Friday

22nd Nov 2019

Interview

Bulgarian PM: No asylum reform without stronger border

  • 'I want to be able to see, to touch, to clearly understand what's being discussed,' Borisov said about the asylum reform (Photo: eu2018bg/Flickr)

"I'm not the best of diplomats," Boyko Borisov admits. The imposing Bulgarian prime minister, who famously went into politics after having served as the former king's bodyguard, nonetheless has to sometimes use his skills to steer his country's EU presidency.

Meeting a group of journalists on Friday morning (18 May), in Sofia's Soviet-style Palace of Culture, Borisov said that the an EU-Western Balkans summit he hosted there the day before was "a success".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Borisov and Serbia's Vucic (l). 'It was an emotional and important meeting for the Western Balkans' (Photo: eu2018bg/Flickr)

"It was an emotional and important meeting for the Western Balkans," he said of the first meeting of the kind in 15 years.

EU leaders - except for Spain's Mariano Rajoy (who did not want to appear to recognise Kosovo) - met their counterparts from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo.

Borisov pointed out that "until yesterday leaders didn't know each other very well."

During the discussion, according to several participants, Albanian prime minister Edi Rama had a "very passionate" exchange with French president Emmanuel Macron and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte - both critical of Albania's record on the fight against organised crime and corruption and wary of opening accession talks for the country.

"All the participants said how they feel. They were very frank and open to each other," Borisov noted diplomatically.

Balkan construction site

He assured that "Rama and Rutte departed with a better sense of how things stand."

The Bulgarian premier, a supporter of EU enlargement in the Western Balkans, conceded that the EU has "very strict rules" on the issue and that the region's countries cannot expect an easy process.



He insisted however that stability and peace there are "very fragile" and that the EU must not leave a geopolitical vacuum.

"If something happens in Balkans, Russia and Turkey would not hesitate to intervene, as well as the US," he said, adding in particular that "Russia would not hesitate to send the jets."

On Thursday, all leaders agreed on a so-called connectivity agenda to develop infrastructures and transport or energy networks, as way to integrate the region more into the existing EU networks.

"We want to turn the Balkans into a construction site," Borisov said.


Bigger fence than Orban's?

Looking at the geopolitical situation, he argued that gas projects, for instance, "would serve as a deterrent" to external destabilisation.

"Russia, Europe, the US would have stakes here," he said.

Balkan development and EU enlargement are a long term process that will go beyond Borisov's six-month term as EU presidency term.



More pressing is the endeavour to reform the EU asylum system, and in particular the Dublin regulation, at the EU summit in June.

"We are putting great effort into securing the necessary agreement," the Bulgarian leader said.

He warned however that it would take more than "imaginary notions and metaphoric speech."

"I want to be able to see, to touch, to clearly understand what's being discussed," he said.

The 'concrete' for him is stronger borders for the EU, and Bulgaria is leading the way, "without making too much noise about what we're doing, unlike my [Hungarian] colleague [Viktor] Orban."

Bulgaria's border fence, Borisov said, "is much more sophisticated, maybe even bigger than Orban's."

"We demonstrated that when there is political will and good organisation, the border can be protected well," he argued.

Greece and Italy's duty

"If countries like Greece and Italy were able to achieve the same success, I can guarantee you that we would immediately reach an agreement on Dublin and the deal would be immediately signed by all," he said.

"It's their duty to do so," he insisted, noting that "the flow of illegal migrants [through the two countries] still concerns colleagues in Europe."

Borisov said that he proposed to his fellow leaders to take model on the US, Canada or Australia.

"If we were able to support some of the ideas that I put forward for good solid border management and controls, I think colleagues from the Visegrad Four would be reassured," he said, referring to Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic - the countries that are the most opposed to the plan to relocate asylum seekers from Greece and Italy.

Before committing to relocation, EU leaders "want to know what the costs are," he insisted.

"The only way [to agree on a reform] is to guarantee that what we witnessed in the past will never be allowed again," he said, referring to the 2015 migration crisis.

"If not successful at managing such situation, if something happens tomorrow we might have hundreds of millions [of migrants coming]. How do we manage that?

'Connectivity' trumps enlargement at Balkans summit

At the first summit in 15 years with Western Balkan leaders, EU chiefs made it clear that enlargement is not at hand - but offered economic incentives to keep the region close to the bloc.

EU states tackle Dublin asylum reform 'line by line'

A Friends of the Presidency group, set up by the Bulgarian EU presidency, has sifted through the European Commission's proposal to reform Dublin, an EU asylum law that has sparked widespread political tensions and divisions.

Opinion

Is Bulgaria the EU's next rule of law crisis?

A failing economy, corruption, and intimidation of judges and media - after Poland and Hungary, Bulgaria seems like Europe's next rule of law crisis.

EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans

An emergency resolution adopted at the European People's Party (EPP) congress in Zagreb calls on the EU Council and member states to take a positive decision on opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania as soon as possible.

Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president

The outgoing president of the EU council, Donald Tusk, is set to be elected as the president of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP). Tusk will have to deal with the final decision over Hungary's ruling Fidesz.

News in Brief

  1. EU parliament votes on new commission next week
  2. Berlusconi wants Europe to be a military global power
  3. Orban ordered to apologise over 'misleading' Soros survey
  4. EPP to decide on expelling Fidesz by end of January
  5. Rowdy anti-corruption protest in Malta
  6. Ambassador: Trump ordered Ukraine election meddling
  7. EU links Libyan government to human trafficking
  8. Greek PM on migration: 'Greece has reached its limits'

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. EPP congress pledges 'moderate' climate solution
  2. EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans
  3. New EU financial instruments needed
  4. Binding measures to expand gender balance
  5. Watershed moment for rule of law in Hong Kong
  6. EU Africa envoy: Europe needs to look beyond migration
  7. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  8. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us