"Bulgaria Will Not Take Migrants Back from Western Europe" - Prime Minister
Brussels, June 25 (BTA correspondent Nikolay Jeliazkov) - Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is adamant that Bulgaria will not readmit the migrants who have left the country to reach Western Europe. He specified this, replying to Bulgarian journalists' questions in Brussels, where he took part in a EU mini-migration summit on Sunday.
"[German] Chancellor Angela Merkel may ask for bilateral agreements [on other Member States taking back migrants] when the EU external borders are securely and entirely closed," he pointed out. Borissov said that the heads of State or government of the 16 EU countries who attended Sunday's meeting asked European Commission President Jean-Clause Juncker for an estimate of the budget resources that can be reallocated for external border protection.
In the PM's words, only when the borders are fully protected and there is a system for deploying EU border guards along these borders, Member States can assume solidary responsibility for migration. "That's what Angela Merkel is talking about, and not about sending us 60,000 migrants back - of course we won't agree to that," Borissov said. "Before they send them back, they should first agree that we build prisons and hold them there," he added, referring to the migrants who have already entered the EU. The Prime Minister noted that migrants who have arrived in Bulgaria have been caught in 30-40 attempts to cross the external borders because they do not wish to stay in this country.
"Let's face it: Greece, Italy and Bulgaria let the migrants through, and they went to Germany. We didn't honour our commitments as external borders - otherwise, they wouldn't have crossed," Borissov explained. "That's how the countries of Western Europe were flooded with migrants, and that's why they want to send some of them back."
The Prime Minister noted that when children's corpses were shown on TV, Merkel invited the migrants to head for Germany. "There were 30,000-40,000 migrants in Bulgaria. If Merkel had not said 'you're welcome,' they would have still been in Bulgaria. More than 60,000 have passed through Bulgaria and have gone to Germany. Over the last year and a half, 100 people have officially left for Germany," Borissov specified.
"With all due respect for our opposition: it is not right to talk like that. Speaking of relocation in 2014, 2015, 2016, more than 40,000 transited under [the government of] Plamen Oresharski, and then under our government, too: there was no border fence at that time, and the army could not be deployed under the law. All Europe, including Bulgaria, was unprepared for this wave," the PM argued. He added that the border Member States then asked for the resettlement of migrants . In his words, if the countries in the EU hinterland fence themselves off and several million migrants arrive, they will be stranded in Bulgaria, Italy and Greece.
"This is a very sensitive subject in Europe, and that's why these meetings are organized. Everybody acknowledged that Bulgaria has done plenty of work during the [EU Council] Presidency to move forward the migration topic and we managed to identify the compromises as a basis for further discussions. I was congratulated because the issue can thus be solved in a relatively short time," Borissov said.
"If each Member State along the external border manages to do the same, the problem with migration there will be solved. This will require several things. First, continued financing of the front-line countries so as to be able to guarantee that they will not let any such wave pass through their territory again. Second, setting up reception centres outside Europe. Let's take advantage of the countries that have good historical contacts with African States: the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Spain. Flexible agreements should be signed on such security centres outside the EU. Instead of sending them back from Germany to Bulgaria and Greece, let them send them to Tunisia or Libya, back to where they came from. This will also address the issue of secondary migration between Member States. We anyway spend enormous amounts of money on development aid for the countries of Africa, let's see exactly where and how this money is going so as to halt this migration," the Bulgarian head of government suggested.
He specified that the migration centres outside the EU should provide medical care and education, as well as legal aid, so that the people who want to leave for Europe should be aware that they are not welcome there and give up the idea of arriving in large numbers.
Borissov said that many EU countries support Bulgaria about the agreement with Turkey. He noted that the European Council now needs to approve the funds, as well as that similar bilateral agreements need to be concluded with other countries as well.
"Bulgaria showed how the issue should be solved, everybody are saying, 'you've done a good job'. Let all Member States follow suit, and the issue will be solved. The problem is in the slower flow of water under the bridges of Brussels," the PM commented. Replying to a question, he specified that the possibility of setting up a migration centre in Albania was not discussed at the meeting on Sunday.