HC Deb 21 January 1897 vol 45 cc184-6

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign. Affairs whether Her Majesty's Government have during the past year received communication of any dispatch from the Turkish Government calling attention to the obligation assumed by the Powers of Europe, signatories of the Treaty of Berlin, by Articles IX., XXXIII. and XLII. of that Treaty, to fix the amount of the annual tribute to be paid by Bulgaria to Turkey by agreement between themselves, and also to fix by agreement between their representatives at Constantinople in concert with the Sublime Porte the portion of the public debt of Turkey to be borne respectively by Bulgaria, by Montenegro, and by Servia, and asking the powers to fulfil this obligation; if so, whether any reply was sent by Her Majesty's Government to such representation, and whether Her Majesty's Government will lay upon the Table of this House a copy of the dispatch itself, and of the reply, if any, made thereto; and whether he will inform the House what steps Her Majesty's Government have taken at any time during the 18 years since the Treaty of Berlin in 1878 to come to the stipulated agreement with the other Powers, and with what results?


A note to the effect mentioned by the hon. Member, and referring also to the portion of the debt to be borne by Greece, was received from the Turkish Ambassador on the 22nd ultimo. In reply, his Excellency was informed that it is the desire of Her Majesty's Government that the Treaty of Berlin should be exactly fulfilled, and that if for that purpose it should appear desirable to do so, they would be ready to exchange views on the subject with the other Powers signatory of that Treaty. These notes can be laid upon the Table of the House if it is so desired. Prior to 1885 Her Majesty's Government made repeated but unsuccessful endeavours to obtain a settlement of the question. In that year it was again raised by the Turkish Government, and a circular dispatch was addressed to the Powers by Lord Granville, recapitulating these attempts and inquiring whether the Powers would instruct their representatives at Constantinople to resume consideration of the matter. The Bowers seemed disposed to agree, with the exception of Russia, from whom no reply was received. In September, 1887, Her Majesty's Agent at Sofia was instructed to present to the Bulgarian Government a letter from the Council of Foreign Bondholders calling attention to the failure of that Government to fulfil the financial obligations imposed upon it and upon Eastern Roumelia under the Treaty of Berlin. An arrangement was arrived at for the payment of the Eastern Roumelian Tribute, but nothing was done as regards Bulgaria's share of the Ottoman Debt. Pending a decision on that case no further steps were taken with regard to the other countries concerned.


The right hon. Gentleman is, of course, aware that the question is not to be submitted to the representatives of the Powers at Constantinople. The question of the Bulgarian tribute is to be considered, not by the representatives of the Powers, but by the Powers themselves. Has the right hon. Gentleman borne that in mind?


Oh, yes, I was perfectly aware of that when I drew up the answer.