Speaking to a small number of Bulgarian journalists his services carefully selected, Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov conveyed the message that before anybody else, he has had all the answers to the migration crisis, but it was only know that he was receiving congratulations for his wisdom. Georgi Gotev has the story.
“Bulgaria has shown how the issue should be solved and now everybody says “Bravo, you did a good job”, Borissov said in his trademark self-congratulatory style.
Sixteen EU heads of state and government held an emergency summit in Brussels on Sunday (24 June) to discuss migration – a crisis with a destructive potential for the EU. Borissov was there as Bulgaria holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.
Juncker initially invited France, Germany, the migration frontline countries Italy, Spain, Malta and Greece, and the current EU presidency Bulgaria, as well as Austria, who is taking over from 1 July.
Eight more countries joined: Belgium, Netherlands, Croatia, Slovenia, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Luxembourg. The Visegrad Four said they will boycott the meeting.
No results from the mini-summit were announced but sources said the discussions had largely revolved around a proposal by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and another one by French President Emmanuel Macron and Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez.
Leaders were invited by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to a hastily organised mini-summit, in an effort to prepare a key EU-28 summit on 28-29 June in a way that would allow German Chancellor Angela Merkel, under pressure at home, to keep her post.
Merkel’s conservative Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU) agreed to give her a few days’ of breathing space to find a pan-EU solution on migration, following a row over immigration that threatens to scupper her three-month-old coalition government.
But she conceded that even the “big” summit a few days later was unlikely to produce a broad solution and said she may try for direct deals with other member states instead.
“We know that at the European Council, unfortunately, we will not have a complete solution of the migration issue,” Merkel said before the meeting started.
“That is why there will be bilateral and trilateral agreements, how can we help each other – not always wait for all 28 members but think about what is important to whom,” she said.
The main tension at the mini-summit was between the new Italian government of Prime Minister Conte, who refuses to take more migrants crossing the Mediterranean, and France, which insists that Italy keeps committed to the “cooperative approach”.
Conte came to Brussels with a 10-point plan called “European multi-level strategy for migration”, which he had reportedly written himself.
The plan foresees protection centres for migrants in transit countries, strengthening the EU external borders (non-controversial ideas), “overcoming” the Dublin asylum system (explained by a diplomat as decoupling the saving of migrants at sea from their access to asylum procedure), getting rid of the responsibility of the first country of arrival, and the creation of protection centres in more countries (not only in Italy and Spain).
Italy appears to hit at countries not willing to accept refugees, such as the Visegrad Four (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia).
The other plan reportedly under discussion is the Franco-Spanish one, of which no text was made available.
According to French diplomats, Paris and Madrid want “closed disembarkation platforms” in closest safe ports to work “on a cooperative basis with the countries in the region” and a procedure to vet asylum seekers from economic migrants to be as fast as the one with the Aquarius ship recently docking in Valencia, with speedy returns and avoiding “secondary movements”.
The idea is that such “closed disembarkation platforms” would be created on EU territory, which may include the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the other side of the Gibraltar Straits.
Currently, such “closed” facilities don’t exist.
Borissov may have missed some of the discussions, as he met with selected Bulgarian journalists while the mini-summit was ongoing.
The main message he delivered is that he told the other leaders a long time ago what solutions they should seek, namely securing the EU external borders, but added that “water runs slower under the Brussels bridges”.
He also said that his country will not take back refugees who have first crossed the EU border in Bulgaria. He mentioned the number of 60.000 such refugees.
“First, before they send them back to me, they should agree that we build prisons and keep them in prisons”, he said, adding that migrants assigned to stay in Bulgaria have been caught “30-40 times” trying to cross Bulgaria’s borders “because they don’t want to stay with us”.
He insisted that migrants should not be returned to Bulgaria, but “to Tunisia and Libya, from where they came”, and that the proposed protection centres for migrants should not create conditions that would be attractive to bring even more prospective refugees.
One more time, he acted as a spokesperson of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, calling for the EU to disburse the second tranche of €3 billion, under the EU-Turkey migration deal of 16 March 2016.
Borissov said he had received a lot of congratulations, so he added that he was sure the migration crisis would be soon solved.
This website specifically requested to be invited to the Borissov press event. The Prime Minister’s office didn’t reject the request, but made many efforts to make sure the meeting is held only with friendly journalists.