Bulgaria Absorbs 100% of Schengen Facility FundsBulgaria in EU | April 11, 2011, Monday // 18:33| views
Bulgaria's Deputy Interior Minister Georgiev has announced 100% absorption of Schengen Facility funds. Photo by BGNES
Bulgaria's government has managed to absorb all of the EUR 130 M that it is entitled to under the Schengen Facility for meeting the criteria to join the borderless Schengen Area, a senior official said.
The Schengen Facility aid is a temporary means of helping new EU member-states to finance activities at the new external border of the EU in order to prepare for joining the Schengen Agreement.
Bulgaria was originally supposed to join Schengen together with Romania in March 2011. However, its failure to meet some border control criteria, and the political opposition of France and Germany – backed to date by Sweden and Austria, among others – has left the hopes of the two Balkan states to make it into Schengen up in the air. The Balkan states retain hopes to join the Agreement before the end of 2011.
On April 4, the Working Group on Schengen Matters (Sch-Eval) evaluated positively Bulgaria's technical preparedness to join the borderless zone meaning that the country has now covered all Schengen criteria.
"Bulgaria's accession to Schengen is a stage-by-stage process - the fulfillment of all technical criteria comes first, followed by the search for a political consensus among Schengen Area Member States for Bulgaria's entry", announced Dimitar Georgiev, Deputy Minister of Interior, at a briefing on April 11 on the National Indicative Program 2007-2009 under the Schengen Facility.
Georgiev highlighted Bulgaria's willingness to cooperate with its partners by providing information upon request. In his words, the country's readiness is accompanied by concrete actions and political will.
Of the EUR 128 900 M under the Schengen Facility, Bulgaria has invested over EUR 11 M in technical adjustments. Technical expenses include software, trainings and communication.
Bulgaria's national co-financing under the Schengen instrument amounts to EUR 28 400 M, to which EUR 5 M in additional funds were subsequently added.
As part of the implementation of the program on a national level, 3 helicopters have been bought, together with 11 ships (6 river ships and 5 sea ships), for the needs of the Bulgarian border police. Apart from that, a Temporary Accommodation Center for Third-Country Nationals in Lyubimetz has been opened.
The National Visa Information System is a product built through the joint efforts of the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the ready TETRA system provides the opportunity for coordinating and exchanging information between police units through a protected connection. The purely technical part allows systems to function well and to integrate, Georgiev pointed out.
Over 30 contracts have been signed for over EUR 11 M, ensuring a 100% absorption of the funds under the Schengen instrument, the Deputy Minister concluded.
We expect the final report after the March 2011 checkup of Bulgaria's Schengen preparedness, which will be followed by a procedure for clarifying and finalizing Bulgaria and Romania's accession to the border-free zone, Georgiev explained.
In his words, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov has invested a lot of efforts in making available all relevant information concerning Bulgaria's preparedness to join Schengen.
As regards Bulgaria's visa system, Georgiev said the country has succeeded to equip border checkpoints with modern technology, ensuring a link to the National Visa Center. The staff at the border checkpoints has also undergone the required trainings. A follow-up check showed that Bulgaria meets the criteria for all Schengen Member States, Georgiev informed.
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