9th Jun 2023

EU Commission wants drones for Bulgaria on Turkey border

Listen to article

The European Commission wants to shore up the land border between Bulgaria and Turkey with drones.

"We can strengthen the border with management capabilities," European Commission president Von der Leyen told MEPs on Wednesday (1 February).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We can also provide infrastructure and equipment like drones and radar and other means of surveillance," she said.

The statement comes after Austria's chancellor said he would lobby the European Union for €2bn in funding for Bulgaria to fortify its border with Turkey.

The shared border already has a 270km metal fence, used to curtail asylum seekers, migrants and refugees from entering. Pressure is also mounting for the European Commission to finance such fences, a move that has so far been considered anathema.

But the mood may be shifting. When pressed on the issue last week, EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, stressed budgetary constraints.

The level of violence along the Bulgaria and Turkey border also appears to have intensified, according to the EU's border agency, Frontex. The agency's deputy director Uku Särekanno said shootings are happening on an almost weekly basis.

"Violence is something very phenomenal and sadly, an experience that we witnessed over the last year and also in the first month of this year," he said, earlier this week.

Last year, a Bulgarian border guard was shot dead while patrolling the Turkish border for migrants. But European border guards have also been filmed shooting at a Syrian refugee on the same border, according to Amsterdam-based LightHouse Reports, an investigative media outlet.

Years of abuse against asylum seekers and refugees along the same border have also been documented by NGOs, amid evidence of illegal pushbacks.

The EU and member state move towards greater police powers and equipment to counter migration comes at time when the numbers of people applying for asylum continues to increase.

Some 330,000 attempts were made to enter the EU last year, while over 900,000 applied for asylum. Another 25,000 died or have gone missing while crossing the Mediterranean Sea since 2014.

Von der Leyen also referenced the Central Mediterranean Sea, where the Libyan Coast Guard, co-financed by the European Union, has so far intercepted and returned over 1,400 people this year alone.

Italy's government, under its far-right leadership Giorgia Meloni, recently signed a $8bn [€7.3bn] gas deal with Libya and declared that Rome will provide the Libyan Coast Guard with five "fully equipped boats".

The Meloni government is also forcing charity rescue vessels like Ocean Viking to disembark people rescued at sea at ports that can takes days to reach.

The shift towards shoring up the EU's external borders and cracking down on migrants is years in the making. But solutions to untangle and reform the patchwork of internal EU asylums laws remains tricky, as are calls for a solidarity policy..

A French EU presidency initiative last summer to relocate 10,000 asylum seekers from so-called front line states like Italy and Greece, has so far failed to deliver.

Only 400 have been relocated, a figure that stands in sharp contrast to the millions of Ukrainian refugees that been granted refugee status since Russia's invasion last February. Sweden, which has taken the helm of the EU presidency, has also refused to make any pledges under the scheme.

The statements made by Von der Leyen on Wednesday will feed into an EU summit on 9 February, where migration will be discussed among EU leaders and heads of state.

Draft conclusions, leaked by the London-based civil society defenders Statewatch, suggests that the EU is ready to leverage all its means to kick out unwanted migrants and rejected asylum seekers.

Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges

Sweden won't make any pledges to relocate asylum seekers under a French-inspired EU plan because there is no legal basis, says Sweden's ambassador to the EU. But Sweden's new right-wing government is also tightening migration rules.

Paris-Rome spat exposes EU 'solidarity' rift on asylum

The European Commission says solidarity on migration remains — despite Paris refusing to relocate some 3,500 asylum seekers from Italy under a French EU presidency-inspired proposal to distribute thousands of people across member states.

EU migration and asylum pact faces reality check

The EU wants to finalise the overhaul of the migration and asylum laws before the end of the current mandate in 2024. But big issues on solidarity remain unsolved, including in the European Parliament.

German plan to offshore asylum 'unworkable' declare NGOs

German ideas of possibly offshoring asylum to countries outside Europe are unworkable, say civil society. The comments follow reports that the German government is exploring options of getting north African states to process asylum claims of those rescued at sea.

Latest News

  1. Belgian bâtonnier on Russia: 'You can have a client you don't like'
  2. EU's proposed ethics body 'toothless', say campaigners
  3. Study: 90% of Spanish inflation 'driven by corporate profits'
  4. If Spanish economy is doing well, why is Sanchez poised to lose?
  5. EU lawyers for Russia: making 'good' money?
  6. The 'BlackRock exemption' has no place in the EU's due diligence directive
  7. Europeans don't see China as a rival, but weapons to Russia is a red line
  8. Cleaning workers urge Parliament: 'Europe should lead by example'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations
  2. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  3. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  4. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains
  2. InformaConnecting Expert Industry-Leaders, Top Suppliers, and Inquiring Buyers all in one space - visit Battery Show Europe.
  3. EFBWWEFBWW and FIEC do not agree to any exemptions to mandatory prior notifications in construction
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us