Why Didn't Bulgaria's Borisov Ask Erdogan about Turkey's Neo-Ottomanism?

Editorial |Author: Ivan Dikov | March 20, 2012, Tuesday // 18:59|  views

Bulgaria's government of PM Boyko Borisov has completed its first joint sitting with the Cabinet of Turkey led by PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Bulgaria's ministers are coming back from the Turkish capital Ankara with a whole bunch of well-sounding, well-intentioned, and probably well thought through agreements, and the Bulgarian Prime Minister Borisov, in what seems to be a fit of good-neighborliness and his well-known foreign language skills, even greeted Erdogan's honor guard in Turkish, by saying, "Merhaba, asker!"

This must be a sign of diplomatic reciprocity with the speech Turkish President Abdullah Gul made in Hitrino in Northeastern Bulgaria last summer when his spoke in Turkish without any translation in a brutal disregard of the diplomatic manners. Of course, back then the Bulgarian leadership pretended nothing wrong had happened. Only now has its logic become clear: the Turkish leaders come over to Bulgaria and speak in Turkish with no translation; the Bulgarian leaders go to Turkey and do the same – speak in Turkish with no translation (or least try). This must be what good neighborly relations stand for, at least one-way.

The Bulgarian state leader Borisov could have really done something if he had asked directly his counterpart Erdogan about Turkey's Neo-Ottomanism in the Balkans and beyond.

A quick reference note – the term "Neo-Ottomanism" is used to describe the foreign policy of Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, in power in Turkey since 2002, and marks a rather revolutionary deviation from the Kemalism of the Turkish Republic. In a nutshell, it aims at restoring Turkey's spheres of influence on the territories of the former Ottoman Empire. And last time I checked, the Bulgarian history books still said Bulgaria suffered quite a bit from the empire in question.

No, this is not some kind of ill-conceived nationalist rambling! This is not about seeking confrontation but about seeking openness! This is not about the fact that Bulgarians were slaughtered in the Ottoman Empire for 500 years – or at least from time to time. This is about the fact that thanks to the dynamic development of the Turkish economy, population growth, and other factors (which cannot be said of some other nations, for example those with Sofia as their capital, that have snoozed through all development opportunities since the 1960s), Bulgaria now has as a neighbor a rising regional and even supra-regional power that hasn't meddled in Bulgaria's domestic affairs yet only thanks to its own good will.

It is unclear as to why Turkey with its strong economic development even needs the doctrine of Neo-Ottomanism which by definition stands for interventionism in the internal affairs of all former Ottoman Empire provinces.

But it is also unclear how long Turkey's good will towards Bulgaria will last keeping in mind precisely the Neo-Ottomanist foundations of its new foreign policy.

Bulgaria's leaders must go for good-neighborly relations with Turkey on all levels, no questions asked. But they must make sure that these relations stay that way. The way to do that is by formulating positions and standing up for them firmly. Otherwise next time Borisov goes to Ankara, he will have to know more vocabulary in the local language, and that will be the least.


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Tags: turkey, neo-Ottomanism, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Boyko Borisov, Prime Minister, Ankara, Ottoman Empire, Ottoman Turkey, Ottoman Turkish Empire


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