Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Daniel Mitov: If Aleppo Plan Is Successful It Will Limit the Migration Pressure on Bulgaria

Adelina Marini, December 16, 2014

The EU foreign ministers have expressed their full support for the efforts of UN's special envoy Staffan de Mistura to achieve a de-escalation of violence in Syria and especially a freezing of the military activities in Aleppo. The city is not only with big population but is also of great importance for the region and the country. And according to Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov, it is a city of great historic and cultural importance. However, there was no agreement among the 28 ministers on the role of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, in the process. The aim of the plan is to focus more on the battle with the terrorist organisation ISIL instead of the fight between the rulers of Syria and the opposition. If the city falls, as Minister Mitov explained, this will mean a strong refugee wave toward Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. "We are extremely concerned for the stability of Lebanon and Jordan. Another refugee wave in their direction would be catastrophic and would destabilise the region even more" he added after the end of the EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.

If the plan succeeds, it will significantly limit the migration pressure in the direction of Bulgaria and Greece. Some member states demanded Bashar al-Assad to be included in the efforts. However, the position that he is part of the problem not of the solution prevailed. The situation in Syria as it is today, three years later, is due to his actions. His actions are the reason ISIL to gain positions because he and his tactics allowed the it to spread and to expand its territories because he used them in his battle with the moderate Syrian opposition, the Bulgarian foreign minster said. EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, though, spoke not so categorically. "It's clear that the work that we are starting to do is exactly to make sure that 3 years and a half from now, which is exactly looking backward, Syria can be a Syria without Assad and without ISIL. I'd say that this is the objective not only for the EU but for the international community as a whole. [...] Obviously, we have to be aware of the reality and the reality is that after 3.5 years of war Assad is still there and is still part of the reality".

The foreign ministers also agreed that all possible regional actors need to be involved in the efforts, including Iran and Russia. In their conclusions, the two countries are not explicitly mentioned, but according to Ms Mogherini, the key regional players are they and Saudi Arabia. It is not clear, however, how will the partnership with Russia develop. The highrep was evasive on the issue, saying that currently Russia is holding talks in Syria, which practically means that the member states and Brussels will monitor very carefully the developments and the work Moscow is doing there. For the EU the focal point is Staffan de Mistura. This means that there are no direct contacts between the EU and Russia for common actions in this directions. She was optimistic, though, that there is a chance Russia to play a positive role in the region and globally.

Regarding Iran, the talks with this country are not only about its nuclear programme. Iran is an important regional player which means that we have to engage with the country also on its neighbourhood. "The EU can and will be part of a new shaping of a regional framework that is already somehow being prepared", Ms Mogherini added.

The Bulgarian top diplomat, Daniel Mitov, added that the main task should be de-legitimising of ISIL and its ideology which, however, is a great challenge. "I am very happy that the leaders of the Muslim community in Bulgaria have taken a position in support of such actions and issued a statement that defines ISIL's ideology as having nothing in common with Islam and this religion as a whole, but in an international aspect we have a problem - this is not being communicated sufficiently, no measures are being undertaken to delegitimise ISIL and its ideology globally. This will be a main focus of EU's future actions", Mr Mitov said. He added that the government of Bulgaria is in a contact with the leaders of the Muslim community and hoped that their commitment will not be only in words.

*The attached video is in Bulgarian language