European Council President Donald Tusk, speaking during a visit to Bulgarian capital city Sofia, said that the country’s citizens only recently had gained the full right to work in the UK and after Brexit “they deserve our full commitment that their interests will be safeguarded”.
“Our goal in this respect is clear: to minimise the costs of Brexit for all EU citizens wherever they come from,” Tusk said on April 4 after talks with head of state President Roumen Radev.
Addressing a news conference, Tusk said: “You live in a challenging neighbourhood but you are an essential part of Europe.
“Europe is not only about procedures and money but also about shared values, dignity and political solidarity. And political solidarity means one for all and all for one… Europe will always stand by you,” Tusk said.
The European Council President said that he and Radev had discussed the political situation in the Balkans, migration, Schengen and Brexit.
On migration, Tusk said that “Bulgaria is perhaps the best example of how to protect our borders”.
“I witnessed this myself today during the briefing on the situation at your borders with both Turkey and Greece. Thankfully, the situation is under control and it proves how efficient the Bulgarian border services and its political leadership are. Unfortunately, there will be a need for vigilance for a long time to come.”
Tusk said that the EU was determined to keep routes of illegal migration in this region closed.
“And we remain committed to the full implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement. The EU is honouring its commitments, just like we expect Turkey to continue keeping its part of the deal.”
Tusk said that he knew that Bulgaria’s strengthened border control has put a considerable pressure on the country’s budget:”You have invested a lot of your own security resources in this task”.
The EU and its member states had helped with financial support and the rapid deployment of a joint European operation.
Just at Bulgaria’s border with Turkey, the European Border and Coast Guard has deployed around 100 officers to provide support to Bulgaria, Tusk said.
“Should further difficulties arise on Bulgaria’s borders, the EU has already planned emergency funding, and stands ready to react quickly in support of Bulgaria.”
Tusk said that the “excellent job” that Bulgaria was doing at is borders was evidence that the country had made enough progress to become part of the Schengen area.
“Many think this should already have happened by now. I can assure you of my support but we need, as you know, all member states’ agreement. We work hard to make it happen.”
EU countries already had shown their support for Bulgaria to be covered by the new high-tech systems being built to to strengthen Schengen, and this was a promising step forward, Tusk said.