Bulgaria’s deputy interior minister Philip Gounev has described the grant by the European Commission of 160 million euro emerging funding to support border and migration management as a “lightning decision”.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov spoke this past week of asking for 160 million euro assistance, and the Interior Ministry lodged a formal application as the EU summit in Bratislava began. The Commission’s confirmation that it would grant 108 million euro funding came on September 16 at the close of the summit.
The Commission is considering whether to grant the remaining 52 million euro that Bulgaria applied for.
Gounev, speaking in an interview with public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television on September 18, said that compared with last year, there was a 30 per cent decrease in the number of migrants trying to enter Bulgaria.
The country was continuing to take steps to tackle the migration stream, he said.
Gounev noted that the European Commission had made a “lightning decision” about the assistance, which he said was recognition for the efforts that Bulgaria had put into border protection over the year.
“A huge amount of equipment has been used and thrown into the battle, the terrain is difficult to secure, even mountainous, vehicles get ruined. Only 20 to 30 per cent are in use. The jeeps break down.”
A sharp increase in Frontex staff assisting Bulgaria, currently numbering 150, was needed, he said.
Gounev said that on October 6, there would be an official announcement in Bulgaria of the start of the European border police, the difference with the current form being that if any EU country was in need, every EU country would be obliged to help.
The European Commission said on September 16 that in response to Bulgaria’s request the previous day, it had decided to make available up to 108 million euro in emergency funding to support border and migration management.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship, said: “From the very beginning already, the Commission has been supporting all member states to manage the refugee crisis – and Bulgaria is no exception.
“Bulgaria’s efforts and commitments to ensure an efficient management of its external EU border are essential. The fast tracking of the requests received last night from the Bulgarian authorities shows that we are fully committed to providing additional assistance when justified and that Bulgaria, as a frontline member state guarding our external borders, receives our full support in doing so. This once again proves that the external border of one member state is the external border of all member tates.”
The funding will be used to strengthen the management of migration flows, increase reception capacities and the capacities of the asylum service as well as strengthen border surveillance and border control activities, the Commission said.
The Commission will also proceed with the rapid assessment of further emergency applications received for an additional amount of 52 million euro.
Financial and operational support has already been provided by the European Commission and the EU agencies.
As of this week, Frontex has deployed a total of 173 officers in Bulgaria, responding to a request for additional operational support from the Bulgarian authorities.
As announced by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in the State of the Union address on September 14, the Commission – in co-operation with Frontex and EU member states – is working to ensure an extra 200 extra guards and 50 extra vehicles are deployed at the Bulgarian external borders as of October.
The Commission has already awarded about 12 million euro in emergency support to Bulgaria in order to respond to the migration crisis in order to provide accommodation, food and medical supplies to migrants and to provide equipment to the Bulgarian border guards.
The additional support is on top of the 91 million euro allocated for the period 2014-2020 for its national programmes under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF, 18.3 million euro) and the Internal Security Fund (72.7 million euro) to better manage migration and reinforce security.