Bulgaria Report



Bulgaria has opted not to operationalise its involvement with external conflicts and crises under the 2016 EUGS. However, this does not mean that ad hoc decisions are not taken in a coordinated manner.
There are two inter-ministerial councils that can be used for coordination on issues related to external conflicts and crises. First, there is the Inter-ministerial Security Council (ISC) chaired by the prime minister, which was introduced by a decree of the Council of Ministers in 1998. Second, there is the Inter-ministerial Council on Bulgaria’s Participation in NATO and the EU’s CSDP (IC NATO/ CSDP), which was introduced by a degree of the Council of Ministers in 2005. The latter council is jointly chaired by the minister of foreign affairs and the minister of defence. Furthermore, the Consultative Council for National Security (CCNS) (discussed above) is another body that can be used to facilitate the elaboration of national positions on external conflicts and crises. All three of these bodies have much broader tasks than external conflicts and crises, but they can be used in an ad hoc way for this purpose.
If necessary, the Situational Centre attached to the Security Council at the Council of Ministers and its secretariat also have the potential to fulfil coordinating tasks in a CA manner. This was the case, for example, at the peak of the refugee crisis of 2015, which mainly affected the Western Balkans but also impacted Bulgaria.
Moreover, discussion about external conflicts and crises involve the intelligence and counter-intelligence services in different formats and can be linked to the international exchange of intelligence information.
With regard to development policy, one should mention the UN and Development Aid Cooperation unit within the MFA, which serves as the secretariat of an inter-institutional International Development Aid Cooperation Council chaired by the minister of foreign affairs. The council’s members also include the deputy ministers of foreign affairs, finance, economy, education and interior. Unfortunately, a draft law from 2016 on international development got stuck in the pipeline. With provisions for establishing a special agency for development aid and for facilitating the financing of NGOs to enable them to participate in big international development projects, it had the potential to become an operational enabler of better coordination with regard to development aid. However, given the scarcity of resources, the medium-term development programmes operate with a limited geographic (Western Balkans and Black Sea region) and thematic (democratic and economic transition) scope.
Political disagreement as well as public opinion can be powerful disablers for involvement in external conflicts and crises, especially in regions that are perceived as not being linked to narrow national interests and not presenting any threat to Bulgarian nationals or interests. Cases in which there was political polarisation and negative public opinions regarding Bulgarian involvement in foreign conflicts have included the UNTAC mission in Cambodia between 1992 and 1993 as well as the Multi-National-Force – Iraq between 2003 and 2005 (see Slatinski 2005 and Cantir 2011).
A good example (though not a recent one and thus not linked to the 2016 EUGS) of a successful application of a CA to an external crisis is Bulgaria’s involvement in the 1999 Kosovo refugee crisis. Instead of taking refugees from Kosovo on a quota basis, as proposed by the US, the Bulgarian government decided to assist in the management of Radusa, one of the four refugee camps on Macedonian territory, as well as to provide aid to the other camps. A Bulgarian-run crisis centre operated around the clock coordinating both information and assistance in terms of food, shelter, clothing, medication and transport supply. In addition, the centre included a hospital as well as operations to transport patients to Bulgaria for treatment. The crisis centre was so successful, in fact, that some thought was given to maintaining it as a permanent coordinating structure. However, worries that this might trigger public anxiety about a permanent Bulgarian involvement in the crisis led to a decision not to keep the centre in operation.
Regarding the nexus of internal and external security policies, one should not neglect to mention that Bulgaria’s decisive involvement in the 1999 Kosovo refugee crisis primarily resulted from concerns about Bulgaria’s internal security. More recently, this nexus also played an important role in Bulgaria’s decision to support a CA to the 2015/16 refugee crisis and to the migration dossier in general. In this case, however, a CA should be interpreted as a common European solution to border control and migration rather than as a matter of coordination at the national level.
Last but not least, it deserves to be mentioned that, since 2013, Sofia has hosted NATO’s Centre of Excellence for Crisis Management and Disaster Response (CMDR COE), for which Bulgaria is a ‘framework nation’ and Poland and Greece are ‘sponsoring nations’. The centre’s activities are based on a shared understanding of the importance of cross-cutting matters within a framework of a comprehensive approach to peace and security. With its strong education and training branch, the centre organises events under the auspices of the European Security and Defence College (ESDC). Since the centre trains and educates leaders and specialists from NATO member and partner countries, this COE can be considered an important asset in Bulgaria for the promotion of strategic thinking and the adoption of a comprehensive approach to peace and security.
Back to Top