Row in Bulgaria over proposal for Parliament to recognise Armenian Genocide

Bulgaria’s Parliament is embroiled in controversy over a proposal to formally recognise the Armenian Genocide – though it appears that plans for the vote to be held on April 24, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, will be thwarted.

The proposal for Bulgaria’s National Assembly to vote on recognition of the Armenian Genocide was tabled, as it has been repeatedly for several years, by far-right ultra-nationalist minority party Ataka, which has a generally anti-Turkey policy, invoking the centuries during which Bulgaria was under Ottoman rule.

In previous years, the proposed recognition has been defeated, being opposed especially by the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, throughout a succession of parliaments the third-largest party and one led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of Turkish descent.

Initially, the 2015 motion by Ataka was placed as the first item on the order paper of the National Assembly’s April 24 sitting. But on April 23, two other items were given priority, respectively, voting on amendment legislation tabled by the centre-right Reformist Bloc and by the centre-right majority partner in the governing coalition, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB.

Given that the Friday sitting has limited time for motions and legislation because it is the day on which Question Time takes up most of Parliament’s time, the precedence given to the other items makes it highly unlikely that MPs will deal with the motion on the “Armenian Genocide”.

MPs from Ataka have been irked by this, with senior Ataka MP Dessislav Chukolov alleging that other parliamentary groups had succumbed to political pressure against the draft declaration.

He alleged that the Turkish embassy had “panicked and exercised every means of influence” so that the item would not be considered by Parliament. The MRF also had a hand in the reshuffle of parliamentary business, Chukulov said.

He said that Ataka had sought eight times since 2006 to get the motion passed, and contrasted the move by the Bulgarian Parliament to the planned vote on April 24 in the German parliament, the Bundestag, which chancellor Angela Merkels’ centre-right CDU has said it would support.

Currently, 23 countries and 43 US states have adopted resolutions acknowledging the “Armenian Genocide”. EU member states who lawmakers have adopted recognitions, in some cases with prison or fines for denying the event, include Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia and Sweden.

Among a number of international, political and religious organisations that recognise the event under the name Armenian Genocide is the EU-level political group the centre-right European People’s Party, of which Bulgaria’s GERB party is a member.

Earlier in April, Roman Catholic church head Pope Francis offended Ankara by referring to the Armenian Genocide by that name and calling it the first genocide of the 20th century.

Pope Francis also called on all heads of state and international organizations to recognise “the truth of what transpired and oppose such crimes without ceding to ambiguity or compromise.”

In a resolution adopted on April 25, the European Parliament commended the statement pronounced by the Pope and encouraged Turkey to recognise the genocide and so pave the way for a “genuine reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian peoples”.

Ankara vehemently denies the charge of genocide, saying the deaths occurred in a civil war, in which many Turks died, too. But, according to a report by the Voice of America, Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu this week expressed condolences to Armenians whose relatives were killed.

(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)



The Sofia Globe staff

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