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Bulgaria president slams Macron remarks on illegal workers

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French President Emmanuel Macron. PHOTO: Francois Mori / POOL / AP / AFP

Bulgaria’s president on Sunday denounced “ham-handed” comments by his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron regarding Bulgarian immigrants that have triggered an outcry in the eastern European EU member.

Macron “has clearly stated his ambitions to become Europe’s leader, but his ideas will be difficult to achieve if he expresses himself in such a ham-handed way,” Roumen Radev told journalists.

The comments were “base (and) ham-handed”, Radev said.

The controversy erupted last week when Macron said in a magazine interview that he favoured legal quota-based migration to illegal workers, contrasting Guinean or Ivorian migrants who work legally to “clandestine networks of Bulgarians and Ukrainians”.

Already on Friday, Ukraine summoned France’s ambassador to Kiev over the remarks, and on Saturday Bulgaria said it would do the same.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, for his part, said that Macron had assured him in a telephone conversation that the comments had been misinterpreted.

The two leaders are to meet soon to discuss Bulgaria’s ambitions to join the Schengen area of visa-free travel and begin the process towards joining the euro.

On Sunday, France’s European affairs minister, Amelie de Montchalin, said EU members should work together to fight people smuggling across the bloc’s borders.

“We have to recognise the existence of smugglers within the EU. There are networks, human traffickers who generate a lot of profit for themselves by exploiting misery,” she told Europe 1 radio, CNews television, and the daily Les Echos.


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