Bulgaria Report


Policies Developed

As a result of the slow evolvement of strategical thinking, Bulgaria’s National Security Concept of 1998 was not replaced until the adoption of a National Security Strategy in 2011 (National Assembly of Bulgaria 2011) after two failed attempts, in 2005 and 2008. Although the 2011 NSS did not explicitly refer to a CA, its mention of various related concepts (e.g. inter-institutional coordination, effectiveness and synergies) can be interpreted as implicit references to a CA. The 2011 NSS was elaborated with 2020 as a horizon, but it was already updated in 2018 (the horizon being respectively shifted to 2025) (National Assembly of Bulgaria 2018). A review planned for 2019 might result in either a new update or in a new document.
The updated 2018 NSS (ibid.) makes several references to the EU Global Strategy (EUGS) of 2016. Although it mentions a comprehensive approach (CA) on three occasions, it does so without providing any specific definition, thereby allowing for different interpretations. The CA mentioned in point 158 of the NSS comes the closest to the CA concept as used in the EUGS. Diplomatic, political, communication, economic, financial, intelligence and legal instruments are mentioned as being complementary to military instruments in a CA in order to achieve the goals of defence policy. CA is also mentioned once in the seven paragraphs of the NSS’s new chapter on ‘crisis management’. One should note, however, that CA in the framework of the crisis-management security policy does not have a special focus on external crisis management. Rather, the focus is on the multi-phased, -lateral and -level aspects of crisis management as well as on the use of instruments and resources at all possible levels: local, regional, national and international. In the concluding point (204) of the 2018 NSS, there is a statement that the updated strategy builds upon “a comprehensive approach to security”, but this creates the impression of having resulted from a ‘copy-and-paste’ operation.
Thus, CA has no doubt influenced the general approach to crisis management as one out of a total of 11 sectorial security policies in the 2018 NSS. These are: financial and economic security, transport security, communication security, social security, energy security, environmental security, justice and home affairs security, foreign policy security, defence security, cybersecurity and crisis management security. The section on foreign policy (points 144–156) makes reference to the countries from the Western Balkans (point 150), to the Black Sea region (151), to the Middle East (152) and to Afghanistan (153). Reference to the same regions or countries is already made in the descriptive chapter on the external security environment (III.1). Instability in these regions, which (with the exception of Afghanistan) are geographically close to Bulgaria, is the evident reason behind Bulgaria’s interest in navigating the internal-external security nexus.
The assessment of the external security environment in the 2018 NSS covers important thematic priorities, such as geopolitical and military balance, terrorism, human trafficking, violent extremism, asymmetric threats, radical Islam, migration, energy security and cybersecurity. The 2018 NSS also refers to Bulgaria’s commitments as a member of NATO and the EU, but it does not go into details regarding the possible fields of action.
At present, Bulgarian support for international peace and security is provided in line with the 2015 Programme for the Development of the Defence Capabilities of the Bulgarian Armed Forces 2020. According to the document (Council of Ministers 2015: 5): “The Armed Forces maintain state of readiness for participation in multinational allied and coalition crisis response operations. In terms of size, they contribute to prolonged operations with concurrent rotation of one reinforced battalion (Battle Group) or [a] greater number [of] smaller units and assets from the military Services exclusively within the resource equivalent to the level of ambition (on the average, about 1,000 troops). The Navy participates with declared forces within the resource equivalent to one frigate for a period up to 6 months per year. The Air Force participates with transport aviation without rotation for a period [of] up to 6 months per year with the necessary personnel. The needed logistics and other elements for participation in operations are also ensured.”
According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) data from April 2019, 334 Bulgarians are deployed in NATO missions (157 in the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and 153 in the Operation Sea Guardian mission in the Mediterranean) and 55 in OSCE missions (44 in the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine). What’s more, 72 Bulgarians are currently participating in 12 of the 17 CSDP missions. A review of Europe’s civilian capacities published a decade ago (Korski and Gowan 2009) divided EU member states into four categories: professionals, strivers, agnostics and indifferents. With only 46 civilians deployed at that time, Bulgaria was put in the ‘indifferents’ category. Although larger, the current deployment of Bulgarians in CSDP missions can hardly foster expectations that Bulgaria could qualify for a higher category anytime soon.
With regard to development policy, 2011 was a turning point for Bulgaria, as it marked the first time that development policy was formally classified as being part of the country’s foreign policy (Council of Ministers 2011). With regard to the financial implications, Bulgaria had committed itself to achieving the level of 0.33 percent of GDP for development policy by 2015. However, owing to the international financial and economic crises, this target date was pushed back to 2030. Only a small part (3.41% in 2015) of Bulgarian development aid is spent on a bilateral basis, but there is no direct or indirect link to external conflicts and crises. Bulgaria’s response to the 2015/2016 refugee crisis led to a temporary spike in bilateral development and humanitarian aid (18.03%) because of ad hoc aid provided to the Middle East.
Back to Top