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site.btaUPDATED Bulgarian Politicians React Strongly to Netherlands' Position against Bulgaria Joining Schengen

Bulgarian Politicians React Strongly to Netherlands' Position against Bulgaria Joining Schengen
Bulgarian Politicians React Strongly to Netherlands' Position against Bulgaria Joining Schengen
Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria Photo

News reports in the Netherlands saying that the country would back the Schengen accession of Romania and Croatia but not that of Bulgaria, triggered strong reactions by Bulgarian authorities and political forces over the weekend.

The Dutch government reportedly decided at a meeting on December 2 that Bulgaria does not yet meet the conditions for joining the European border-free area. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has been quoted as saying that illegally crossing Bulgaria's border with Turkiye is possible at the cost of EUR 50.

To join the European border-free area, Bulgaria needs the unanimous support of all Member States. The EU Justice and Home Affairs Council is expected to take a decision on Bulgaria's, Romania's and Croatia's entry in Schengen at a meeting in Brussels on December 8 and 9.

Following are the reactions to the Netherlands' position of Bulgarian authorities and political figures.

President Rumen Radev on Facebook: Recently three Bulgarian policemen were killed protecting the external European border. Today [Friday], Netherlands' PM Mark Rutte unacceptably suggested that one could cross the border for EUR 50. Instead of receiving European solidarity, Bulgaria receives cynicism!

Vice President Iliana Iotova to reporters: The Netherlands is making the best Christmas present to all Eurosceptics, populist parties in Europe and those who do not want a strong Europe.  Through its decision, the Netherlands tolerates double standards in Europe, which is not at the basis of the EU's creation. The decision goes against the European values, such as solidarity, compassion, mutual assistance, and mutual respect. Let this decision of the Netherlands not turn into an argument for new internal political clashes and for clashes between the parties, because here Bulgaria's interest is above all. There still are several European-level forums where Bulgaria will be presented. Let us leave the Bulgarian diplomacy, which has been working exceptionally in the last months, to finish its job, let us leave the opportunity to President Radev to defend the Bulgarian position and hope for success.

Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev in an official position:  The Republic of Bulgaria is a full member of the European Union that is making exceptional efforts to guarantee its partners’ security. The Bulgarian security forces daily defend with their bodies the tranquility of all Europan citizens, including those of the Netherlands, on the EU’s hardest external land border, despite the increased migration pressure that is four-fold higher than in 2021. Three of our border police officers lost their lives to protect the security of the Union. The  suggestions that you can cross the border in exchange for EUR 50 are extremely offensive. Our efforts do not deserve disregard! Our efforts do not deserve offenses! We brought to a minimum the secondary migration to Central and Western Europe, paying a high price. In the last months Bulgaria has made exceptional efforts to meet all requirements of its partners. The country passed successfully two consecutive checks led by the European Commission, and both led to reports that firmly state Bulgaria meets all of Schengen’s legislative requirements. In exchange, instead of European solidarity we receive disregard and discrimination. The price of our membership in Schengen cannot be the Bulgarian police officers’ dignity! We are not ready to pay such a price!

Justice Minister Krum Zarkov on bTV: The Netherlands does not have the right to not want Bulgaria in Schengen. The way that country opposed Bulgaria’s entry is absolutely unacceptable and ungrounded from technical, legal as well as political point of view. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte suggested that one can cross the Bulgarian border in exchange for EUR 50, when only several weeks ago Bulgarian border police protecting Bulgarian but also Dutch citizens, died. Rutte should be careful, his words were heard in the whole of Europe and are yet to be discussed. We have done everything that the Netherlands and the other EU Member States have told us to do. Neither I nor my colleagues expected such a reaction. The dialogues we are conducting are quite the opposite. We are talking with the European Commission and with all Member States. Rutte’s words are not Europe’s position, quite the opposite. The European Commission, the European Parliament with a huge majority and all Member States, perhaps with the exception of just one, are on Bulgaria’s side. We respect the Netherlands and its position, but it should be expressed in a way that does not bring in question the dignity and life of Bulgarian police officers. Bulgaria has met all requirements and has the right to join Europe’s border-free area. 

Defence Minister Dimitar Stoyanov on bTV: Bulgaria has long ago met all technical requirements for entry in Schengen and should be part of the area. You cannot at any moment impose additional criteria; if that is the case, the same measuring tape should be used to measure all countries, not just Bulgaria. 

Deputy Prime Minister for EU Funds Management Atanas Pekanov on bTV: The Netherlands’decision is unacceptable, unfair, discriminatory. Bulgaria meets all technical criteria and our European partners have established that. The extraordinary missions to check the border that Bulgaria requested and to which the Netherlands did not send representatives, were successful and found no irregularities. Bulgaria passed this test, has made the necessary to be part of Schengen, and in this case it is becoming a victim of internal political processes in other countries. In other countries where there probably is a wish to keep Europe from expanding, it is the easiest to use this veto mechanism. There has been such a process in the Netherlands for several years now. It should be considered at the European level whether this mechanism is the best possible one for taking decisions. The law is on our side in this case, and the Bulgarian government will continue using all possible diplomatic channels until the EU Council meeting on December 8. 

GERB leader Boyko Borissov to reporters: Two years of timelessness, experiments and a total blow to professionalism at the Interior Ministry led to this result. I understand that other political forces are preparing a document asking the government to take tough countermeasures against the Netherlands. GERB does not agree and will not support such a declaration. The way out of the situation is to quickly form a government that will guarantee the security of the border and to continue to move together with Romania and Croatia. I expressed such a position at the meeting of the European People's Party in Athens on Saturday.

