At start of Bulgarian Presidency of Council of EU, politicians show unity on security and defense issues

Photo: BTA

On January 9, two days before the official start of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of EU, a four-hour debate in the National Security Advisory Council to the President of the Republic of Bulgaria showed that Bulgarian politicians seem to have forgotten their sharp disagreements over security and defense issues. When in the middle of December President Rumen Radev announced that he would convene a council meeting on this topic, he pointed out that there was "a deficit of strategic thinking" in the security and defense sectors, and added decisions were chaotic. However, after yesterday's meeting, the President revealed that participants in the council had reached a joint decision that Bulgaria should come forward with clear proposals that are to ensure maintaining the dynamics of reaching the goals of the EU's Global Strategy in the field of security and defense; strengthening co-operation among member states in the sphere, as well as contributing to the full integration of their armed forces, defense industry and science sector in respective projects.

After months of open confrontation between the president and the government on the topic of modernization of the armed forces, the head of state now welcomed the government’s decision for adopting a national plan, increasing defense spending to 2% of GDP by 2024, defining it as a basis for building national defense capabilities. According to the chairman of the parliamentary group of the GERB party, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, a full political consensus on the priorities in the defense sphere was reached at the council. Voicing agreement that Bulgaria must be an active participant in European security and defense policies, BSP leader Cornelia Ninova also warned that national economy and industry were not ready to engage actively in the common defense policy of Europe, and in this respect the government was really late.

Former defense minister and renowned military expert Velizar Shalamanov praised the latest council decisions but warned that in order for these decisions to take place, valuable ideas should be included in updated plans and a National Program that has the needed resources provided should be created. In an interview with the BNR, Mr. Shalamanov commented skeptically that at the backdrop of current defense spending, ambitious goals at international level could not be realized.

Officially, the council was convened to discuss EU's common foreign and defense policy and the role of Bulgaria in it during holding the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU. However, President Radev pointed out that an important focus in the work of the consultative body was also "alarming accumulation of serious criminal offenses." Interior Minister Valentin Radev did not hide that the murder of a businessman that took place on a central boulevard in Sofia at the beginning of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of EU, worried the executive power. Ultimately, the participants in the council agreed that in order to guarantee security of Bulgarian citizens, there is a need for even greater coordination between institutions and improvement of the current model for combating crime. When the country faces such problems, there is no place and time for confrontation between ruling parties and opposition.

English: Alexander Markov

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