Strengthening the control on the Bulgarian-Greek and Greek-Republic of Macedonia borders will not lead to a solution for Europe but will result only in a change of migration routes, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said on February 15 in Prague.
Borissov was in the Czech Republic capital as a guest at a meeting of the Visegrad Group – made up of the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia – at which the migrant crisis in Europe was the key agenda item.
On January 19 2016, a meeting of the interior ministers of the Visegrad Group, also attended by ministers from Slovenia, Serbia and Macedonia,called – among other things – for a co-operation programme to be launched in early 2016 “with the goal of stabilising the migration situation in Macedonia, particularly by measures on the Macedonian–Greek border that would significantly reduce the movement of unregistered illegal migrants along the Western Balkans migration route”.
On February 15, Borissov, who held talks with his Czech Republic counterpart Bohuslav Sobotka, said, “we appreciate the aspiration of the Group to be a factor in solving the problems of refugees and migration to the EU”.
Borissov said that this was an issue that affects the EU as a whole and should find a common European solution, jointly and amicably.
Taking unilateral measures will not achieve sustainable results and mastery of the problems associated with migration flows, which will only be achieved with the active contribution and participation of all countries along the route, especially Greece, Borissov said.
He said that in the short and medium term, what was vital managed migration was effective control of the external borders of the EU and additional support was needed to strengthen them.
A day before attending the Visegrad Group meeting, Borissov spoke on the phone with German chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country has been dismayed by the Visegrad proposals about closing the Greek-Macedonian border.
“Bulgaria confirms its solidarity with Greece and its disagreement with the idea to close the border between Macedonia and Greece,” a Bulgarian government media statement on the phone conversation said.
The February 15 summit includes among its guests not only Borissov but also Macedonian president Gjorge Ivanov.
In a statement ahead of the summit, Czech PM Sobotka said, “one of the Visegrad region’s priorities remains the implementation of the EU–Turkey Joint Action Plan, the achievements of which have not been satisfactory. It is equally important for Greece to stick to the obligations arising from its Schengen area membership.
“If another wave of migration sweeps in this spring, we need to be ready to help not only Greece, but also Macedonia, Bulgaria and other countries along the Balkan route to protect their borders. In this respect, the second part of the extraordinary summit aims to corroborate the V4’s determination to do its utmost so that the influx of illegal migrants into the EU is scaled down significantly and so that Europe regains control over migration on its external border,” Sobotka said.