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Foreign Minister: Bulgaria Will Stand Its Ground on Schengen Entry

Talking to reporters about Bulgaria’s efforts to join the border-free Schengen area, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mariya Gabriel Friday said Sofia would stick to its position that it shows understanding for [other countries’] domestic policy situations, but will stand the ground gained with hard work, efforts and results. She is participating in a sitting of the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee.

The point is for Bulgaria to continue to stand up for its position that it has earned its Schengen membership, Gabriel said. She cited a European Commission report of October 18 as saying that “Bulgaria has put in place a strong border management with efficient border surveillance and systematic border checks”. The report was followed by a successful mission in November, the Foreign Minister said.

Simultaneous talks are under way with both the Netherlands and Austria. The positions of the other Member State also matter, Gabriel said.

She thanked the Spanish EU Council Presidency for keeping the Schengen topic high on the agenda.

Asked if there is a phased entry option for Bulgaria, Gabriel said that even if there was such an option, it should include the land borders. It is a Schengen package encompassing the air, land and sea borders that will facilitate business, reduce backlogs at borders and bring real benefits to people. Questioned if Bulgaria has been set additional conditions, Gabriel said all conditions had been met. Talks are being held about voluntary measures, which are part of the Schengen legislation, to reaffirm Bulgaria’s readiness to protect the EU’s external borders. It is not about conditions, but about joint actions, she said.

Asked if there has been arm twisting about the conditions for Bulgaria’s entry in Schengen, Gabriel said this is part of the specifics of negotiations. She also said there is no risk for Bulgaria and Romania to be separated in their Schengen bid and stressed the importance of their sticking together.