site.btaBulgaria Remains Hopeful of Schengen Admission by End-December 2023
Bulgaria expects questions from Austria and remains hopeful of attaining admission to the Schengen area in December 2023, Bulgarian Interior Minister Kalin Stoyanov told Bulgarian journalists here on Thursday. He attended an extraordinary meeting of the EU Home Affairs Council here earlier in the day.
"The whole State and all institutions are fully mobilized, and I believe that we will achieve the required result in December 2023," Stoyanov said, referring the expected Schengen entry of Bulgaria and Romania.
"As far as I am concerned, the deadline by the end of December is quite realistic. We will do everything possible, jointly with Spain [which holds the Presidency of the EU Council during the second half of 2023] that the question about Bulgaria's and Romania's admission to Schengen be raised in December," the Interior Minister pointed out. He announced that Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov is due to visit Austria on October 4. "We expect to get questions there, we will answer them, we will hear the arguments of the Austrian side and we will set forth our own arguments," he added.
"Bulgaria should be admitted to Schengen. This will be a strong, clear and positive sign of EU unity at a time when we confront a serious security issue," Stoyanov commented. Earlier in the day he discussed this matter with his Austrian, Spanish, Romanian and Greek counterparts. "I am adamant that we enjoy everybody's support, we rely a lot on the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union," the Interior Minister said. He added that Austrian National Council President Wolfgang Sobotka is due to visit Bulgaria on October 10. "We will do everything possible to persuade Austria and The Netherlands to change their position on our Schengen entry," Stoyanov said.
In his opinion, "things are more straightforward" with The Netherlands because the changes expected by The Hague have been initiated. In his words, Bulgaria is facing exceedingly heavy and serious migration pressure. In the Interior Minister's estimate, since the beginning of 2023 Bulgaria has foiled some 160,000 illegal border crossing attempts. He specified that the number of such attempts reached 100,000 in 2022.
"With such unprecedented pressure, someone will certainly manage to cross over into Bulgaria in some way. Notably, the percentage of Bulgarians who transport and organize migrants in Bulgaria has dropped dramatically. Most human traffickers are from Poland, Ukraine and Moldova," Stoyanov explained.
He aid that his Ministry is starting to attain the targets set for a significant increase of the number of irregular migrants who are pushed back at the border itself compared to inland detentions. "The good thing is that, as a result of the very intensive talks with the Turkish authorities and the reorganization of border management, recent weeks have seen a significant decline in illegal border crossing attempts. I hope that we are on the right track if we carry on this effort," Stoyanov pointed out.
He added that the European Border and Coast Guard Agency is rendering very substantial support to Bulgaria. Some 170 Frontex officers are currently deployed at the Bulgarian border, and this number is planned to be increased. "We are grateful for what they have given us, and I suppose that additional resources will be allocated," the Interior Minister said.