SOFIA – Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov advocated on Friday for the normalization of ties between the European Union and Turkey and Russia, adding that his country would endeavor to achieve this during its six-month presidency of the council of the EU.
Borissov was speaking alongside European Council chief Jean-Claude Juncker at a ceremony in the Bulgarian capital Sofia that opened Bulgaria’s six-month rotating presidency of the EU body.
“Turkey and Russia are of course important neighbors of the European Union, we, therefore, have to be careful in these affairs,” said the Bulgarian head of government. “I think we should try to normalize our relations (with Turkey and Russia). But of course, it is something we must discuss in the Council, with all of our colleagues.”
Ties between Brussels and Ankara have frayed since senior Turkish officials accused the EU of providing safe haven to those it holds responsible for the failed 2016 coup d’état as well as Kurdish separatists classified as terrorists by Turkey.
Similarly, Russian relations too became fraught after EU leaders pointed to President Vladimir Putin as bearing responsibility for the pro-Moscow rebel insurgency in east Ukraine, an implication that the strongman leader has denied.
In turn, Jean-Claude Juncker struck a more cautious note regarding the smoothing over of ties with Turkey and said the country, which straddles the European and Asian continents, was taking great steps away from the EU’s ambitions.
However, Borissov told the audience that the migrant deal struck between the EU and Turkey had significantly alleviated the pressures brought on European nations by the refugee crisis.
Borissov also promoted extending EU membership to other Balkan nations, saying it would boost competition, investment and tourism and further unite citizens.