Radev and Nehammer: Guarding EU's External Borders Is a Common European Commitment
Austria will support Bulgaria to receive EUR 2 billion from the European Commission for border reinforcement
Austria and Bulgaria share the position that securing the external European borders is an overall commitment for all EU member states. That is why frontline countries, especially Bulgaria, need support. This is what President Rumen Radev said in Elhovo at a joint briefing together with Austrian Federal Chancellor, Karl Nehammer, who is on a working visit to Bulgaria and at the initiative of the head of State, familiarised himself on the spot with the measures taken to secure and control the Bulgarian-Turkish border, which is external to the European Union.
Nehammer was welcomed by Rumen Radev at Plovdiv Airport. After a helicopter ride over the barrier on the border with Turkiye, President Radev and Chancellor Nehammer visited the Regional Directorate of Border Police in Elhovo. The territorial structure is responsible for the control of the 281-kilometre border with Turkiye. Radev and Nehammer visited the Regional Coordination Centre, part of the Integrated Border Surveillance System, located in the regional directorate.
In a press statement, President Radev said that illegal migration is a challenge for the whole of Europe. In defence of its national security and as a responsible member of the EU, Bulgaria is making great efforts to tackle trafficking, the head of State said. In his words, however, the fact that the Schengen area is not fully functioning in Central Europe, which necessitates the introduction of border controls in this region, does not mean that Bulgaria and Romania should stay outside Schengen. We are proving every day that we protect the EU's external borders and better than a number of countries in the Schengen area, the President stressed. He added that Bulgaria had built a border deterrence facility entirely with funds from the national budget, it has stationary and mobile video surveillance systems, and all information is summarised in a timely manner.
Over the past year, the pressure on our border has sharply increased and the actions of migrants have become increasingly aggressive, the President said, adding that Bulgaria had taken quick and decisive measures to deal with the difficult situation. Among them, Rumen Radev highlighted the top-level political meetings with the presidents of Turkiye and Greece, the renovation of the existing infrastructure, the installation of new technical systems, the improvement of the training of officials, and the deployment of Bulgarian army officers along the border. We have stepped up checks inside the country to combat illegal migration with centres and branches in different EU member states. Quite a few of the traffickers we catch on our territory are citizens of EU member states, Rumen Radev said, highlighting cooperation at the international level. The President thanked Austria for its partnership in the fight against illegal migration, as well as for the country's position in the European Commission and the EU Council on the need for solidarity for frontline countries.
The President called for a rational decision to be reached on the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen in the near future, pointing also to the economic dimensions of the issue. Schengen embodies one of the most significant values of the EU - freedom of movement. It is not fair for Bulgaria and Romania to remain outside Schengen, because both the economies of the two countries would lose from this, but also Austria, which is the number one investor in Bulgaria, Rumen Radev specified, noting that Bulgarian citizens still pass checks and wait at checkpoints.
Austria supports Bulgaria's efforts and willingness to secure the border, Chancellor Karl Nehammer said. He added that his country would support Bulgaria before the European Commission in order to receive EUR 2 billion to strengthen its border security. The funds will be used to buy hi-tech equipment, helicopters, all-terrain vehicles, night vision equipment and more. Nehammer said that a change in the European legal framework and a common return policy for migrants, with the possibility of law enforcement officers to act quickly and effectively, is needed to also achieve a workable fight against illegal immigration.
During the visit of Radev and Nehammer to Elhovo, the Border Police showed the conditions under which people who have illegally crossed the state border are temporarily detained. Personal gear and equipment for surveillance and control were also presented. More than 1,600 employees of the Ministry of Interior and the Bulgarian armed forces guard the Bulgarian-Turkish border.