site.btaWrap-up: Austrian Chancellor Says His Country Will Lobby EU for Bulgaria to Get EUR 2 Bln to Enhance Border Security  

Wrap-up: Austrian Chancellor Says His Country Will Lobby EU for Bulgaria to Get EUR 2 Bln to Enhance Border Security  
Wrap-up: Austrian Chancellor Says His Country Will Lobby EU for Bulgaria to Get EUR 2 Bln to Enhance Border Security  
Austrian Cancellor Nehammer (left) and President Radev, Elhovo, on the Bulgarian-Turkish border, Jan. 23 (BTA Photo)

Austria will lobby the European Union for Bulgaria to get aid worth EUR 2 billion in order to enhance security along its border with Turkiye, said visiting Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer here Monday. He held a joint news conference with Bulgarian President Rumen Radev after the two inspected the Bulgarian-Turkish border at Elhovo from a helicopter and then visited a border facility for detention of illegal migrants.

The Austrian Chancellor’s visit focused on Bulgarian border security and countering the migration pressure, as well as Bulgaria's bid to join the Schengen area.

Protecting the Bulgarian-Turkish border also means protecting Austria's border, Nehammer said. "We are very grateful for the efforts that the Bulgarian State is making to protect this border," he said.

He added that President Radev had told him how much funds would be needed to enhance the border's protection. "Austria supports Bulgaria's efforts and we will lobby for these EUR 2 billion that are needed, to be provided," Nehammer said.

President Radev: Bulgaria has significantly improved border protection 

Bulgaria has significantly improved the organization of protecting its border with Turkiye, new technical systems have been installed and actions have been taken to better train border police officers, President Radev told the joint news conference.

Illegal migration is a challenge for united Europe, and Bulgaria, being a responsible member of the European Union, makes huge efforts to deal with this challenge, Radev further said. 

The Bulgarian President and the Austrian Chancellor landed in Elhovo after inspecting the Bulgarian-Turkish border from a military helicopter. In Elhovo, they visited the Border Police Regional Directorate, which houses the Regional Coordination Centre. The Centre is part of the Integrated Monitoring System of the Bulgarian-Turkish border.

They had a working meeting and also inspected the facilities where illegal migrants who have entered Bulgaria are detained.

The pressure on the Bulgarian border has increased dramatically in the past year and the migrants  are becoming more aggressive, Radev said, adding that Bulgaria has lost four police officers in the course of just four months, while dozens of others have been wounded. Bulgaria took swift and decisive actions to deal with this difficult situation, the President said. "We are faced with a powerful and well-organized migrant trafficking network, which is centred and has branches across different EU Member States," the Bulgarian President said. 

Radev said that the fence along the border with Turkiye was built on national funding. He mentioned his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the commitment made by the Turkish side to tighten border control. 

"We have improved significantly the border protection, we have repaired the available infrastructure, we have installed new technical systems, and are taking actions to perfect the training of the border police officers and improve their integrity," Radev explained. He added that additional forces have been sent to the border, while checks inside the country against illegal migration have been stepped up. 

Radev pointed out that many of the human traffickers detained across Bulgaria have turned out to be citizens of other EU Member States.

"We conducted a large-scale special operation in Bulgaria, Turkiye and other neighbouring countries last week, which dealt a blow not only on the traffickers, but also on the centres that manage the trafficking rings," the President said. 

The Austrian Chancellor was accompanied on his visit by the Federal Minister of the Interior, Gerhard Karner.  The Bulgarian delegation for the visit to the Bulgarian-Turkish border included Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev, Defence Minister Dimitar Stoyanov, and the Chief of Defence, Admiral Emil Eftimov. 

PM Donev: Schengen accession remains key priority for Bulgaria

After meeting with visiting Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer on Monday, Bulgarian Prime Minister Galab Donev said Schengen accession remains a key priority for Bulgaria. "Hopefully, your visit today will contribute to a positive development of this priority for Bulgaria." The two officials discussed bilateral cooperation and other matters of shared interest.

Galab Donev said: "This will give an important impetus to relations between Bulgaria, Austria and the whole EU. We believe it is in our shared interest to solve the problems arising from the increase in migrant pressure on the EU, as well as to work towards enhancing confidence and security in the Schengen area. Bulgaria's accession to Schengen will ensure stronger economic cooperation, as well as better protection of the external borders. This is in the interest of Bulgaria, of Austria and of all member states."

"We welcome the coordination of the action plan which was discussed by the two countries' experts in the last few days. This action plan will help to prevent illegal migration in the EU. The plan is certain to further strengthen cooperation between Sofia and Vienna in this area, which is important to us," Donev said.

He noted that Bulgaria views Austria as a traditional economic partner and the Austrians as a close and friendly people. "We hope to expand and strengthen our cooperation not just in security and the Schengen area, but also in culture, science, tourism and all other fields of shared interest," the Prime Minister commented.

Karl Nehammer said there is a great problem with illegal migration. "There are problems in the Schengen area and we want to draw attention to this. When it comes to expanding the Schengen area with another external border, these borders must be reliably protected. It is a fact that since 2015, Germany has controlled its borders with Austria. Czechia also controls its borders. For the first time in its history, Czechia has introduced border control with Slovakia. There is border control at Austria's borders with Slovakia and Slovenia, and we are discussing Schengen enlargement," the Austrian Chancellor said.

"In a country like Austria, which is internal to the Schengen area, we have more than 100,000 asylum applications. Of them, 75,000 are first-time applicants. This means that the migrants who have applied for asylum for the first time in Austria have crossed other countries. We have a problem which can only be solved with joint efforts. We are talking about organized crime, drug trafficking and human trafficking. That is why we are having this discussion. Austria has always said that it will never abandon either Bulgaria or Romania on their accession path," he said.

According to the Austrian Chancellor, the protection of the external border should be on the front burner for the entire European Union.

"We are fully aware of the workload of the Bulgarian border services. For Bulgaria, this is extremely difficult and takes a great effort. The [European] Commission should allocate more funds for the protection of the external border," he said.

Austria is opposed to Bulgaria's Schengen accession. In December of last year, the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council did not admit Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area because Austria opposed the two countries' accession and the Netherlands opposed Bulgaria's. Ahead of the Bulgarian visit by the Chancellor and Interior Minister of Austria, Austrian news media wrote that the two remain opposed to the Schengen enlargement into this country. 





By 02:07 on 09.06.2023 Today`s news

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