Sofia (AFP) - Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, called Thursday for Bulgaria to be given partial entry to the Schengen free movement area.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Sofia, Borisov suggested Bulgaria could have a phased entry to the zone, with restrictions on air and maritime transport lifted "immediately".
"There's absolutely no reason to think the opposite and to stop us," he said. Germany has been a notable supporter of Bulgaria joining the zone in stages.
Bulgaria and neighbouring Romania have been EU members since 2007 and have fulfilled the technical criteria to join the borderless Schengen zone, but some other member states such as the Netherlands oppose their inclusion, saying widespread corruption could compromise border security.
"I believe our friends in the Netherlands should say yes to Bulgaria and Romania for air and sea. And leave the green [land] border for the end when we have a really shrinking migration problem so Europe is no longer concerned about it," Borisov said.
But he nevertheless defended Sofia's record on border security, pointing to the "hundreds of kilometres of fences" Bulgaria has erected on its border with Turkey, topped with barbed wire and monitored by security forces.
Asked whether he was irritated by worries over corruption, Borisov replied: "Of course I'm irritated because it's not fair. Corruption is everywhere."