Addressing the Wachau forum in Austria Saturday, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said that whatever Austria decides regarding Sofia’s entry in the Schengen area, Bulgaria will continue to protect the external EU border. “I fully understand that the admission of Bulgaria to Schengen is a sensitive issue for Austrian politicians and society. I am not here to lobby. I only want to say that whatever you decide, we will continue to protect the EU external border as best we can. But I believe that keeping Bulgaria and Romania out of Schengen won’t make Schengen stronger. The front-line countries must be in,” Radev said.
Radev called for compassion with the tragedy of the thousands of immigrants trying to enter Europe, but said it should not be forgotten that “this is a very well-organized criminal network, which fuels the grey economy, organized crime, threatens security, and weighs on the social systems of the member states”. “But above all, illegal immigration is a challenge to our unity and solidarity. Bulgaria, driven by its sense of solidarity, has always protected the EU external border – the 300-kilometer most difficult external land border of the EU, between Bulgaria and Turkiye,” the President added. He said that Bulgaria had financed border protection with national funds and had mobilised significant human resources, including soldiers, to guard the border along difficult terrains. Radev noted that migration pressure had increased fourfold in the past year, but Bulgaria recorded a significant decline in the number of migrants leaving the country.
He stressed that illegal immigrants coming to Bulgaria do not want to stay there: their plan is to head north or west sooner or later. “In this respect, they do not threaten us, they are not a challenge to our social system. But we have never forgotten our sense of solidarity. Otherwise, we could just let them pass through Bulgaria,” he said.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer highlighted as a big mistake of the EU that in the past years Bulgaria has been left alone to guard one of EU’s longest external land borders, including at the cost of human lives, the president’s press secretariat said Saturday.. Nehammer expressed his gratitude for the friendly relations he has built over the years with President Radev and highlighted the strong support he has given within the European Council to bolster Bulgaria’s efforts to secure its external borders with Turkiye. Austria believes that the bureaucratic approach is unfair and Bulgaria deserves much stronger support as a frontline country in the fight against illegal migration, the press release reads.