Bulgaria is among the countries worst-affected by migration pressure, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov told EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who during a visit to Sofia was taken to see the Vrazhdebna refugee centre in the capital city.
Mogherini was in Sofia on July 23 to attend an international conference, “The EU in a changing global environment: What’s next for Europe’s Neighbours – The Bulgarian perspective” and to attend the annual meeting between the Bulgarian foreign minister and the country’s ambassadors.
She held meetings with the prime minister, president and Speaker of the National Assembly.
At morning talks, Borissov told Mogherini that Bulgaria was among the worst affected countries by migration pressure and facing this situation, was proving that it successfully guarded the external border of the EU.
Borissov, whose country is campaigning for inclusion in the EU’s Schengen visa zone, said that the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen zone would be a clear signal about the EU in the fight against terrorism and illegal migration.
“We should not allow a crack in security at any border or on the territory of any of the EU member states,” Borissov said.
The two also discussed Greece, according to a government media statement, with Borissov saying that Bulgaria had made the correct choice in maintaining financial stability and a reasonable budget policy and this had been confirmed by the situation in Greece.
Mogherini was accompanied to the refugee centre in Vrazhdebna by Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Roumyana Buchvarova.
The centre has the capacity to accommodate 400 people and currently houses 201, mainly from Afghanistan. In 2015, “migratory pressure” on Bulgaria had increased by four and a half times, an Interior Ministry statement said.
The head of Bulgaria’s State Agency for Refugees, Nikola Kazakov, said that the agency’s facilities were 75 per cent full but they could be filled up to 90 per cent, adding that how people were distributed to them was according to various criteria, including religion, gender and marital status.
Most aslyum-seekers in Bulgaria were from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, Kazakov said.
“Our country allocates funds from its limited budget and regardless of the financial and economic problems, is doing everything possible to meet one of the most serious challenges facing the EU – increased migration pressure,” he said.
At a recent meeting of EU ministers, Bulgaria secured agreement that the number of refugees to be redirected to it, mainly from Italy and Greece, should be reduced from an initially proposed more than 700 to 500.
Speaking at the meeting of Bulgarian ambassadors at the Foreign Ministry, Mogherini said the need of a strong and united Europe has never been so clearly outlined as it is today. No country could feel big and strong enough to cope on its own, while the European Union has the potential to be a global power, Mogherini said, according to a report by Bulgarian National Radio.
A Foreign Ministry statement on the event quoted Mogherini as emphasising the important contribution of Bulgaria in shaping European policies.
She said that Bulgaria was actively involved in the review process of the European Neighbourhood Policy and highlighted included a proposal of Bulgaria dimensions of energy security and diversification, saying that it was in the interest not only of Bulgaria but also of Europe.
Mogherini said that EU countries were facing many common challenges that require solidarity and a unified approach.
EU countries shared the same long-term interests – the rule of law, energy security and sustainable development for the entire continent.
“The integration of the Western Balkans is of particular importance for the stabilization of the region. The process is complex, but we can be sure that the path ends with the Western Balkans in the EU,” Mogherini said.
Speaking at the international conference, Mogherini said that if there were still countries that want to join the EU, “we have to invest in the process”.
There is no stability without democracy, and there is no democracy without a stable environment.
“I believe that Europe needs enlargement. I think that EU and the member states have to work for enlargement, as well as the EU applicant countries,” local media quoted Mogherini as saying.
(Photos: European External Action Service; government.bg; Interior Ministry press centre; mfa.bg)