Bulgarian President Roumen Radev, in Brussels on January 30 for his first official visit abroad as head of state, has called for a new operational plan to address illegal migration.
Radev, who began a series of meetings with EU leaders by holding talks with European Council President Donald Tusk, said that his country expected “even greater support” from the EU in protecting external borders.
The Bulgarian President called for changes to the Dublin Agreement, which governs refugee returns, because in its current form, there is a risk of Bulgaria turning into a buffer zone.
“Bulgaria has its very important topics, first it’s security, the migrant crisis, because without security there is no investment, no economic development,” Radev said.
He told reporters that he had received “understanding” from Tusk on these issues and that the EC President had asked for more details about Bulgaria’s needs in this regard.
Reports said that the talks between Radev and Tusk did not include the topic of EU sanctions against Russia.
Reportedly, on the eve of his visit to Brussels, Radev said that he did not see the “practical use” of the sanctions against Russia.
“I do not see what is the practical use of them, as the losses are obvious. I fear that the new US administration will restore the dialogue with Russia and the EU will remain hostage to the sanction war,” Radev was reported to have said.
Radev was inaugurated on January 22 2017 following his victory in Bulgaria’s November 2016 presidential elections on a ticket backed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which opposes sanctions on Russia, which were imposed by the EU after Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
On the eve of Radev’s visit, Bulgarian-language media made much of the confirmation from the President’s office that Radev – formerly the general commanding the air force and a skilled fighter pilot – would be flying to Brussels on an air force Spartan transport aircraft rather than the government Airbus.
The decision had been made because the Spartan’s fuel costs were lower, though flying time is an hour longer than that of the Airbus. While the Spartan story (Radev’s office added it to by tweeting photographs from the flight) was something of a public relations triumph for the new President, local television station bTV pointed out that a Bulgarian head of state using it for official visits was hardly unprecedented – Radev’s predecessor, President Rossen Plevneliev, had done the same thing.
Meanwhile, the question of a possible nomination by Bulgaria of a new European Commissioner, to replace Kristalina Georgieva who left the Commission for a World Bank CEO post at the beginning of 2017, remains pending.
Radev said that it would be better for an elected government to make the nomination. Currently, Bulgaria is in the stewardship of a caretaker cabinet, pending early parliamentary elections on March 26 2017.
However, Radev added that if the caretaker cabinet remained in office longer – an apparent reference to it not being known how long it will take after the March elections for a government to be formed – this could become “another matter”.
Radev, who is accompanied on his two-day visit to Brussels by caretaker cabinet members Deputy Prime Minister Stefan Yanev (internal order and security and defence minister), Deputy Prime Minister Denitsa Zlateva (preparations for Bulgaria’s 2018 EU presidency) and Radi Naidenov (foreign affairs) was due on January 30 to hold talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Parliament President Antonio Tajani.
On January 31, Radev is scheduled for talks with Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, senior Bulgarian military officials at Nato headquarters and is to visit the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), which is in charge of the alliance’s Allied Command operations.