Merkel warns against Visegrad’s plans for a ‘reserve border system’

Angela Merkel [European Commission] [European Council]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned yesterday (14 February) against plans for a “reserve border system” devised by the Visegrad Four, the group of countries including Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

The leaders of the ‘Visegrad Four’ (also known as V4) are meeting today in Prague for a mini-summit ahead of the 18-19 February EU Council meeting. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov was invited, together with the President of Macedonia, to join the Prague meeting.

The Visegrad leaders seek a possible “plan B” in case of a collapse of the Schengen system and in particular an exit of Greece from the group. In particular, they want to make sure that the borders between Bulgaria and Greece and Macedonia and Greece are sealed and effectively stop the migration flows.

Visegrád group calls migration mini-summit, seeks plan B

Prague will host an extraordinary summit of the Visegrad group, three days ahead of the February EU summit, to discuss the migration crisis and a possible “plan B” in case of a widening divide with the older Schengen members.

The press service of the Bulgarian Prime Minister reported that Borissov spoke to Merkel yesterday, at his initiative. Borissov is reported to have told Merkel of his country’s commitment to seeking a common European response to the refugee crisis.

But media also report that Borissov has been criticised internally for accepting the invitation for the Visegrad summit, and has been warned that he puts the country at odds with Brussels.

MEP Svetoslav Malinov, from the small centre-right party Reformist Bloc, a junior coalition partner of Borissov’s GERB party, warned that the participation of Bulgaria to a “separate policy” conducted by V4, will have negative consequences for Bulgaria and would complicate its relations with Germany.

The Polish news website reports that Merkel put pressure on Borissov, and he abandoned plans to support the plans of the Visegrad group.

“Bulgaria confirms its solidarity with Greece and its disagreement with the idea to close the border between Macedonia and Greece,” the press release says.

According to the Bulgarian Prime Minister, the EU should act as a whole and seek common solutions to the migrant crisis.

Borissov is reported to have also urged Merkel to support Bulgaria amid the “complications” caused by a Greek farmers’ protest at the Bulgaria-Greece border.

Greek farmers’ border blockade angers Bulgarians

Bulgaria is losing patience with Greek farmers, who have blocked border checkpoints for a third consecutive day today (3 February), protesting against a planned overhaul of the pension system.

Last October, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called a mini-summit to tackle the refugee crisis along the Western Balkans route. On that occasion Borissov made it plain that the countries on the Balkan route won’t allow to be transformed into refugee camps.

“If Germany, Austria and other countries close their borders, we will not let our peoples become a buffer zone. We will be ready in the same way to close our borders,” Borissov said last October.

Last Friday (12 February), Austria told Macedonia to be ready to “completely stop” the flow of migrants across its southern border from Greece, and said it would do the same on its own frontiers within months.

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