Sofia, April 7, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Bulgaria’s ministers of the interior and of defence met their Greek counterparts on April 7, agreeing on boosting co-operation and the exchange of information in the face of the migrant and refugee crisis.
This emerges from statements by Bulgaria’s defence and interior ministries.
Bulgarian Defence Minister Nikolai Nenchev, who visited Greece accompanied by senior defence officials for talks with Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos and top officers, said that the problem of refugees was throughout Europe and Bulgaria believed that all countries should unite to resolve it.
“It is necessary to act jointly and to seek mechanisms to assist countries that are undergoing the most intense migration pressure,” Nenchev said after talks with Kammenos.
Nenchev’s talks with the Greek defence minister were part of a series that he has held with his counterparts from Skopje, Belgrade and Bucharest.
“We support Greece in its efforts to control migratory flows towards and from its territory,” Nenchev said.
He said that Bulgaria and Greece should be ready for an increase in the refugee wave and that required more active overall co-operation and “very thorough expert contact”.
Nenchev briefed Kammenos on the joint training exercises by Bulgaria’s armed forces and police, already held and upcoming.
The two defence ministers discussed the holding of talks at the level of contact groups to provide for full co-operation and possible joint operations by the Bulgarian and Greek defence forces in connection with the strengthening of the refugee pressure.
They agreed that the forthcoming informal meeting of EU ministers of defence and of foreign affairs in Luxembourg should come up with common co-ordinating action to comply with the agreement between the EU and Turkey to limit the migrant crisis.
During his visit, Nenchev visited the migrant accommodation centre in the region of Piraeus.
According to an April 7 report by Bulgarian television station bTV, Kammenos said that Greece had spent to date 100 million euro on reception of 40 000 migrants on the islands of Chios, Lesbos, Samos, Leros and Kos.
Athens insists the money be secured from the EU and advises Bulgaria to request the same, Kammenos said.
Greece and Bulgaria will build a network for the exchange of data between special services and border controls to counter the possibility of potential terrorists being infiltrated into the refugee flow.
Bulgarian Interior Minister Roumyana Buchvarova held talks with Greek Alternate Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection Nikolaos Toskas on April 7, Bulgaria’s Interior Ministry said.
The two officials agreed on the strengthening of cooperation and exchange of information about attempts being prepared at illegally crossing the Bulgarian-Greek border.
Toskas said that things were moving in the right direction and if the low levels of the migration flow continue, the situation would soon normalise, the statement said. He added, however, that the start of the relocation process was not sufficiently active was a problem.
Buchvarova assured him that Bulgaria was endeavouring to assist Greece both through Frontex and European Asylum Support Office actions in Greece and through its own commitments to the relocation process.
The two interior ministers discussed possibilities for stepping up the exchange of information and practical steps to be taken jointly to efficiently counteract people-trafficking, the statement said.