PM Denkov: The Netherlands and Austria should Change their Position on Bulgaria’s Schengen Accession

Politics | October 4, 2023, Wednesday // 15:50
Bulgaria: PM Denkov: The Netherlands and Austria should Change their Position on Bulgaria’s Schengen Accession

Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov hopes that the Netherlands and Austria will change their position on the admission of Bulgaria to Schengen by December 6. He stated this in an interview with the Austrian newspaper "Der Standard".

Denkov points out that the external border of the European Union will be better protected by the accession of Bulgaria to Schengen.

When asked what reforms Bulgaria is undertaking to make the judicial system more independent and to convince the Dutch government to give up its veto, Denkov points to the work on anti-corruption legislation, the mechanism for controlling the Prosecutor General, the procedure for electing members of the Supreme Judicial Council.

Denkov explained that the purpose of the changes is to minimize political influence on the judicial system. "Some of the reforms will require constitutional changes and the goal is to have them done by the end of the year", explained the prime minister.

He also indicated that all parties of the ruling majority support the reforms, the measures of the agreed management program are being implemented and so far there are no signs that any of the formations want to withdraw their support.

When asked if he expects the Netherlands to withdraw its veto by December 6, when the Council of Justice and Home Affairs meets, if Bulgaria implements the judicial reform, Denkov replied that he cannot speak on behalf of the Netherlands, but the country has focused its attention on the justice system, having clearly indicated the weak points.

According to the Prime Minister, Bulgaria fulfills the recommendations of the European Commission in the area and that if the judicial reform is carried out, the Netherlands will have no arguments against Bulgaria's entry into Schengen.

Regarding the government in Austria, according to which there are strong migration flows to Central Europe, Denkov pointed out that Bulgaria is very active in border control and that this year alone the country has stopped 150,000 attempts to illegally cross the border.

"Bulgaria works very actively against human traffickers. Over 2,000 illegal migrants were detained in the country", he explained and according to statistics, less than 2% of migrants go to Europe via the so-called eastern route through Bulgaria and Romania.

According to the prime minister, Austria can only benefit from the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into Schengen, as there is currently unnecessary border control between Bulgaria and Greece and Bulgaria and Romania. Although there are no significant crossing points, there are currently 1,500 border guards employed there, which, according to him, could be directed to the Bulgarian-Turkish border and the Bulgarian-Serbian border. He indicated readiness on the part of the cabinet to invite patrols from Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.

Denkov also pointed out that the government is pro-European and wants Bulgaria to be recognized as an equal partner of other Western countries, but there is a very strong opposition that wants something different and looks to the east.

"If the cabinet does its homework, but Bulgaria still does not enter Schengen or the Eurozone, this would be beneficial not only for the pro-Kremlin opposition in Bulgaria, but also for other similar forces in North Macedonia and Serbia. All this shows that there is a much bigger, very important battle for the pro-European future of the Balkans," said Denkov.

Regarding the process of including the Bulgarians in the Constitution of the Republic of North Macedonia, the Prime Minister states that if the residents of the Republic of Macedonia want to be Europeans, they must do what is agreed with the European Commission.

On Russian influence in the Balkans, Nikolai Denkov commented that what he sees in the situation between Kosovo and Serbia reminds him of the saying that "the Balkans are a powder keg and that any incident can have consequences, so we must be careful". According to him, there are forces that are trying to expand their influence in the Balkans. "Bulgaria is located at the crossroads between Asia Minor and Russia and Europe and that is why we must be very strong in our values", said the Bulgarian Prime Minister.

When asked if sanctions should be imposed on Serbia, he commented that Serbia is trying to sit on several chairs, but everyone knows that this cannot last too long.

"If the country wants to be pro-Russian, let it define it clearly, if it wants to be pro-European, too. Serbia must prove that," Denkov points out.

Regarding the war in Ukraine, Denkov stated that it is in Bulgaria's interest to help Ukraine keep the war as far as possible from the Bulgarian borders. He explains that very soon Bulgaria will have two warships floating in the Black Sea, which are currently under construction.

"F-16 fighter jets have been ordered, the coast guard is being improved, and a contract for 200 armored vehicles has been finalized".

The Prime Minister also stated that the plans sent to Brussels for the coal regions indicate how investments from European funds, the state budget and private investors will be used to further develop the region where there are now coal plants. According to him, negotiations are now underway with the unions to clearly understand what is written in the plans, but today these people are working against their own interests.

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Tags: Schengen, Bulgaria, Denkov, Austria, Netherlands

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