The European Union and NATO must continue their expansion in the Balkans at pace to prevent Turkey and Russia from gaining influence in the region, Bulgarian Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov told the “To Be Secure” forum in Montenegro this week.
The current “Multi-speed” EU policy, whereby different member and aspiring member countries integrate at varying paces, has left opportunities for third parties to intervene and create “division and instability in the Western Balkans,” Russian news site Sputnik quoted the minister as saying.
Serbia and Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo are the Balkan states aspiring for EU accession.
Karakachanov specifically referred to Turkey and Russia during his speech at the forum and warned that intervening “third factors” could be present in the countries “for centuries” unless the EU provided clear perspectives on membership to all Balkan countries, according to Sputnik’s news.
All Balkan countries should join both the EU and NATO to counter this threat, he said.
Turkey's influence in Bosnia was highly visible last weekend during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's rally in front of large crowds in Sarajevo. The clandestine extradition of six Turkish citizens with alleged links to an outlawed religious movement from Kosovo in April showed a harder-edged influence in the region.
The Bulgarian defence minister is a member of the United Patriots, a far-right party that is the junior partner in Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s centre-right government.
Karakachanov has previously spoken out against illegal immigration from Turkey, urging the EU to protect its borders with force of arms and declaring his intention last July to triple the number of soldiers on the Bulgarian-Turkish border to 600.