Bulgarian President Radev defends controversial scrapping of regulation on integration of refugees

Bulgarian President Roumen Radev has sought to defend the controversial scrapping of a government regulation on the integration of refugees, saying that “loyal EU membership does not mean a mechanical copying of regulations”.

Radev made the comment on April 4 in a reply to a question at a joint news conference in Sofia with visiting European Council President Donald Tusk,

On March 31, at a special late-afternoon sitting, the caretaker cabinet headed by Prime Minister Ognyan Gerdzhikov abolished the 2016 decree on the integration of refugees, which had provided for the use of EU funds for a voluntary scheme for municipalities to carry out projects ranging from Bulgarian-language training to schooling and job-finding for refugees.

From a transcript of the caretaker cabinet meeting, it has become clear that the decision was taken in spite of the misgivings of several members of the interim administration, and that Radev was the prime mover in getting Gerdzhikov to propose the scrapping of the regulation.

Radev spoke out against the regulation during his presidential election campaign last year, on a ticket backed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party. The BSP also made scrapping the regulation part of its campaign platform ahead of the March 26 parliamentary elections, in which it ran second.

The caretaker cabinet decision came as it was clear that Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party would have the first chance to seek to form the next government. It was Borissov’s coalition cabinet that agreed on the decree last year.

Asked about the caretaker cabinet decision and whether it was not a violation of European directives, Radev said that loyal EU membership did not mean a mechanical copying of regulations, but the making of responsible strategic decisions.

“Bulgaria will not repeat the mistakes of those countries are now paying the price for rash decisions in the past,” Radev said.

He said that the integration of foreigners was too complicated and important a topic “to be regulated by formal decrees, without considering the risk to national security and the EU as a whole”.

According to Radev, integration without clear mechanisms and clear criteria for integration “leads to isolation, encapsulation and radicalism, as we see in quite a few European countries”.

Radev, whose role as president is not an executive office according to Bulgaria’s constitution, said that “before establishing a system for domiciling refugees, we must have an-deputh analysis and risk assessment, clear criteria for integration, clear mechanisms to measure the success of this integration, the processes unfolding, we should have a single national organ for the co-ordination and control of these processes, have a clear idea of the possibilities of our social system and then take strategic decisions”.

He said that he had been assured by Tusk that the leadership of the EU would assist Bulgaria with research on the experience and problems in other countries “and their dealing with the problems of integration”.




Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.