The Presidents of Bulgaria and Turkey Georgi Parvanov and Abdullah Gul have expressed joint will for the settling of any remaining unresolved bilateral issues, urging the two countries' governments to act.
During Gul's visit in Sofia on Monday, which was topped by bilateral and multilateral energy projects such as the joint gas interconnection and the Nabucco pipeline, the two heads of state demonstrated good neighborly relations in spite of existing issues whose resolving has been dragging on for decades. The Presidents have urged the joint Bulgarian-Turkish commission for settling mutual claims to finally become more efficient.
In addition to demands on part of the Turkish business about easing the visa regime and the border crossing procedures for the truck traffic - which were raised during a bilateral business forum, several diplomatic and practical issues remain on the agenda.
These include the claims for compensations from Turkey for Bulgarians who fled Eastern Thrace (European Turkey) amidst repressions in the 1910s and 1920s.
Organizations of the descendants of Thracian Bulgarians are claiming that the Turkish state owes them as much as USD 10 B for real estate properties their ancestors left behind in today's European Turkey - and that these claims have been recognized with the Treaty of Friendship between Bulgaria and Turkey signed in the Turkish capital Ankara (also known as Angora at the time) on October 18, 1925 (the so called Angora Treaty).
The major grounds of the Bulgarian Thracian compensation claims for Turkey is the Angora Treaty of 1925.
Some 250,000 Bulgarians fled their homes in Eastern Thrace after the Second Balkan War in 1913, when Turkey, back then still the Ottoman Empire, seized the opportunity to reclaim some of the territories the Ottoman Empire had lost in 1912-1913 to the Balkan Allies in the First Balkan War. There are around 800,000 descendants of the refugees from 1913.
The compensations issue has been raised especially by Bulgaria's Diaspora Minister Bozhidar Dimitrov. In December 2009, Dimitrov even suggested Bulgaria should veto Turkey's EU accession unless the compensations issue was not settled - which led Prime Minister Borisov to scold him publicly and to deny any such moves.
The issue was raised again on Monday during Gul's visit to the Bulgarian Parliament for a meeting with its chief, Tsetska Tsacheva. Members of Parliament from the nationalist party Ataka led by its leader Volen Siderov waited for Gul and raised banners saying, "Turkey owes Bulgaria USD 10 B for the Thracian properties. When are you going to pay them, Mr. President?" Gul has not reacted to their presence before the Parliament building. Ataka has staged similar actions in the past during visits of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
From among the remaining issues, the Turkish side insists that all questions about the payment of retirement pensions by the government in Sofia to ethnic Turkish Bulgarian expats, or the so called Bulgarian Turks, be settled. Some 300 000-400 000 Bulgarian Turks live in Turkey fleeing in the late 1980s when the Bulgarian Communist Party and communist dictator Todor Zhivkov staged the notorious so called "Revival Process" or "Regeneration Process" - a campaign to assimilate first ethnic Bulgarian Muslims and then ethnic Turks by forcing them to adopt Slavic-Christian names instead of their Arab-Turkish ones.
Another major issue that Turkey asks to see resolved is the situation with the construction of a water reservoir on the Bulgarian river Tundzha because of the flooding of border areas in European Turkey by the Bulgarian river.
"The political dialogue between Bulgaria and Turkey does not depend on the change of governments in the two countries and there is consistency. It is a common opinion that there are no political issues that can't be settled, and that technical problems are to be resolved," Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov declared during his joint news conference with Gul.
Gul's meeting with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov Monday afternoon focused on energy projects, tourism, and general bilateral ties, the government press service said.