Bulgarian nationalist leader calls for expulsion of Turkish ambassador, recall of Bulgaria’s ambassador in Ankara
Valeri Simeonov, co-leader of the nationalist United Patriots that is poised to become a partner in GERB party leader Boiko Borissov’s next coalition government, called on April 26 for the expulsion of the Turkish ambassador and the recall of Bulgaria’s ambassador from Ankara.
Simeonov, widely tipped for a senior cabinet post, said that Turkish ambassador Süleyman Gökçe should be declared persona non grata in Bulgaria because, according to the nationalist leader, Gökçe had been interfering in Bulgaria’s domestic affairs.
Simeonov made the comments in a morning television interview on Nova Televizia, twenty-four hours after Gökçe appeared in an interview on the same channel, denying that Ankara interfered in Bulgaria’s internal affairs and calling for a stop to statements alleging that Turkey was a threat to Bulgaria’s national security.
Gökçe had accompanied DOST party leader Lyutvi Mestan when the former MRF leader had travelled in the country setting up new structures of the political party, Simeonov said. “He (Gökçe) participated directly and indirectly in the election campaign.”
Simeonov poured scorn on Gökçe’s call for reconciliation between the two countries, asking what this meant. “Should we renounce our sovereignty and independence? Should we accept that we are a future province of Turkey? Is that what it means to reconcile with our neighbour? The place of Bulgaria is here and in no way should we yield”.
He also attacked his hosts for broadcasting the interview with Gökçe. “Why should you spread the words of the Turkish ambassador, and that on the national airwaves? Put on something more Bulgarian,” Simeonov said.
Studio host Ani Tsolova responded: “Well, what should we put on, the national anthem?”
Simeonov: “The Bulgare Ensemble, to dance the horo” (a reference to a well-known folk dancing ensemble, and Bulgaria’s traditional circular folk dance).
The United Patriots co-leader also called for the withdrawal of Bulgaria’s ambassador to Turkey, Nadezhda Neynsky.
“We think that Nadezhda Neynsky ought to be recalled. Already with the announcement of the elections, she went on tours around Turkey, to urge Muslim organisations to open the maximum number of polling stations. That’s not her job,” Simeonov said.
In Bulgaria, which was under Ottoman rule for about five centuries, claims of Turkish inteference in domestic politics are a recurring theme. Long a signature issue for Bulgarian nationalist politicians, reports about the role of Ankara in seeking to intervene in the March elections were headline-makers and led to tensions between Sofia and Ankara.
In the March elections, alleged interference by Ankara – reportedly to favour Mestan’s DOST party – led to nationalists protesting at the Turkish border in a bid to block buses carrying voters into Bulgaria, and later to a highly controversial proposal to strip Bulgarian passport-holders not resident in the country of their constitutional voting rights.
Gökçe previously has been the subject of calls by nationalist politicians for his expulsion from Bulgaria. In January 2016, he was handed a note by the Foreign Ministry about his conduct during the controversy over the expulsion of Mestan as leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, and on March 7 2017, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry after Turkish cabinet minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu was reported to have made a public call to Bulgarian citizens in Turkey to vote for DOST.