgaria’s internal political level and especially with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms. His voice was deafen by even more sever comments. None of the people who had left a comment under the article came to the debate to say clearly what he/she thinks the role of the Bulgaria should be for Turkey accession in the EU.

P2260587.JPGFrom left to right: Antoniy Galabov, sociologist; Andrey Kovatchev, MEP; Hristo Anastassov, Courrier de la Bulgarie; Mehmet T. Gücük, Ambassador of Turkey in Bulgaria; Gergana Passy, Chairwoman of the Pan-European Union Bulgaria and Alexandre Nedeltchev, General Secretary of Cafe Babel Sofia

Turkey of Tomorrow

During the presentations of the speakers, it was underlined several times that when the time of accession of Turkey in the EU will come, Turkey will not be the “Turkey of today” but “Turkey of tomorrow”. On the other side, the European Union is hardly to stay the same as we know it today. His Excellency Mr Mehmet T. Gücük, pointed several times the economic development of Turkey and the existing trade partnerships with the European Union and Russia. He added that the accession of Turkey will be a benefit to the EU itself.

Of course, there was an open session with the audience or at least an attempt to have one. On the question from the audience, Mrs Passy said that if the founding EU Member States were looking at their difference, the EU as such would have never been created. She stated that Turkey and Bulgaria has a common past and therefore, they are ought to have a common future. Unfortunately, this did not answer again the question about the Bulgaria’s role in the accession process – simply “for”, “against” or “neutral.

Probably one of the most remarkable and vivid explanations of the feelings of Bulgarians when it comes to Turkey was given by the sociologist Mr Antoniy Galabov. He said that the Turkish soap operas have done in few months for the Bulgarians something that the politics couldn’t achieve for decades – they showed that the Bulgarians and Turks have common values and life perceptions.

P2260590.JPG As in millions times before, during the debate the speakers decided to play safe, to avoid extremist position and to stay neutral-to-positive. The audience did the same. Although the full hall, the youth were asking the same standards questions receiving nothing more than the same standards answers. We all know that there is no such thing as a bad question. The only bad question is the unstated one. So we ask again “What is the role of Bulgaria for Turkey accession to the EU?”…..Silence.

Cafe Babel Sofia Team

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