Members of Bulgaria’s opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party and two of the political forces supporting the government – the centre-right Reformist Bloc and nationalist Patriotic Front – have spoken out against the European Commission’s proposed plan for allocating percentages of illegal migrants to EU countries.
The EC’s “Agenda for Migration” plan already has run into opposition in a number of EU member states, although in Bulgaria, it has been welcomed by the head of the country’s State Agency for Refugees.
If the quota plan is adopted – an open question given that it appears set for a turbulent reception when EU leaders meet at the June 2015 European Council – Bulgaria would be obliged to accept a further 788 people, transferred mainly from Greece and Italy, the countries under the most severe pressure from migrants across the Mediterranean from North Africa and the Middle East.
Iliyana Yotova, a member of the European Parliament for the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which in Bulgaria’s National Assembly trails as the second-largest party, said that Bulgaria still had not sorted itself out from the “shock situation” in which within two months “more than 10 000 people” had come into the country.
Bulgaria should get “special status” exempting it from the quota system, as should Malta, Greece, Italy and Spain, she said.
Bulgaria’s capacity to host refugees was “almost exhausted”, Yotova said, adding that as it was, conditions in refugee centres were quite miserable.
Svetoslav Malinov, an MEP for the Reformist Bloc – a minority partner in the current Bulgarian ruling coalition – said that Bulgaria should not accept more migrants, because in the future this could be used as a precedent.
Malinov said that in the formula for calculating quotas, factors such as GDP, area and standard of living should be added, along with the number of refugees already received. Should this be done, the number for Bulgaria would be sharply reduced, he told public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio.
Objections also came from another Reformist Bloc member, Atanas Atanassov, head of Parliament’s committee on internal security and public order, said that the EC proposal was a temporary solution that could have unfair effects in the long term, and – noting that the European Commissioners driving the scheme were Greek and Italian – said that “it seems that someone is making decisions while in a conflict-of-interest situation”.
In Parliament on May 29, the Patriotic Front presented a declaration objecting to the migrant relocation quota scheme, describing it as “unfair” and counter to the country’s national interests.
The PF said that the EC proposal put Bulgaria’s budget at risk, when the country was already struggling to cope with the illegal immigrants it had, and called on the government to reject the EC proposal.
(Photo, of a refugee centre in Sofia: Ben Melrose/V Photo Agency)