site.btaInvestigation Underway into Bulgarian Ships Detained in Romania - Foreign Minister Milkov
An investigation is underway into the case of the three Bulgarian ships detained a few days ago at the military port in Constanta, Romania, and the sailors on them, and Bulgaria is ready to cooperate, caretaker Foreign Minister Nikolay Milkov told bTV on Tuesday. "What is known is that the location - where they were found, where they were arrested, what was the catch that was on the ships themselves - needs to be established with absolute precision," Milkov said.
He clarified that there was no dispute about the location of the fishermen - they were not in territorial waters, but 52 km east of Constanta, which is an exclusive economic zone where fishing is allowed. Romania's claims are about the type of fishing - shark fishing - which they say is banned at this time, Milkov added.
According to him, the Romanians are trying to apply their [domestic] law in European waters, but this will be decided by the court.
Milkov expects the issue to be resolved before Easter.
“The Ministry was involved in the case from the very beginning. Through our embassy in Bucharest we found out about the arrested fishermen on March 24 at noon. Shortly thereafter, a relevant note was sent, requesting as much information as possible, contacting the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, contacting the Border Police in Romania, contacting the detainees themselves, who were in the port of Constanta. As a result of the efforts made, they were treated well, there were no problems," the Foreign Minister explained.
On the evening of March 25, the fishermen were released and the ships remained in Romania. The question is when they are to be released, Milkov said.
According to the latest information, an investigation is underway and Bulgaria is ready to provide assistance.
Periodically, similar cases arise in our relations with Romania, he added. In his words, there are certain ambiguities in the application of the legal framework which he hopes will be cleared up. They have not led to any problems in the past, such as heavy convictions, the Minister noted.
Relations with Skopje
Milkov also commented on the relations of Bulgaria with the Republic of North Macedonia, noting that “we are not getting closer to the way of solving the cases that lead to escalation and build-up of tensions. This obviously has to be experienced in the course of time”, the Minister said
"In recent months, we have witnessed a number of acts that are hostile and not in line with the base of understanding and agreement. I hope they see reason, because they have to think about the European perspective," he added.
"The ball is in their court, they do not have a deadline to implement the so-called French or European proposal. When they fulfil it, then the first stage of the beginning of the negotiation process will be opened. It lasts for a very long time and then there are many different forms, ways in which the situation can be controlled," Nikolay Milkov said.
The Minister also said, "We are ready to assist now the people who identify as Bulgarians in the period when they will file complaints and grievances - initially to the courts in the Republic of North Macedonia, and later to the European courts, as most of them do not have the financial ability to do so on their own. In addition, they need to be encouraged and to feel that they have support behind them, as otherwise they could easily be crushed. I know of many cases of people who have been individually harassed and repressed, who have been put under pressure to stop complaining, because otherwise the risk is that they will be punished, that they will be constantly called to the police, to the prosecutor's office, that they will be given the impression that it is better to keep quiet or emigrate to Bulgaria. In this regard, I think that the daily work with the people of the Bulgarian communities there - supporting their efforts to defend what is Bulgarian, could be an additional track."
"What is remarkable is that they have sharp contradictions between the opposition and the ruling party to begin with, but at the same time they enjoy a fast and impressive consensus when they have to pass legislation that is anti-Bulgarian", he commented.
Voting abroad in Bulgarian snap elections
Regarding the organisation of elections abroad, the Foreign Minister said that the voting machines have already left for the farthest destinations and will arrive there on time. This had been a bit of a concern, for the machines were previously received some 15 days before the elections, while now there are fewer than 10 days left, which causes some tension, but everything is fine in the end, Milkov said.
The last effort is to provide seconded staff with all the documents and paperwork so that they too can leave. "This is the first time we are seconding so many Bulgarian staff - 534 staff as representatives of the State. In addition, 203 can be provided locally from the Bulgarian diplomatic missions to also participate as representatives, this saves money because they are on the spot. The total number of participants in the district electoral commissions is over 4,100 at the moment. There are a total of 737 polling stations in 61 countries," the minister said. There will be no video surveillance abroad under the Election Code.
The representatives of the political parties are a total of 1,600, the rest are representatives of the local Bulgarian communities on the spot.