Tuesday

21st Aug 2018

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 18 year's of archives. 30 days 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.

Ozil's resignation highlights Europe's identity debate

Mesut Ozil resigned from the German national squad after months of fierce criticism, as critics questioned his loyalty for posing with Turkey's Erdogan. His departure exposes a deeply divisive European debate.

Analysis

Will Austria's presidency give EU a populist push?

As Sebastian Kurz's government takes over the helm of EU-policy making for the next six months, Austrian MEPs from opposing sides weigh in on the EU's youngest prime minister's possible influence on the continent's future.

News in Brief

  1. EU Commission: efforts 'ongoing' over Italian migrant ship
  2. Italy allows boat with migrants to dock
  3. France's Total pulls out of Iran due to US sanctions
  4. Trump accuses EU and China of currency manipulation
  5. Swedish conservatives regret unsuccessful integration policies
  6. Record high measles cases hit Europe
  7. Swedish politician declares war on media
  8. Italy threatens to return migrants to Libya

Opinion

While Poles defend courts, Kaczynski hijacks EU elections

While Twitter and EU bubble publications are flooded with photos of protesting crowds and "chains of light" in front of the presidential palace, the Law and Justice-controlled senate has adopted a law restructuring the electoral code for 2019's European elections.

EU Commission skirts Italy sanctions on Roma evictions

The European Commission, as guardian of the treaties, declines to sanction Italy's treatment of the Roma following a forced eviction on Thursday of some 300 from a camp in the outskirts of the Italian capital.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. UK sanctions appeal risks highlighting EU divisions
  2. Wind delays launch of European wind-mapping satellite
  3. Greece 'normal' again after end of crisis, EU says
  4. Putin strikes blow against Russia's isolation by Europe
  5. EU-China cooperation on CO2 storage lost in limbo
  6. Greece exits bailouts, but difficult path ahead
  7. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  8. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us