Police removed barricades at Turkish-Bulgarian border

September 25, 2017 by  
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Nationalists had tried to keep Bulgarian-Turkish dual citizens from voting in Bulgaria’s upcoming parliamentary election. Meanwhile, Presidents Erdogan and Radev traded barbs.

Amid growing tension between Sofia and Ankara, Bulgarian police on Friday removed barricades protesters had erected at at least two border crossings with Turkey. Bulgarian nationalists had attempted to prevent Bulgarian-Turkish dual citizens from entering the country to vote in Sunday’s parliamentary elections. Dozens of protesters carried banners bearing nationalist slogans such “No to Turkish interference” at Kapitan Andreevo, the main checkpoint between the two countries. Similar blockades had been erected earlier in the week, but protests quickly petered out.

Turks are an influential minority
Tension has been growing between neighbors Bulgaria and Turkey as of late over Ankara’s open support for a new party representing Bulgaria’s Turkish minority. Turks make up roughly 10 percent of Bulgaria’s 7.25 million inhabitants. There are least another 200,000 ethnic Turks with Bulgarian passports who live in Turkey, Turkish-Bulgarians have traditionally supported for centrist Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MDL). But the party’s increasingly critical stance towards Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish government caused a pro-Erdogan splinter group to form last year. Turkish officials have openly backed this new party, Dost, leading to tension with Bulgaria. The Sofia administration has objected to what it sees as Turkish interference in Bulgarian politics. Last weekend, Bulgaria, a member of the European Union, recalled its envoy from Ankara and summoned the Turkish ambassador in Sofia for talks.

Erdogan vs. Radev
In the latest angry exchange over the issue, Erdogan said it was “unacceptable” that Sofia was putting “serious pressure” on Turks in Bulgaria ahead of the vote. Bulgarian President Rumen Radev fired back on Thursday, saying that “Bulgaria neither gives nor accepts lessons in democracy, especially from countries that do not respect the rule of law.” The spat has boosted support for Bulgaria’s nationalists. Recent polls project that the United Patriots coalition will come third in the election on Sunday behind the Socialists and the center-right. Bulgaria had called for early parliamentary elections after Prime Minister Boiko Borisov of the center-right GERB resigned in November, following his party’s loss in presidential polls.
The Turkish-Bulgarian strife comes amid deteriorating relations between Ankara and several EU member states ahead of a constitutional referendum in Turkey on April 16, which some have criticized for granting the president too much power. Several EU countries – including Germany – have decided not to allow campaign events with members of the Turkish administration, which has enraged Erdogan.

Bulgaria Puts Up a Migrant Wall at its Border

August 10, 2017 by  
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New York Times – YAMBOL, Bulgaria — Less than two decades after the painstaking removal of a massive border fence designed to keep people in, Bulgarian authorities are just as painstakingly building a new fence along the rugged Turkish border, this time to keep people out.

Faced with a surge of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa — and the risk that they include jihadis intent on terrorist attacks — Europe is bolstering its defenses on many fronts, including this formerly Communist country, which little more than a quarter-century ago was more concerned with stanching the outbound flow of its own citizens to freedom. For the past 16 months, Bulgaria has been carrying out a plan that would sound familiar to anyone along the United States-Mexico frontier: more border officers, new surveillance equipment and the first 20-mile section of its border fence, which was finished in September.

The hardening of the Bulgaria-Turkey border is one very visible manifestation of the agitation across the continent about the economic, social and political ramifications of the surge in immigration. With warmer weather fast approaching and more refugees likely to be on the move, nations along Europe’s southern tier are beefing up border staffing, adding sensors and other technical barriers, expanding refugee facilities, and building walls.

More than 200,000 refugees are known to have penetrated Europe’s land and sea borders last year, not including those who were able to sneak through undetected. And the numbers for the first two months of this year, when Europe enjoyed its second mild winter in a row, were up sharply compared with the same period last year.

New European Union Border Guard Launched to Protect Bulgaria-Turkey Border

October 20, 2016 by  
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bulgaria-turkey-fenceAs of October 6, 2016 Bulgaria starts to play an increasingly important role in protecting its own borders and those of Europe, EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos has said.  Avramopoulos has attended the launch the European Border and Coast Guard at the Bulgarian border with Turkey, at the crossing point of Kapitan Andreevo. The agency, which will have some EUR 320 M in funding until 2020, is a result of the expansion of Frontex, the current EU external border agency, which has been severely criticized for inefficiency since the outbreak of the migrant crisis last year.

“As a front line state, Bulgaria has made coherent and everyday effort in this direction,” the Bulgarian National Radio quotes Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova, who has attended the inauguration, as saying. “I am confident that, starting today [Thursday], the new service for European border and coast guard will contribute substantially for the more effective management of the land, air and sea borders and will substantially boost the level of security of the European Union.”

The establishment of the guard was agreed in December 2015 as a response to the surging migratory pressure on the EU’s external borders, with some 1.5 million people having crossed into the EU between January and November 2015. “The European Border and Coast Guard combines the resources of the new European Border and Coast Guard Agency, built from Frontex, and the Member States’ authorities responsible for border management,” the EU Commission says in a statement.