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News 01 Dec 16

EU-Funded Border Projects in Bulgaria at Risk

Bulgaria’s absorption of 160 million euros of EU funds for management of the refugee crisis is endangered by the country's political instability and by issues to do with public procurements, a deputy minister warned.

Mariya Cheresheva
Border policemen at Bulgaria's checkpoint with Turkey. Photo: BIRN

The absorption of some of the 160 million euros, granted to Bulgaria by the European Commission in September, is under risk because of short time frames, outgoing Deputy Interior Minister Philip Gounev said on Thursday.

The riskiest project that Bulgaria is due to carry out in the next 12 months involves setting up an integrated video surveillance system on the Bulgarian-Turkish border.

What could derail the project, which is of key importance for improving the work of the border police, is if some of the companies bidding for the project then appeal the procedure, which often happens with public procurements.

An additional problem is the resignation of the government of Boyko Borisov on November 14.

All projects under EU crisis funding must be completed by September 2017, which means short deadlines for applications. If the project for the installation of border cameras is appealed, the time frame would be almost impossible to meet.

Around 80 per cent of the 160 million euros is due to be spent on border protection and security, while the other 20 per cent would go on improving capacities in asylum centres.

Over 100 public procurements will be launched in the following weeks, to cover purchases of new vehicles, equipment and an integrated IT system for the border police among others.

Gounev predicted that the outgoing government would have to launch the project procedures, an interim government would then have to sign the contracts and a new government elected next spring would have to monitor their implementation, which is highly complex and could mean losing money on some of the EU-funded projects.

“We hope that, regardless of the political storms, the projects can be carried out,” he said.

Following recent riots in the refugee camp in the south town of Harmanli on November 24, 50,000 euros are to be spent on repairing the damage caused by clashes between refugees and police.

Parts of the centre will be transformed from an open area to one with closed access to asylum seekers who have violated public order.

The refugee centre in Pastrogor, located near the Bulgarian-Turkish border, is also to be fully transformed into a closed facility, which would cost around 1.1 million euros.

The deputy minister said the transformation of the centres into closed facilities requires extra security equipment, “because the moment a centre becomes closed, it generates aggression. That’s why we build prisons in a special way”.

He dismissed allegations that the police used excessive force during the Harmanli riots and said “the use of force was necessary”.

The State Agency for the Refugees will spend over 3.6 million euros for providing food and services for the asylum seekers accommodated in the reception centres it accommodates. 

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