It would appear that European institutions are more accessible than national ones in the discussion on Schengen and the new migration pact. cla_team April 11, 2024

It would appear that European institutions are more accessible than national ones in the discussion on Schengen and the new migration pact.

On 10 April 2024. “Schengen and the New Migration Pact”, held under the “Mission: possible” program of the Bulgarian Women’s Fund Foundation within the project “Building an Inclusive Resilient Democratic Society in Bulgaria” (BIRDS in BG), implemented in partnership with the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law (BCNL) and Impact Drive Foundation (IDF), with the financial support of the European Union (EU).

The aim of the event was to trace and discuss the parallel effect on national migration policies of Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area by air and sea and the agreement reached in the EU on the Migration and Asylum Pact, voted in the European Parliament on the same day.

The event was attended by representatives of the Migration Directorate and the Ministry of Interior’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Agency for Social Assistance, the General Directorate for Social Assistance, National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, the Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria. Bulgaria, the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria, the International Organization for Migration, the Bulgarian Red Cross, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Doctors without Borders – Bulgaria, Animus Association, Mission Wings Foundation.

The keynote speaker of the event was Tineke STRIK, Member of the European Parliament from the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance. Tineke STRIK is a member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) and the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET). She is a politician from the Netherlands, and a professor of civil and migration law. At the beginning of March 2024, Tineke Strick paid an unofficial visit to Bulgaria in order to get personally acquainted with the developments on the implementation of the Pilot Project between Bulgaria and the European Union on the prevention of illegal immigration, rapid asylum and return procedures. On 8 April 2024. Tineke was also among the MEPs who participated in the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee’s discussion of the Framework Agreements on cooperation in the field of border management and migration with Bulgaria and Romania, concluded on the basis of the implementation by both countries of pilot projects.

In her presentation, Tineke Strick introduced the main documents that make up the New Pact – the Regulation on screening procedures; the Regulation on the conditions to be met by asylum seekers; the Reception Conditions Directive; the Eurodac Regulation; the Regulation on asylum and migration management; the Regulation on crisis situations. Highlighted important concerns about derogations from basic principles of protection of the right to protection, protection of the best interests of children, increased possibility of using detention during border and accelerated refugee procedures, including against vulnerable groups such as children and families. Tineke Strick also looked at what practical effect the application of this new system would have in Bulgaria, as a border and first-reception country. She looked at the increased responsibility towards Bulgaria for lengthy border procedures that require huge financial and human capacity; the danger of increasing cases of human rights violations of migrants and the need for independent monitoring; bearing the ultimate responsibility for returning migrants from countries of origin with low rates of granting protection. In all this, Ms Strick recommended increased interaction between the state administration and the experts working on the ground, between the institutions and civil society, in order to maximize the balance in the future application of European norms in our national policy according to the dynamics and realities in Bulgaria.

The second panel of the event was left with one speaker after the Ministry of Interior did not send a representative to participate and the Chair of the State Agency for Refugees cancelled his participation due to another commitment just before the start time of the event. The refusal of state institutions to engage in a discussion on these important issues shows two worrying trends -information blackout on ongoing policy building processes and the establishment of new practices to avoid public tensions; or lack of sufficient competence on issues related to Schengen, the Migration Pact, the Framework Agreement with the EU. Both alleged tendencies are dangerous and unacceptable Last but not least, the lack of resilience and consistency of state institutions, their vulnerability to the political mood of the moment and the political conjuncture of the moment, is striking. We recall that the implementation of the Pilot Project preceding the Framework Agreement with the EC took place in Bulgaria behind closed doors, without clear accountability, broad and diverse discussions and consultations, and space for civil society. Regrettably, yet another denial of open discussion reinforces the above concerns.

It was this unsettling atmosphere at work that was the main focus of the presentation in the second panel by Adv. Desislava Todorova from “CPP-Glass in Bulgaria”. Adv. Todorova raised a number of questions that only state institutions can answer. Adv. Todorova also mentioned the discussion held on 8 April 2024 in the European Parliament on the Framework Agreements for cooperation in the field of border management and migration with Bulgaria and Romania. The discussion was attended by representatives of state institutions of Romania and Bulgaria, with Bulgaria represented by the Director of the Border Police Directorate – Anton Zlatanov. As the only representative of the civil sector at the hearing participated personally Adv. Desislava Todorova, representing the Border Violence Monitoring Network, of which Center of LEgal Aid “Voice in Bulgaria” is a part.

In this context, the event raised more questions from our national context than it provided clear answers. Unfortunately, once again the European institutions are proving to be more accessible than our national ones, more available for dialogue and interaction. Despite the challenges, we ended the event with a clear statement not to give up seeking the outstretched hand of our state institutions for interaction, talks and discussions in an atmosphere of transparency and traceability of the complex processes that are happening now and that are to come.


Center of Legal Aid “Voice in Bulgaria$

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