Bavaria backs Bulgaria's Schengen accessionEuropost , Sofia
"We support Bulgaria for Schengen," Bavarian Minister President Markus Soeder told a news conference after a one-to-one session with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov at the Council of Ministers here on Thursday. In his opinion, Bulgaria guards Europe's external borders remarkably and has achieved a lot for the European Union. Soeder is visiting Bulgaria at Borissov's invitation. They discussed bilateral cooperation in home affairs, security, economy and finance, as well as other issues on the European agenda.
"Today Bulgaria is showing how strong and stable it is and how important and significant the efforts are to safeguard EU border security," Soeder commented.
The Bavarian Minister President stressed that Bulgaria has received support from the EU to protect the external border but has also invested its own funds and efforts to that end. "The country is a stable destination for future investments and is an important stability factor in the region," he added.
Borissov said he had briefed Soeder on the way Bulgaria guards Europe's external border. "Bulgaria ranks first in Europe in the number of arrested and convicted migrant traffickers," he pointed out. "This means that Bulgaria is strictly honouring its commitments".
The Prime Minister was adamant that his country is a very good place for investments and is fully prepared to join the Schengen Area. In his words, the problem now is not at the border with Turkey but at the border with Greece, which is part of the Schengen Area.
Before their news conference, Borissov and Soeder signed a Joint Declaration on Cooperation in Security and the Fight against Crime between the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Free State of Bavaria.
Later, Borissov and Soeder took part in a roundtable on "EU External Border Protection and Migration Policies of the Republic of Bulgaria", organized by the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry and the Hanns Seidel Foundation. Addressing the participants, the Bulgarian Prime Minister said that the governments' political will, the agreements with third countries and the 150 million euro financial support provided by the European Commission for protection of the EU are the three measures that make external border security 100 per cent effective. In his words, the agreement with Turkey functions very well at the Bulgarian-Turkish border.
"Bulgaria has problems on the border with Greece because, being a Schengen border, it has no fences. Besides this, it is 800 km long and is difficult to guard," he pointed out.
Borissov said that 133 persons were convicted of human trafficking in Bulgaria in 2018, and another 30 were convicted in the first quarter of 2019. A total of 5,492 of nearly 7,000 migrants have voluntarily returned to Turkey from the Bulgarian border, he noted.
The Prime Minister also commented that his Government is concerned by the УHope ConvoyФ or УJourney to HopeФ organized in migrant camps in Turkey. "Bulgaria is not easy to transit," he said, adding that 30,000 are already organizing themselves to take the Balkan route and if they head with women and children towards the borders that will become a great problem.
"Bulgaria cannot deal with such grave problems alone. It needs help, for there is no chance that this will end. It will only get worse," Borissov said.
The Minister President of Bavaria said that Bulgaria should receive more support from Brussels for the border protection it provides. "Bulgaria is a reliable and secure partner and has contributed enormously to the guarding of the EU external border," he added, stressing that it is very important for this country to be acknowledged at the European level.
At the roundtable, Interior Minister Mladen Marinov commented that 80 per cent of the funding provided by the EU has been absorbed to bolster the Border Police. He explained that the migrant situation is calm and predictable and that the Bulgarian authorities control developments at the borders. "The EU should reward the integrated European management of external borders," he noted.
Border Police Director Svetlan Kichikov reported that 5,311 attempts to cross the Turkish-Bulgarian border were recorded in 2018 and 390 this year. Along the border with Greece, there were some 4,600 attempts in 2018, plus 305 this year, and they are steadily tending up. Along the border with Serbia, this year saw 85 illegal crossing attempts.