site.btaUPDATED Bulgarian Politicians React to EU Council Decision Barring Sofia, Bucharest from Schengen
Bulgarian politicians on Thursday reacted to the decision of the EU Council to reject the Schengen entry of Bulgaria and Romania.
Ekaterina Zaharieva, MP of GERB-UDF, Chair of the National Assembly Committee on Foreign Policy: The decision is definitely unacceptable. Bulgaria fulfilled its Schengen obligations as far back as 2011. The country has invested an awful lot of resources in protecting the EU's external border, it has put so much effort into it and has even lost human lives. Sadly, there is no unanimity on the matter, two countries (Austria and the Netherlands) still resist giving the green light. This is bad for the unity of the EU, particularly in the present geopolitical situation. Bulgaria should make further efforts to convince its EU partners that it is prepared to join the Schengen area.
Kiril Petkov, Co-leader of Continue the Change: I believe that Bulgaria deserves to be in Schengen, we are not second-class people. During talks with EU leaders in Brussels I was clearly told that they saw the difference between what was said and what was done under the Borissov government. We strongly fear that if GERB comes back to power, the old practices will be revived. On the other hand, I think that what happened over the last few weeks was rather irrelevant. If they had approved the counter-corruption legislation, the laws required under the Recovery and Resilience Plan about limiting the prosecutor general's control powers, this would have indicated that the progressive forces in Bulgaria were carrying on. The caretaker government also held an essentially irrelevant stance as it threw accusations at EU leaders and tried to speak aggressively against them. If Bulgaria has a government with a strong counter-corruption policy and if it invites the external partners to share in tightening border control, Schengen will be an easily attainable goal.
Hristo Ivanov, Floor Leader of Democratic Bulgaria: We need to strengthen our security forces, border control, the judicial system and all agencies that are supposed to fight corruption. The fight against corruption is the main condition not just for Schengen but also for the Recovery and Resilience Plan. The attempts to keep Ivan Geshev as Prosecutor General, to avoid the topic of the judicial reform are ever more clearly ruining Bulgaria. We need to do our job, to show that Bulgaria can make reforms and can reform its judicial system. The political class should realize that it is time to reform the judicial system.
Kristian Vigenin, MP of BSP for Bulgaria, Deputy Chair of the National Assembly: The decision was not unexpected, it is disappointing but should not be discouraging. The case is not completely closed yet. Bulgaria should try to raise the matter again at the EU Summit. I must admit that I expected a positive decision. We obviously need to work harder with the hesitant countries. Bulgaria should ask the Netherlands and Austria for assistance to strengthen and reinforce the protection of our external borders and to show more solidarity. Rather than standing in our way, they should help us cope if they think we are not doing well enough.
Nikolai Drenchev, MP of Vazrazhdane: The decision is an expression of hypocrisy on the part of the EU, which applies double standards. When it comes to Bulgaria's planned accession to the Eurozone, where our currency peg guarantee fund would be of use, they are ready to admit us even if we do not meet the criteria. But when they stand to gain nothing, even if we fulfilled the Schengen conditions decades ago, it turns out they do not want us in. They need us as a buffer and a donor of manpower and finances.
Bulgarian MEP Andrey Kovatchev (GERB/EPP), commenting to BTA in Brussels: Austria may reconsider its decision blocking Bulgaria for Schengen if the flow of unregistered migrants entering its territory declines. When the Bulgarian EPP MEPs conferred with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer in Vienna, he emphasized that this is not a veto but a delay for a certain time.
The Netherlands insists on waiting for the report on the Rule of Law Mechanism, which is expected within a month's time. "When the results in that report become known, there will be consultations in the parliament in The Hague and a final decision will be taken.
Earlier on Thursday, Kovatchev wrote in a Facebook post that he expects the Chancellor to visit Bulgaria shortly.