Analysis 22 Aug 16

Bulgaria Pays the Price for Friendship with Turkey

Bulgaria complied with demands for extraditions of opponents of the Turkish government, hoping to prevent Ankara unleashing a new refugee influx, but Sofia is risking its relationships with Western allies, experts warn. 

Mariya Cheresheva
President Erdogan named Bulgaria as a possible example for the US, which has refused to extradite the US-based Islamic Cleric Fethullah Gulen. Photo: Anadolu Agency

Bulgarian leaders have been showing "insecurity and fear" in their recent dealings with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which - even if justified, is "a bad sign for the state politics", Ilian Vassilev, а Bulgarian diplomat and former ambassador to Moscow, told BIRN.

Vassilev said that after the failed coup in Turkey and the subsequent government crackdown on its alleged adversaries, Bulgaria is understandably acting very cautiously towards its southern neighbor.

"It is easier to snarl at Erdogan from Vienna, Berlin or Budapest, when you know that there are many buffer countries between you and Turkey," he said. "For Sofia, it is different."

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is preparing to meet Erdogan in Istanbul on Friday to discuss joint energy projects and other bilateral issues.

After the latest developments in Turkey as well as the worsening relations between Erdogan’s regime and the EU and the US, Bulgaria has found itself in a difficult and vulnerable position.

On one hand, the Bulgarian government has shown its commitment to maintain warm relations with Turkey, fearing the risk of Ankara flooding the country with refugees. On the other, Bulgaria - as an EU and NATO member country - needs to remain in line with its Western allies.

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