European Parliament to debate Bulgaria’s proposed referendum on Turkish newscasts
December 17th, 2009

The group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) is to insist on putting on the January 2010 agenda of the European Parliament the plan to hold a referendum in Bulgaria on whether to continue news bulletins in Turkish on Bulgaria’s public broadcaster.

The issue arose when, on December 15 2009, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and ruling party GERB publicly endorsed ultra-nationalist party Ataka’s campaign for a national referendum on the special daily news bulletin in Turkish. The news bulletin is 10 minutes long and has been broadcast five days a week at 5pm since 2000.

“The Bulgarian Government should come to its senses. By supporting the idea of Bulgaria’s Ataka ultra-nationalist party for holding such a referendum on minority issues, it is only logical that the majority will overcome,” Bulgarian-language Dnevnik daily quoted ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt as saying on December 17 2009.

According to Mr Verhofstadt, Bulgaria risked being confronted with basic provisions of European and international law and with the country’s obligations to protect minorities and their languages. “Shutting down the news bulletin could lead to tension in Bulgarian society and could harm the country’s image abroad,” Mr Verhofstadt said.

Bulgaria’s Movement for Rights and Freedoms party, customarily described by Bulgarian media as representing Bulgarian Muslims, is a member of ALDE. On December 17 2009, Turkey’s foreign ministry said that it was closely following the issue and hoped it could be solved through dialogue.

The same day, Mr Borissov had a phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the issue. Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov described the referendum plan as a trap into which Borissov had fallen.

(Source: Sofia Echo)