Bulgaria asked the European Union to develop a backup plan, in the event that Turkey refuses to implement its agreement to deal with the refugee crisis, Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said on Friday (20 May).
Mitov made the comment at the meeting of NATO foreign ministers last week, at which NATO-EU cooperation to deal with refugee crisis was discussed.
“We are pushing for plan B. It must take into account many factors. You need to be aware that the agreement itself has its delicate moments. We have insisted for such a plan and now we are discussing it,” said Mitov, according to Bulgarian newspaper Sega.
This is the first time an EU minister confirmed that a backup plan to tackle the refugee crisis has been discussed at EU and NATO level. Following a report in Bild on 9 May about the plan, the European Commission said there is only one plan, and that is the deal with Turkey.
According to the plan, asylum seekers will be kept on Greek islands, those refused asylum would then be deported directly to their home countries, and the €6 billion in aid promised to Turkey would be transferred to Athens instead.
The development of alternatives seems to be a necessity, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated he would drop the refugee deal if the EU doesn’t grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel.
A backup plan was first mentioned by the Visegrad Four countries, who said that Greece should be kicked out of Schengen and the security of the borders of Bulgaria and Macedonia should be strengthened.
Mitov provided no details of the alternate scenario, but he denied having discussed the deployment of NATO ground forces on the border between Turkey and Greece if the flow of refugees is redirected towards Bulgaria.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov yesterday (22 May) made an inspection of the border fence with Turkey, together with the leader of a small nationalist party which supports his minority government.
Borissov praised the agreement with Turkey for sending back all the refugees who illegally cross the border.