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Bulgarian-Turkish border and the initiatives of Turks who had out-migrated from Bulgaria, made
it possible to launch Bulgarian-Turkish enterprises in the 1990s, which facilitated the replacement
of technologies well established in socialist times in the Haskovo district. The town recognises
the role of Turkish investment for the development of the economy in the district, especially with
reference to the light industry (the sewing and the shoe business, the food industry, etc.) and the
services. In this connection, there are comments that we (Bulgarians) are not moving to Turkey,
they are coming to Bulgaria. There is also the problem of economic dependence.
The ‘permeability’ of the Bulgarian-Turkish border encourages the mobility of the border
population to travel. Trafficking, smuggling, using channels, shopping, business, sightseeing,
holidays – it does not matter what the reason for crossing the border is, European Turkey attracts
more and more Bulgarians from the region. It is normal to hear from people in Svilengrad that
the distance to Istanbul is comparable to the distance to Sofia, but you need less time going
to Istanbul and there are more things worth seeing there. At the level of everyday life, there is
a turning back to that part of Thrace that the local population was naturally connected with
before the border was established. We have a revision of directions; we also have the flows of
people, cultural, trade and economic links and responsibilities, which have started, bottom-up,
re-vitalising the idea of a non-divided Thrace, constructing the identity of the Thrace Euroregion,
and if that is not the entire historical region, it is a large portion of it.
The role of institutions
In 1992,
formulated the idea of Thrace with no borders. With the support of the
National centre for territorial development, they came up with a project
The integration of Thrace
within the framework of EU: the creation and development of Euroregion Thrace
. The project was
discussed at a conference under the patronage of the then president Georgi Parvanov. In 2006,
the creation of Euroregion Thrace in the framework of three states became a strategic objective
in the statutes of the Union. A step in that direction was the activity of the Thracian organisation
directed towards the opening of small border checkpoints. The checkpoints Zlatograd – Xanti
and Slaveevo – Kyprinos started functioning in 2010 and this is evaluated as a significant step in
creating zones for the free movement of goods and people, for intensifying trade and tourist links
between Bulgaria and Greece, and for the economic revival of the places close to the border (cf.
Bokova 2012). There has been a noticeable intensification in the spheres of tourism and services
in the last year or so. The new checkpoint, the possibility to travel across the border on a daily
basis and to be employed, these are steps towards the reconstruction of the old links the town
and the district had with the places on the other side of the border.
The idea for a Thrace with no borders is not approved of by those leaders and members of
the Thracian organisation, who insist on paying tribute to the victims, on sealing the memory of
39 The checkpoint at Ivaylovgrad facilitated the access to the town for Bulgarians as well. The distance via
Svilengrad and the Greek villages is 58 km, pretty much the distance via Lubimets and across the mountain, but
travelling in the plain is much faster and safer. The locals prefer that route in order to reach Haskovo and the interior
of the country.