Juncker promises Bulgaria aid to strengthen border with Turkey

Jean-Claude Juncker and Boyko Borissov in Sofia, Bulgaria, 27 April 2014 [Jean-Claude Juncker/Flickr]

Jean-Claude Juncker and Boyko Borissov in Sofia, Bulgaria, 27 April 2014 [Jean-Claude Juncker/Flickr]

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has told Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in a letter seen by euractiv.com that he is aware of the “fragile situation” of the country and that considerable support for the consolidation of the country’s border will be made available.

The letter, dated 12 September, comes ahead of the Bratislava summit on 16 September, where Borissov is expected to voice his concerns of a worst-case scenario – the collapse of the EU-Turkey deal and a massive arrival of migrants across the Bulgarian border.

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An adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened that if the European Parliament votes against lifting the visa requirement for Turkish citizens, his country would send refugees on its territory to the European Union.

Recently, Borissov complained of “absolute non-solidarity” in the EU with regard to the migration crisis.

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The Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov made use of anti-EU rhetoric ahead of a visit to Turkey tomorrow (26 August), describing Ankara as Sofia’s only ally in the context of the refugee crisis.

The letter also seems to pre-empt attempts by the Visegrad group to spearhead a “Plan B”, whereby Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary would take care of strengthening the borders of Macedonia and Bulgaria, in case of a collapse of the EU-Turkey deal. The Visegrad group and Austria are already providing substantial support to Macedonia, who has secured its border with Greece.

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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.

Juncker doesn’t want to lose Borissov as an ally. In the recent past, Borissov has sided with the Commission President in saying that Eastern European countries opposing new refugee quotas should show more solidarity with the European Union.

Borissov urges Eastern Europe to end opposition to refugee quotas

Eastern European countries opposing new refugee quotas should show more solidarity with the European Union, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said yesterday (5 May), adding that Sofia would accept its share of people fleeing war and persecution to Europe.

“The implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March 2016 has been successful in reducing the flows of migrants from Turkey to the EU, but the situation remains fragile. It is essential that this period does not see the emergence of new routes”, Juncker writes.

Expressing his strong will to step up the consolidation of the Bulgarian border infrastructure, Juncker recognises that more should be done and that member states should show more solidarity with Bulgaria. He also says he has asked the relevant Commission officials to travel to Bulgaria in the following days and discuss the country’s need further.

“The security of the external borders o the EU is important for me. I am well aware and I applaud the efforts of the Bulgarian authorities involved in that mission. You can count on the support of the Commission in strengthening the security in frontline member states such as Bulgaria.

“Thai is why I intend to raise the matter once again at the Bratislava summit later this week”, Juncker writes.

The letter, however, does not make reference to Bulgaria’s bid to join Schengen. The country has been ready for years to join the EU border-free common space, but has faced opposition from member states, such as Germany and the Netherlands. Borissov has repeatedly said that his country is securing the EU external borders much better than some of the present Schengen members.

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