Bulgaria and Romania Bolster Border Security with EU Support

Bulgaria and Romania Bolster Border Security with EU Support

The European Commission (EC) has announced a substantial funding boost of €85 million to help Bulgaria and Romania strengthen their border control and manage migration better.

This move is part of the European Union’s (EU) ongoing efforts to address security along its outer borders and deal with migration issues.

Pilot projects yield positive results in streamlining asylum procedures

In March 2023, the EC started pilot projects with Bulgaria and Romania. These programs aim to make asylum processes quicker, help migrants return to their countries successfully, manage borders effectively, and work closely with neighboring countries.

By October 2023, the Commission checked how well these programs were going. They found that Bulgaria and Romania had made significant progress in these areas to achieve these goals.

Bulgaria and Romania poised for partial Schengen membership

Beginning March 31st, Bulgaria and Romania will partially become part of the Schengen Zone. However, their full inclusion in the borderless area is still awaiting confirmation.

EC President Ursula von der Leyen is optimistic that both countries will eventually become full members of the Schengen Zone.

Triple Frontex officers at Turkish border

To, make the border between Bulgaria and Turkey more secure, Bulgaria has decided to increase the number of Frontex officers patrolling the area. Starting March 20th, there will be three times more officers than before.

Hans Leijtens, Frontex’s director, revealed that an extra 500 to 600 officers will be sent to Bulgaria to help protect the EU’s external border.

Allegations of human rights violations persist

Despite the extra security in place, there are still accusations of resistance and violence happening at the border between Bulgaria and Turkey.

According to a report from the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), Frontex knew about Bulgaria’s bad track record when it comes to human rights at its border with Turkey.

They found internal documents that show serious and ongoing violations of human rights.

However, Bulgaria’s interior ministry denied these accusations.

They claimed that their officers were following the principle of non-refoulement, and they thoroughly checked any reports with sufficient information.

Non-refoulement is a rule in international law that states that a country should not send back people seeking asylum to a place where they could be harmed because of their race, religion, nationality, belonging to a certain social group, or political views.

Leijtens argues that having Frontex officers around helps the agency safeguard Europe’s borders and uphold its core values.

He has promised that human rights experts will be among the new Frontex officers deployed to Bulgaria.

ETIAS launch on the horizon

The new border rules in Bulgaria and Romania affect both short-term visitors and long-term immigrants to the EU.

With the upcoming launch of the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) in mid-2025, non-EU nationals must obtain an electronic travel authorization before entering the Schengen Zone.

The stricter border controls in Bulgaria and Romania may contribute to a more efficient implementation of the ETIAS. This ensures thorough screening of travelers while facilitating smooth entry for legitimate visitors.

However, there are concerns about how asylum seekers and migrants are treated at the Bulgarian border. This might change how people see the EU as a place for long-term stays, like for families, investors, digital nomads, and students.

Shaping EU immigration policy with security and openness

The developments in Bulgaria and Romania’s border management have broader implications for EU immigration policy.

The EC has allocated €85 million to support these countries in strengthening their border security and migration control measures. This move underscores the EU’s dedication to addressing security challenges at its external borders.

This funding marks a shift towards a more unified and robust approach to managing borders within the Schengen Zone.

However, reports of human rights abuses at the Bulgarian border emphasize the importance of adopting a balanced approach. It is crucial to protect fundamental rights while ensuring security measures are in place.

As the EU shapes its immigration policies, it must carefully balance the need for border control with its commitment to openness and respect for human rights.

Balancing security and human rights

As Bulgaria and Romania move closer to joining the Schengen Area fully, the EU’s financial support and the deployment of additional Frontex officers show that they are serious about strengthening borders and managing migration effectively.

However, the persistent allegations of human rights violations at the Bulgarian border underscore the need for continued monitoring and adherence to European values.