The European Commission (EC) is providing new financial support to Romania and Bulgaria for the implementation of pilot projects related to reinforcing EU external border management, according to an EC statement.
Bulgaria will receive 45 million euro and Romania10.8 million euro, the EC said.
The funds will be added to the national programmes under the Border Management and Visa Policy (BMVI) home affairs funding.
In addition, the Commission will launch calls open to all member states for the development of electronic surveillance systems at land external borders (140 million euro) and to support reception and asylum systems of member states under pressure (120 million euro) with particular attention to reception of unaccompanied minors and reception capacity at the border.
The EC said that Bulgaria has been taking operational steps with the Commission’s support to improve the accelerated asylum procedures and has designated a safe countries of origin list, in line with the EU rules.
To streamline the implementation of the asylum and return procedures, Bulgaria is exploring the possibility of issuing a negative decision on international protection jointly with a return decision.
The authorities are working on the digitalisation of the asylum and return systems, with the support of the EU Agencies and Commission services.
Bulgaria has also strengthened the cooperation with the European Agency for Asylum (EUAA) in the areas of asylum and reception. A revision of the EUAA Operating Plan for Bulgaria is foreseen to be concluded this summer.
Bulgaria has also stepped up the cooperation with Frontex, the EC said. This includes a Roadmap to make use of the Agency’s full capacity for border management and returns with additional resources, such as standing corps and technical equipment.
Frontex has already provided additional support to Bulgaria through return counsellors and interpreters. Bulgaria and Frontex will also sign a Joint Action Plan on Return.
Bulgaria has also strengthened the cooperation with Europol to counter-smuggling networks and to limit the secondary movements within the EU.
Bulgaria already set up a national mechanism for information sharing and will establish shortly an Operational Task Force for countering migrant smuggling, the EC said.
The statement said that Romania amended the national asylum legislation in May 2023 to allow for the participation of EUAA experts in the registration and assessment of asylum applications. An Operational Plan had been signed between the EUAA and Romania in December 2022, enhancing the capacity for reception and for processing asylum applications.
Since April 2023, EUAA has deployed 11 interpreters to Timișoara’s asylum regional centre. Four additional EUAA experts will be deployed to support the authorities with the processing of the applications.
As regards returns, Romania changed its legislation in May 2023 to allow for the issuing of a negative decision on international protection together with a return decision.
This amendment supports a more efficient return process, preventing absconding and secondary movements.
Progress was also made as regards the update of the national return case management IT system and its closer alignment with Frontex IT systems to allow for more accurate analysis and statistical information.
In May 2023 Romania joined the Frontex Joint Reintegration Services programme, which provides reintegration support for returns. Romania has been also liaising bilaterally with Member States through the High-Level Network on Returns and with Frontex on good practices on returns, notably return counselling.
When it comes to border management and international cooperation, Romania continued managing its external borders with Serbia successfully, the EC said.
This is based on activities for prevention of irregular migration with the Serbian authorities, implemented by the common patrol protocol.
Bringing the cooperation with Frontex even closer, Romanian authorities will host and use the first Frontex Mobile Surveillance Vehicles at Romanian – Serbian border section of the Terra 2023 operational area.
Romania is further cooperating with EU Agencies on joint investigations of organised crime, the EC said.
This includes participating in the European multidisciplinary platform against criminal threats (EMPACT) and its operational action plan to fight against criminal networks involved in migrant smuggling, the statement said.
(Photo: Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry)
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