site.btaInterior Ministry Investigating Top-Level Corruption, Minister Says
The Ministry of the Interior investigates corruption in high levels of power, Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov said in an interview with BTA, adding that most of the investigations are at operational level. He pointed out that the fight against corruption is among the priorities of the ministry.
"When sufficient evidence is gathered, the material is reported to the prosecution. The fight against corruption is a serious priority for the Interior Ministry, but it should not be only for the department, as there are other institutions that are responsible in this line," the Minister added.
He said that the Ministry has "good contact" with the leadership of the prosecution. "As far as I know, work has been set in motion on most of these investigations."
Asked about illegal migration, Stoyanov said that between the start of 2023 and the end of June there were nearly 80,000 registered attempts for sneaking across the Bulgarian-Turkish border. The increase is almost 62% compared to the same period in 2022.
"In my opinion, whatever the Ministry of Interior achieves as a result, if we do not tackle illegal migration and the war on the road, everything else is of little importance. We cannot allow the migratory pressure we are under to threaten the security of our country.”
He also said: "The reorganisation we have done with the new leadership of the Border Police Directorate General is bearing fruit. In the first six months of this year, the Bulgarian border authorities have detained 416 people in the interior of the country, which is 35% less than in the first six months of 2022.
"According to data from the regional directorates and the Migration Directorate in the interior of the country, a total of 292 people were detained in the one-week period from 26.02 to 02.07, which is about 5% less than in previous weeks.”
"The resource available to the Border Police is extremely insufficient, there are seconded officers from various structures, assistance is also provided by the Ministry of Defence. Our idea is to significantly seal the border with physical force in the coming months and we will achieve a result that will be visible.”
"We are an external border of the EU, we rely heavily on Europe and we should not be left alone in the battle against illegal migration. For this reason we are in close contact with the European Commission, specifically with Commissioner Johansson. With Turkey, contacts are very intensive, both at ministerial level and with their services working at the border, and we have also identified measures with them which we expect to bear fruit in the coming days."
Stoyanov pointed out that the authorities have taken steps to provide the technical means that are necessary for ensuring border security. "We need to be well stocked with off-road equipment - vehicles that we desperately need. We are doing everything possible to purchase them with the funds allocated by the European Commission. We have also taken steps to repair the vehicles that have broken down in recent months, and they are quite a large number. We also need more staff to guard the border."
Referring to the protests of the Interior Ministry employees for a wage increase, the minister said he would do everything possible, including seeking support from parliamentary groups, in order to achieve some of the stated demands.
Regarding the efforts against reckless driving, Minister Stoyanov said that he had tasked the directors of regional directorates to speed up pre-trial proceedings for drunk and drugged driving. He said this would have a preventive role in terms of what is currently happening on the roads.
"In parallel, we are doing everything we can to upgrade CCTV systems across the country. We have also launched a project related to the purchase of 370 vehicles, as well as for technical means used by the traffic police officers. I have requested through the International Cooperation Directorate that we seek expertise and experience from other countries. There are also proposals for legislative changes made by the Interior Ministry and various parliamentary groups, which we support and believe will produce the necessary result," he said.
He is supportive of criminalizing the refusal of drivers to be tested for alcohol and drug use. "My personal opinion is that when there is a causing of death in a traffic accident by a driver who has used alcohol or drugs, it should be an intentional crime, I don't think it should be treated as a reckless crime," he added.
He reconfirmed that the MHA stands firmly behind the demands of the employees both in terms of their demands for increased monthly salary as well as for other welfare benefits which have not been changed for more than seven-eight years.
Police officers and firemen are demanding a 10% pay raise and have already started holding token strikes to make sure their demands are heard.
"I hope that we will not end up with prolonged protests and that we will achieve a result that they will be happy with. We will do our best, whatever depends on us, including talks with the Finance Minister," the Minister said.
Asked how the Interior Ministry will deal with the detection of drug and human trafficking in the interior once the country joins Schengen, he said that it will continue to rely on the operational work of the various services in the Interior Ministry.
"Absolutely Bulgaria should be accepted in Schengen. We have fulfilled the set criteria. Yesterday we also witnessed the report of the European Commission on the rule of law, there is a positive assessment regarding Bulgaria, which means that the Netherlands should now have a slightly different position than it was initially. The other country sceptical about our admission to Schengen is Austria, there we are also having very intensive talks at expert level and we are doing everything possible. I believe that, with the efforts we are making, we are doing what is necessary, and they should also change their position to a positive one. I hope that by the end of the year Bulgaria and Romania will be accepted into the Schengen area."