site.btaInterior Ministry: Bulgaria Meets Conditions for Full Schengen Membership
The third voluntary fact-finding Schengen-related mission was successfully completed. The conclusion is that Bulgaria continues to meet the conditions for full membership in the area of free movement, the press centre of the Ministry of Interior reported Thursday.
The third fact-finding mission took place between November 22 and 24. It was attended by 13 experts from EU member states, including Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Spain and others, four experts from the European Commission (EC), as well as observers from Frontex, Europol and FRA - the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights. The aim of the mission is to provide additional, up-to-date information on the implementation of Schengen legislation by Bulgaria. The areas covered by the mission are external border management, police cooperation, respect for fundamental rights, and information systems supporting the implementation of Schengen legislation, the interior ministry said.
According to the experts' report, Bulgaria continues to fully implement Schengen legislation and to show a high level of commitment in ensuring an effective response to migration pressures and related challenges. Increased efforts both at the EU's external borders and on Bulgarian territory, together with enhanced cooperation with Turkiye and Serbia, have contributed to reducing the increased migration pressure along the route through the Western Balkans by almost 25% in 2023 compared to the same period of the previous year. Bulgaria is actively preventing secondary movements with enhanced policing and information sharing, the mission noted.
In the context of evolving geopolitical changes and related threats, Bulgaria has strengthened its external border management over the past year by improving its national capacity. The increase in the number of border police officers and the deployment of the permanent Frontex corps, as well as the equipment at the Bulgarian-Turkish border, has contributed to tackling migration challenges and cross-border crime.
In line with EU priorities, Bulgaria has stepped up its efforts to combat smuggling by improving the legal and operational framework. The country initiated the establishment of a Europol Task Force, which started work in September. Frontex organised mobile operational support teams to fight cross-border crime for the first time in Bulgaria as part of ongoing joint operations.
The country continues to be a reliable partner for cross-border cooperation and maintains active interaction in the region with other member states and key third countries, including Turkiye, Serbia and North Macedonia. Bulgaria takes all necessary measures to ensure timely and reliable information sharing, including through the introduction of new and the implementation of existing functionalities of the Schengen Information System. It continues to implement measures in areas where there is an increased risk of corruption, the Interior Ministry said.
In conclusion, the team considers that Bulgaria continues to meet the conditions necessary for the full implementation of all provisions of the Schengen legislation.
The report will be presented at the upcoming Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on December 5, which will be attended by Minister Kalin Stoyanov.
European Commissioner for the Economy Paolo Gentiloni declared to Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov full support from the European Commission for Bulgaria's Schengen membership, as well as for the efforts to meet the euro area criteria.