site.btaUPDATED Finance Minister: There Is Serious Intensification of Foreign Trade in Dual-use Goods from, to Russia
Finance Minister Assen Vassilev Monday told the media that there is a very serious intensification of imports and exports of dual-use goods from and to Russia, which pass through the Bulgarian-Turkish border and continue on their way to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and other countries. Vassilev was speaking during a briefing at the Council of Ministers following a meeting with Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov and the European Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and the Capital Markets Union, Mairead McGuinness.
In Vassilev's words, the goods’ ultimate destination is Russia. That is why, he added, Bulgaria has started working actively with the European Commission on this matter to identify companies and channels and to intercept them.
"This will be the main focus of our work with the Commission on the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint," Vassilev said.
The Minister added that a number of initiatives have been undertaken to tighten controls on the Bulgarian border. Some involve thorough scanning of the trucks crossing the border and others are about opening a new checkpoint to alleviate the busy traffic via the existing ones. Vassilev said that funding has been set out in the 2024 budget for the design of the future checkpoint.
The Finance Minister said that some of the trucks are made to wait for as long as six days at the border. In his words, there were cases when trucks were cleared without major inspections, which he said is “a very bad practice".
"From this standpoint, our cooperation with Ms. McGuinness is very important. We also really appreciate her support for Bulgaria's bid to enter the Schengen area, as well as the support of the entire Commission," Vassilev said.
He added that the Customs Agency is working well with the UK services on measures to control illegal migrants who subsequently reach the Channel. This has resulted in stopping this route for migrants passing through Bulgaria.
20,000-plus companies evade Russia sanctions
Over 20,000 companies are involved in evading the sanctions and continue supplying materials to and from Russia, Assen Vassilev told the news briefing with European Commissioner McGuinness. "The main problem is that everywhere in Europe these companies use the proper customs documents. The twentieth package of sanctions now is being prepared and it deals with how to close these loopholes," he said.
Vassilev, Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov and EU Commissioner McGuinness discussed how these practices can be ended.
The Finance Minister explained that much of the land transit of goods goes through Bulgaria, Turkiye and then on to other countries. "The aim is to examine everything much more thoroughly. This happens when a much deeper integration between the European Commission and the Customs Agency is done at operational level. In addition, patterns of behaviour need to be understood, not just specific transactions or transits," said Vassilev. He believes that a way needs to be found to "close down whole patterns of behaviour". "This can be done by regulations or specific procedures, mostly of the Customs Agency, but not only."
"We have experience with the UK with this kind of goods. At the moment we want to build on this experience and start with the Commission to identify the risks, the patterns of behaviour much more actively and stop this transit, which passes not only through Bulgaria, but also through many other countries," the Bulgarian Finance Minister said.
Prime Minister Denkov specified that an example of such goods could be electronic components to be used in various military applications.