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Bulgaria's Anti-Corruption Bill Was 'Too Good' to Be Passed - Deputy PM
Eastern Europe is closer to the conflict in Syria and this explains its different reaction to the migrant crisis compared to the West, Bulgaria's Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Kuneva told the BBC.
She also commented on domestic issues such as the fight against corruption and Bulgaria's further integration into the European Union.
In a HardTalk interview with Stephen Sackur, asked whether Bulgaria would commit to any quota it is given, Kuneva responded affirmatively. Inquired to explain why the country had accepted only 2 migrants out of 1600 people it is supposed to receive under the current relocation mechanism agreed last year, she retorted the process was not a matter of “intention”, adding it was difficult for Bulgaria to attract migrants who normally preferred Germany and Sweden, citing local language and tough economic conditions.
Commenting on the host's suggestion of “uncompassionate attitude” to migrants and widespread accusations of violence hurled at border police by human rights groups (including the case when a migrant died at gunshot near the Bulgaria-Turkey border), she argued that Bulgaria, apart from subscribing to human rights, “also talks about security.”
“Imagine if we just open the doors and all the refugees come through the territory of Bulgaria and go wherever they want,” she said.
On the “compassion deficit”, a phrase used to describe some governments in Eastern Europe and their response to the migrant crisis, she retorted: “I don't want to have a mental border between Western and Eastern Europe. We are closer to the conflict. When the conflict is just one border from Turkey and you are obviously responsible to guard the entrance into the European Union, you should perform."
The Deputy PM expressed her dissatisfaction with failure to reach an agreement among EU member states on common border control.
To Sackur's question if there was “an element of xenophobia and Islamophobia” in the words of Prime Minister Borisov that Bulgarians “are afraid” of migrants because most of them are Muslims, Kuneva said she admitted some people shared that fear, but supported the PM in his effort to voice their thoughts and thwart a populist backlash.
In Kuneva's words, Bulgaria's EU membership, ongoing for 8 years now, has not delivered because of obstacles such as the financial crisis and the energy crisis with Russia. On the failure of Parliament to adopt an anti-corruption bill, when she was asked what the rejection meant, she replied:
"That the law was maybe too good. Too strong... I introduced the bill. There has been reluctance to accept the law as I proposed, because parliamentarians thought there might be witch-hunting and the law might be used as a political tool, which I never had in mind."
She also stressed a second attempt at passing the bill was due soon.
Kuneva voiced her confidence that Bulgaria was “more than ready” to join the Schengen borderless area and opined the country would be ready to join the Eurozone shortly.
She also said she believed the UK should stay in the European Union, adding she appreciated British “experience, diplomatic skills, innovative way of doing single market” and gave high value to Britain's role as “one of the good forces” in the EU.
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