According to Bulgaria's Interior Ministry, a ricocheting bullet fired by a policeman killed a man from Afghanistan as he tried to cross the border Thursday. The tragedy was to be expected, Alexander Andreev writes.
It was only a matter of time before someone was shot dead on one of the European Union's external borders. When it finally did happen on Thursday, it happened on Bulgaria's border with Turkey. It could just as easily have happened in Macedonia, Serbia or Hungary. Because European authorities and local border patrol forces here are not simply overtaxed - they are clueless. Is the Dublin Regulation still in effect? No one knows.
Do authorities have to guard their borders? Or should people be left free to keep going to where they really want to go? You can answer these questions anyway you want. It was out of this murky context that the deadly shot rang out in the night near Sredets in southern Bulgaria at exactly the same time that high-level meetings were taking place in Brussels.
It wasn't purely coincidental that the killing took place in Bulgaria. Proof of that came quickly, with the first reactions from the Bulgarian media and on Internet forums: "Nice shooting boys! We don't want those vermin here!" That is pretty much the vox populi emanating from all channels. The Bulgarian nationalist Bozhidar Dimitrov, a former government minister and the current director of the National History Museum, underlined that point by suggesting that the brave border officer should be honored with a medal.
The public largely ignored the official regret expressed by Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev and the criticisms levied by rights groups over the illegal use of a weapon against an unarmed target. Many people seemed to believe that those who would criticize the shooting were marionettes controlled by Washington and Brussels.
EU's 'cordon sanitaire'
For the past year, Bulgaria has been relatively untouched by refugees; nevertheless, an overwhelming majority of the population is infected with a diffuse fear and blatant racism. In the Arab-language "Refugee Handbook," Bulgaria is ranked first among countries to be avoided. In the book, one reads that xenophobia and Islamophobia are widespread throughout the country. At the moment, a volatile mix of hostility toward refugees and support for Russia's military intervention in Syria is brewing in the country. Many Bulgarians feel abandoned by the European Union. Fears that the European Union is quietly constructing a "cordon sanitaire" in the Balkans to protect itself from unwanted immigration are growing ever louder. There is also fear that the price will once again have to be paid by Europe's poorest countries - that means by Bulgarians.
Poverty, backwardness, disappointment, diffuse fear and nationalism - people in most Balkan countries are affected. And the fatal shot on the Bulgarian border came not as a logical consequence, but rather as a symbolic and representative gesture of resentment, even desperation.
Europe is groaning under the influx of refugees, but perhaps even worse: Europe is crumbling at its borders. And that danger is being underestimated and ignored. There is no doubt that European indignation about this deadly shooting at its external border is justified. But leaders should put the underlying reasons for that under the microscope and quickly do something about them. In a few years, migration to wealthy EU countries may no longer be the political issue it is now, but Europe's southeastern periphery could endanger peace and stability for a long time to come.
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