Archive for Bulgaria
Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry said on March 16 that it was recalling its ambassador in Ankara, Nadezhda Neynsky, for consultations. The single-sentence statement by the Foreign Ministry gave no reason why Neynsky was being called back to Sofia, but the development comes amid continuing controversy about reported interference by Turkey in Bulgaria’s March 26 early parliamentary elections. In diplomatic practice, recalling an ambassador for consultations is generally seen as a second stage of protest after formally summoning a foreign country’s ambassador, but is a stop short of suspending diplomatic relations. The Turkish ambassador in Sofia, Süleyman Gökçe, was summoned to the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry on March 7, to hear a protest from caretaker Deputy Foreign Ministry Boiko Mirchev following reports about a Turkish cabinet minister having called on Bulgarians in Turkey to vote for Lyutvi Mestan’s DOST party.
Elena Poptodorova, who on Tuesday was detained at the airport in Warsaw with unpaid cosmetics from a duty-free shop, denied having stolen the goods. The Bulgarian News Agency quotes Poptodorova as saying she had received a call from her sick mother and went out of the shop to accept it there with the cosmetics in her hands. Reportedly, Poptodorova, who has not served at the Foreign Ministry over the past year, showed her diplomatic passport to authorities. She has been Sofia’s Ambassador to Washington for a total of 12 years, two times between 2002 and 2008 and 2010-2016. After leaving her second posting there, she was appointed head of the Warsaw office of Global Jewish Advocacy, a non-profit.
The French Embassy in Sofia has never taken sides in Bulgarian domestic issues, having acting only as a careful observer, according to new French ambassador Xavier Lapeyre de Cabanes. “I’ve been in Bulgaria for a month and a half; I am an observern, not a participant in political life; I try tu understand what is happening, but I cannot make assessments,” said de Cabanes while on a visit to Plovdiv. According to the French envoy, protests are nothing out of the ordinary in democratic countries. Lepeyre de Cabanes also stated that the fact that predecessor Philippe Autie met with anti-cabinet protesers over the summer does not mean that he or the French Embassy have made a point against the embattled cabinet of PM Plamen Oresharski. Autie’s action, together with a prior open letter co-authored with German ambassador Matthias Hoepfner, met the enthusiastic response of protesters and strong criticisms on the part of some Bulgarian politicians from the ruling coalition. New ambassador de Cabanes said that he on his part also had the chance to meet protesters and become acquainted with their demands. He stressed that this action implies no taking sides in the conflict.
A Bulgarian driver intentionally crashed his car into the Turkish embassy building in Bulgaria’s capital city. Bulgarian driver, Marco Zekov, who is living in Bulgaria’s Varna city, hit the building of the Turkish embassy in Sofia with his car in an attempt to get revenge for his brother who was allegedly killed in Turkey. Passing through the embassy barriers in his car, Zekov hit the main entrance of the building used by embassy officials, including the Turkish ambassador to Sofia. Witnesses said that after crashing into the building, Zekov told a police official that his brother was killed in Turkey and that he carried out this attack to get revenge for his brother. Zekov, who has a criminal record, could face up to five years in prison for the crime. Bulgarian media reports have stated that Zekov is mentally imbalanced and has been suffering from psychological problems.
A request by the Bulgarian Embassy to name a Washington intersection after a favorite native son _ a man credited with helping save the country’s Jewish population from deportation _ has gotten tangled up in a broader debate about whether the nation is accurately accounting for the actions of its leaders during the Holocaust. The debate involving the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has played out behind the scenes as the D.C. Council prepares this month to consider honoring Dimitar Peshev. The issue arose in December when the embassy voiced support for naming an intersection for Peshev in a letter that put a favorable spin on Bulgarian treatment of Jews during World War II. The letter was partially drafted by a real-estate agent with an interest in Bulgarian history, put on embassy letterhead and signed by the ambassador. But the Holocaust museum, invited by the D.C. Council to review the accuracy of the letter, said the request _ along with a recent declaration by Bulgaria’s Parliament _ glossed over a more checkered history. As vice president of the Parliament, Peshev publicized a secret deportation order that would have sent tens of thousands of Jews of Bulgarian origin to German death camps in Poland. He circulated a protest petition among fellow legislators in 1943 as clergymen, students and others united in support of the Jewish population. The deportations were suspended and King Boris III sent Jews to labor camps in the country but refused to turn them over to the Nazis, saying he needed them as construction workers. The rescue story has won Bulgaria praise as the rare European country to buck Nazi demands, and Peshev is recognized by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, as “Righteous Among the Nations.” The D.C. museum says it doesn’t quarrel with recognizing Peshev or question his historical significance, but says any honor must be placed in larger context. It has objected in particular to the letter’s characterization of Bulgaria as a “Nazi-occupied country” and to the assertion that no Bulgarian Jews were deported to death camps. The museum and other historians say the letter obscures the reality that Bulgaria was an ally of Nazi Germany and that 11,343 Jews were deported from Macedonia and northern Greece _ territories then under Bulgarian control.
Bulgarian ambassador to London has criticized campaign leaflets by the UK Independence Party (UKIP) describing Bulgarians as a “threat” to Britain’s social system. Speaking on the Sky News Murnaghan programme on Sunday, Konstantin Dimitrov said material sent to voters ahead of May’s council elections, questioning the impact of Bulgarian migrants on UK jobs and social services, was “absolutely unacceptable”. He argued that Bulgarians do not appear in the top 20 nationalities who claim from the system in the UK. When Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union (EU) in 2007, Britain and several other countries imposed restrictions on the new members’ access to their labor markets until January 2014. Restrictions on people wanting to come to the UK are lifted from the end of the year, but far-right groups are scaremongering over a significant increase in the number of migrants. Earlier in February, Romania’s ambassador to London Ion Jinga warned that predictions of an influx of Eastern European immigrants are putting Romanians in Britain at risk of racist attacks.
Hundreds of angry Bulgarians staged an anti-British rally claiming it was ‘arrogant’ to assume hoards of eastern Europeans would flock to the UK for free handouts as soon as restrictions are relaxed. The protest, which took place outside the British embassy in the capital Sofia, was led by the ultra-right ‘Ataka’ group well known for its xenophobic views. Their leader Volen Siderov accused the UK of double standards and branded the British government racist. He called for a boycott of British products and for the sale of Bulgarian property to Brits to be banned. The embassy was forced to close as hundreds of his followers turned up in support – many wearing paramilitary gear. From January 1, 2014, almost 30 million Romanians and Bulgarians will be entitled to live and work freely in the UK.