site.btaUPDATED Interior Ministers of Bulgaria, Romania and EU Home Affairs Commissioner Discuss Schengen Accession

Interior Ministers of Bulgaria, Romania and EU Home Affairs Commissioner Discuss Schengen Accession
Interior Ministers of Bulgaria, Romania and EU Home Affairs Commissioner Discuss Schengen Accession
From left: Bulgaria's caretaker Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson and Romania's Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs, Marian-Catalin Predoiu, Sofia, April 18, 2024 (BTA Photo)

Bulgaria's caretaker Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov, Romania's Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs, Marian-Catalin Predoiu, and EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson Thursday came together in Sofia to hail the recent Schengen accession by air and sea for Bulgaria and Romania. The two ministers said more than once that land border controls for Bulgaria and Romania should be lifted by the end of this yearThe two ministers also signed a bilateral Protocol amending the Agreement on cross-border police cooperation in criminal matters. Later in the day, Commissioner Johansson visited Sofia Airport to see its new arrangements in connection with Bulgaria's entry in the border-free area on March 31.

At the joint news briefing, Commissioner Johansson spoke about "the well-deserved and well-awaited" accession of Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen area. "It is a great moment to celebrate but we are not satisfied because we still need the decisions to lift controls at the land border,” she said.

She pointed out that a couple of days ago the European Commission adopted a report on Schengen where it recommends - for the first time - that a date be set for scrapping land border controls. "This will be discussed at the upcoming Council in June and I know it is also a priority for the Belgian Presidency," she added.

Of her meeting with the two Interior Ministers in Sofia on Thursday, she said that they "had a very good exchange where both ministers told about the improvements made in Bulgaria and Romania". "As we have already seen in fact-finding missions, Bulgaria and Romania are better prepared to fulfill all the Schengen acquis than some Schengen member states," the Commissioner argued. 

Commissioner Johansson also said, "We have a good protection of the Schengen external borders, we have good cooperation with third countries, not least very important cooperation with Turkiye, we have very good police cooperation. […] Its impressive to see all this improvement." 

She pointed out that it has been "a very important issue for the EC and for her personally to see Bulgaria and Romania becoming full members of the Schengen area".  "I am pretty convinced and very motivated to have the last decision on lifting land border controls while I am still the commissioner in charge," said Ylva Johansson.

Kalin Stoyanov said that Schengen accession "is an extremely important step for the two countries, for which they have been working hard, consistently and together ever since they joined the EU".  He added that they will continue to work together towards the abolition of land border controls by the end of this calendar year.

"As good neighbours, together we are overcoming the difficulties along the way. I think Bulgaria and Romania are an excellent example of good neighbourliness," Stoyanov stressed. He noted that citizens and businesses in both countries deserve to benefit from "the full scope of free movement".

He said that his Ministry will continue to ensure the security of the external borders for which Bulgaria is responsible. 

He pointed out that work to track down criminal groups for illegal migration has been stepped up. He stressed the good dialogue with Turkiye. "Since September 2023, there has been a steady trend of decreasing migration pressure on Bulgaria. Since the beginning of this year, just over 7,000 third-country nationals have attempted to cross our border illegally," he said.

Taking a reporter's question about a possible split of the Bulgaria-Romania pair as it tries to achieve lifting of land border controls, Stoyanov said it is out of the question. "We should go as a package to the end. We are stronger that way," he argued.

He also said that active dialogue with Austria should continue on political and professional level as it has remained the only hurdle to the lifting of land border controls for Bulgaria and Romania. "We will show the results, which I am sure we will continue to build on," Stoyanov said. He added that the German Interior Minister had also noted Bulgaria's good results.

"The decision to lift land border controls is a political one and I hope it will be taken by the end of this year," Stoyanov said.

Marian-Catalin Predoiu said that border checks for air and sea travel for the two countries were scrapped after a process that took over a decade. "We achieved last year an important step. We need to continue with the second one: land borders, in 2024. Both countries are ready for that, we are prepared to do it," he added. He called for "finalizing this European project".

He said and he discussed with his Bulgarian counterpart "measures to integrate the efforts of our policemen at the border, internally, to tackle organized crime and illegal migration".

"We took the necessary steps to secure our borders and European borders, to tackle illegal migration and transborder organized crime. We are here to celebrate an important result obtained last year but we are also here to organize our efforts, to continue our work for the benefit of our citizens in 2024 until we achieve finalization of this important European project, which is extension of the Schengen acquis for all the borders of Bulgaria and Romania. [...] I am sure that together, with Commissioner Johansson and the rest of the EU member states, we will achieve our goals this year."

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By 14:05 on 17.06.2024 Today`s news

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