Continue the Change co-leader Kiril Petkov on Facebook: Bulgaria deserves to be a full member of Schengen. The Netherlands will give a green light to the accession of Romania and Croatia but will block Bulgaria's admission. A week ago I had an honest conversation with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and I insisted that the decisive steps Bulgaria's last regular government took should be taken into consideration, as well as the binding commitments under the Recovery and Resilience Plan to ensure rule of law and fight corruption. I underscored the readiness of Continue the Change to work for these goals, regardless of our position in Parliament, and to ensure the security of our borders.

Continue the Change party in press release: The Continue the Change parliamentary group will table in Parliament a draft declaration for urgent measures by the National Assembly for the adoption of the laws important for Bulgaria’s entry in Schengen. All possible checks by the European institutions, including by 17 experts from various countries, have shown that Bulgaria and Romania meet the formal criteria for Schengen area membership. Formally, Bulgaria should not be the only continental EU country that is not part of Schengen. In reality, part of the European partners are sending a clear signal, and not for the first time: you have a problem with corruption and with the rule of law. Continue the Change will table a declaration for the timely adoption by the National Assembly of the counter-corruption legislation as set in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, including the Counter-corruption Act, revisions to the Judicial System Act limiting the limitless power of the Prosecutor General, a bill to protect those who submit alerts or publicly announcing violations, and amendments to the Public Procurement Act. 

Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Korneliya Ninova on Facebook: Undeserved and humiliating. Bulgaria has met the criteria for our accession to Schengen. Nevertheless, we are treated like second-class people. And we are not. We should state that firmly enough, without bowing our back and ingratiating ourselves for charity. Schengen is one of the few topics that unite us. Let us all together and firmly defend our national interest.

Vazrazhdane leader Kostadin Kostadinov to reporters: It is very strange why our European partners insist so much on getting us in the eurozone but do not want to allow us in Schengen. Why is no one but Vazrazhdane asking that question? They need Bulgaria as a territorial buffer between Europe and Asia from which to drain money, people, resources, mineral resources, anything else but having a strong and stable country here.

Democratic Bulgaria MP Atanas Slavov on Nova NEWS: The Netherlands' position is not unexpected given the signals and comments via the corresponding diplomatic channels. The reason for the unfavourable momentary development lies in the lack of visible results in countering corruption and strengthening the rule of law. Schengen is not just about free crossing with no internal borders: it is about full accession to a community of values to which we, unfortunately, do not fully belong. It is better to do our homework before we go looking for who to blame among the other European countries.

Bulgarian Rise leader Stefan Yanev on Facebook: The Bulgarian Rise parliamentary group will submit to Parliament a draft resolution obliging Prime Minister Galab Donev to vote against all initiatives of the Netherlands as a reciprocal measure of their policy towards Bulgaria.

Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev in an official position: If the Dutch law enforcement partners have data and evidence, the Bulgarian prosecution service expects those to be provided under the international legal assistance procedure, in compliance with the rule of law. Bulgaria is a state governed by the rule of law, part of the European Union, and as such respects and defends European values. In connection with the statement of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to the Dutch public media NOS that he wants to exclude the possibility of illegal crossing of the border between Turkiye and the Schengen area in Bulgaria with a EUR 50 bill, the Bulgarian prosecution service has no data or evidence of this. 

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth to reporters in Sofia: It is time the EU Member States showed that when the Schengen criteria are met, the corresponding decision needs to be taken. Hopefully, there is still time until December 8 when the Council is expected to take a decision on the matter. The European Commission firmly backs the Schengen accession of Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia. I sincerely hope that in this situation arguments will not be used that have no place in this discussion. Here the message is for Bulgaria and for what has been done by the country, the message is for the Bulgarian citizens, the message is for the EU which, when it says there are values, those values should apply to everyone. There is no place for comments such as Rutte's, because a country enters Schengen following a technical evaluation, and the last missions have shown Bulgaria has met these criteria. Hopefully, those who assume a scenario where Bulgaria and Romania get decoupled for Schengen accession, realize the consequences, particularly in the geostrategical situation the EU finds itself in and in which Bulgaria is an external border of the Union. 

Bulgarian MEP Angel Dzhambazki (VMRO/European Conservatives and Reformists) to reporters: The Netherlands’s refusal to support Bulgaria for Schengen was expected. It is a signal for hypocrisy, double standard and Bulgaria being seen as a periphery that can only be a source of cheap labour force. Bulgaria will be treated this way until a large part of the Bulgarian political class stop behaving before the West European partners as service personnel. For 11 years the governments in Sofia have been trying to receive a pat on the shoulder and be praised by a boss. When you act that way, you get treated that way. The problem for the Western countries blocking Bulgaria’s entry in Schengen is not corruption. On the one hand, their problem was an economic one so they could remove as competitors the Bulgarian, Romanian and peripheral road carriers and businesses. On the other hand, their problem is that there is huge pressure in their countries with the migration they caused - emigration from African countries, the Middle East – but emigration that they cannot point a finger at, because it is not politically correct. They need to find someone they can point a finger at, such as the Bulgarian and the Romanian: a white European and a Christian of the Eastern Orthodox faith.

Bulgarian MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk (MRF/Renew Europe) in an official position: Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia should enter Schengen together. Bulgaria has the right to be part of Schengen because it meets all the criteria regulating that membership. For 11 years the European Commission and the European Parliament have insistently been calling for a Council decision, and they recognize the readiness of Bulgaria and Romania but with no result. The double standard creates a feeling of injustice in citizens.

/DS/

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By 00:07 on 31.01.2023 Today`s news

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