EU Working Hard on Bulgaria's Accession to Schengen, Tusk Tells Borisov
The EU is “working hard” for all member states' agreement on Bulgaria's accession to the Schengen borderless area, EU Council President Donald Tusk said on Friday.
At a press conference with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov that followed their meeting at the Euxinograd residence near the Black Sea city of Varna, Tusk admitted he knew “many in Bulgaria have considered this [the accession to Schengen] should have happened by now.”
In return, he noted, Sofia should ensure that judicial reform and the fight against corruption are ongoing to make Bulgaria stronger.
Tusk, who visited Varna for the second time after having done so as Polish Prime Minister, praised Bulgaria for managing “the migratory situation at its borders well” and pointed to it as an example of efficient border protection against the backdrop of all its neighbors being subject to migratory pressure.
“These are also the EU's borders and we respect your efforts,” he told Borisov. "We are fully aware of how many resources you've spent to protect Turkish and Greek borders. For me, this is clear evidence that you're ready to be part of the Schengen area and you deserve praise for actively participating in Frontex operations with other member states“.
Tusk went on to say that solidarity, to which Bulgaria was now showing commitment, is a two-way process and the EU could provide assistance by considering “additional support options” in case of escalation.
"We need to be realistic" as to how to address the root causes of the migrant crisis, Tusk reiterated (he has voiced the same position on other occasions). „Restoring control of the EU's external borders is a sine qua non condition for an effective humanitarian policy.“
Borisov and Tusk had also discussed during their meeting energy issues were and infrastructural projects "should be swiftly implemented to create a resilient network... [and] diversify energy supply", according to the EU Council President.
Bulgaria's head of state, for his part, praised law enforcement agencies' anti-smuggling efforts over the past year, with revenues from successful operations reaching BGN 2.3 B (appr. EUR 1.15 B) this year alone, in his words. He cited the example of a recent joint operation of Bulgaria and Poland's interior ministries which cracked together a Poland-based fake cigarettes ring to show that, after tightened measures against such activities, a number of illegal industries are moving out of the country which was previously pointed to as one of their hubs for Europe.
„We keep working with our colleagues and neighbors [so that criminal groups] we chase away from Bulgaria are tracked down and arrested by other countries in Europe.”
Answering to the remarks of Tusk on Schengen, however, he was more succinct.
“The issue is insulting to me – given that half of the countries in Europe failed as Schengen borders, [why] should we be asking whether they will accept us?”
Energy issues should be dealt with in compliance with the Third Energy Package and in view of a common Energy Union, but Nord Stream and South Stream would be put on equal footing when assessed by the EU, Borisov warned, adding Sofia was counting on EU funding to build its interconnectors with neighboring states.
He repeated Bulgaria's call for the creation of a safe zone in Syria, “because it is good for these people [possibly a reference to internally displaced persons (IDPs)] to be kept near their hometowns”.
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