December 9, 2022,
Ekaterina Zaharieva, GERB:
“There can be no mechanism in the Commission [author’s note: the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism]. I’ve told them several times, the mechanism for Bulgaria was terminated in 2019, because it fulfilled its commitments under it.”
“Look, Bulgaria has invested the most funds and human efforts in protecting the external border, the toughest external border of the EU. Let me emphasize, this is the toughest, the longest land border, with the greatest migratory pressure.”
These statements belong to the MP from GERB and former foreign minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, which she made during her guest appearance in the morning TV program of BTV on December 9.
Factcheck.bg collected the facts on the subject.
The Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) was established by the European Commission (EC) in 2007, upon the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the European Union (EU). The purpose of this mechanism is to monitor progress in the fields of judicial reform, the fights against corruption and organized crime by specific indicators. Regular reports are published within the framework of the mechanism, which are discussed and adopted by the Council of Ministers.
In the CVM report from October 2019, the EC assessed Bulgaria’s progress as sufficient and the fulfillment of the criteria as satisfactory. Since then, the Commission no longer monitors and reports on Bulgaria within the CVM framework. In September 2020, the Vice President of the EC for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova stated that for Bulgaria the mechanism still applies and that there is still work for the government to do before the CVM is finally canceled.
In November 2022, the EC also discontinued the CVM reports for Romania. However, the official decision to cancel the mechanism has not been taken by the EC. Before that, the Commission will consider the opinion of the Council as well as of the European Parliament. The termination of the CVM will be performed as a decision of the EC to withdraw the decision to establish the mechanism back in 2006.
Monitoring of the two countries continues in the framework of the annual rule of law cycle, and more specifically in the Commission’s Annual Rule of Law Report.
External land borders of the EU
The external land border of the EU consists of all the land borders of member states with countries that are not part of the Union.
Such are the land borders of Bulgaria with Turkey, North Macedonia and Serbia, of Greece with Turkey, North Macedonia and Albania, of Romania with Moldova, Ukraine and Serbia, of Poland with Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, etc.
Bulgaria’s land borders with non-EU countries are as follows: with Turkey – 133 km, with North Macedonia – 165 km, with Serbia – 315 km. The land border with Turkey is neither the longest external border of the EU nor the longest land border of Bulgaria with a country outside the Union.
The total external land border of the EU is 13,770 km, of which 415 km is with Turkey. It is one of the rather smaller external land borders of the Union. The longest one is that with Russia – 2435 km, followed by the one with Norway – 2375 km. Next are the borders with Switzerland – 1729 km, Serbia – 1353 km, Ukraine – 1324 km, Belarus – 1176 km and Bosnia and Herzegovina – 956 km.
To what extent the Bulgarian-Turkish border is the “toughest” external border of the EU, as Ekaterina Zaharieva claims, is a matter of subjective assessment.
It’s true indeed that two main routes of illegal migration pass through Bulgaria. The latest Frontex report confirms that one of them, the Western Balkans route, is the most active. 139,525 illegal migrants passed through it between January and November 2022. However, it cannot be claimed that all of them passed through Bulgaria, since Greece is the other country through which this route passes.
The Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) has not been terminated for Bulgaria in 2019, as Ekaterina Zaharieva claims. In 2019, the European Commission published the last report on Bulgarian under the mechanism, but our country remains under the monitoring of CVM. It is not true that the Bulgarian-Turkish border is the longest external land border of the European Union. It is true that the most active route of illegal migration passes through Bulgaria – the Western Balkans route.
Translated by Vanessa Nikolova