Home > EU, Politics Bulgaria, Security > What ails Bulgarian security and defense policy in the EU?

What ails Bulgarian security and defense policy in the EU?

[picapp src=”d/3/b/b/2009_Seoul_Air_bfe1.jpg?adImageId=6512362&imageId=6861840″ width=”234″ height=”158″ /] It is hard to talk about security and defense policy in Bulgaria. Instead, there are pieces of the puzzle here and there, dispersed in different agencies without proper coordination. The new understanding of security as a product of internal security and international crisis management is not yet in the agenda of the relevant institutions. In fact, if I have to be precise, Bulgaria does not even have a strategic vision of its security and defense.

A Lack of everything

Bulgaria lacks adequate National Security Strategy. The current document was made by the Ministry of Defense (Mod) in 1998. The main priorities set therein – as is the case with the Military Strategy (2002) and the Military Doctrine (1999) – do not adequately reflect any more the international security challenges. Instead, priority number one for the country is joining NATO. This happened in 2004. Is this all the security and defense strategy has to say? Definitely not. It is rather where it has to start from.

One of the most up-to-date documents of the Defense ministry – the Strategic Security Review (2004) also leaves behind the debates between NATO and the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). The future of European, security the new security concepts and even the traditionally strong regional aspects of security are not the in the focus of the strategic thinking. In the last years the leadership of key institutions, especially the Minister of Defense, did all but address the reforms in NATO, the unfolding of ESDP and Bulgaria’s role in these processes. The main activity instead was related to modernization, which was narrowly understood as buying new weapons. Besides, every minister had its own idea how to develop the institution – from a real estate agency to welfare ministry. As a result, strategic planning was completely neglected.

A way to go forward

one-wayThe lack of understanding about the new European security architecture from the last years was recently supplemented by a huge budgetary crisis. The new team of minister Mladenov quickly showed that policies and procurement deals will be revised. Such revision is long overdue and will take a long time. In the meantime however, we can think how to fill in the strategic gap. It is fundamental for restarting modernization in the army and administration in the right way. And it costs much less.

One of the main policies that the MoD should develop is Bulgaria’s participation in ESDP. Why? Here are a few of them:

  • Taking part in ESDP might give the country the political prestige it needs so much  in the EU right now
  • ESDP can improve institutional and Crisis Management Operation (CMO) experience of the military and other relevant security agencies
  • The build-up of the ESDP and its coordination with NATO could be a key reference point in reorganizing and modernizing Bulgaria’s military
  • Strong ESDP strengthens the position of the EU at the international scene and helps the stability in the region

A few ideas for Bulgaria’s security and defense policy

First of all, Bulgaria should do its homework and update its security strategy and military doctrine. These documents should specify the role Bulgaria wants for the EU in the world and for itself within ESDP and NATO. The moment could not be more appropriate since now the new strategic concept of NATO is being elaborated and in addition ESDP is soon likely to get new form and institutions after the Lisbon Treaty come into force. The openness of the new MoD leadership should make these processes as transparent as possible and accessible for experts and NGOs. In the last years a number of organizations were entirely forgotten and the expertise gathered in preparation of the NATO accession process is slowly but surely fading away.

Second, traditional strategic documents should be supplemented with a special strategy about Bulgaria’s participation in crisis management operations, and more specifically to set the goals and strategic directions. This is how Bulgaria will move away from the ad hoc approach which so far has only provided for sending 1-2 officer here and there.

3) Bulgaria needs a coherent plan for civilian capability development for CMO. The current personnel policy of MoD eu-flagand the Ministry of Interior do not reflect the new security challenges and the lessons learned from key international operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. Creating civil-military units ready to take part in international missions needs new intra-institutional policy. The civil-military capability development plan should include the Ministries of Interior, Justice, Defense and the restructured Ministry of Emergency Situations. These institutions ought to work together in creating at least a few well-trained small units able to take part in monitoring, SSR and state-building missions, etc.

Furthermore, 4), considering the limited finances, Bulgaria should offer niches for operational support in the civilian aspects of ESDP (just like this has happened in NATO). This is not easier, but it is definitely cheaper because civilian operations are covered by the EU, unlike the military missions, which are paid from the national budget. It seems logical that the MoD should be at the very center of such an initiative, but before that, there should be a clear coordination mechanism with the other agencies involved.

Then 5), the civil-military capability plan should be coordinated with the Council Secretariat and other member states. Eventually such consultations may grow into an EU approach to civilian planning, which will be only of benefit to the under-staffed missions of the EU. Currently there are 1500 vacancies, while the mission in Afghanistan has deployed around half of its envisaged personnel. Thus if Bulgaria creates a strategy on this issue and manages a smooth coordination process at home, it can lobby for further steps at EU level, which would bring the country’s diplomacy and expertise in the focus of attention and discussions. Eventually a common planning and standardization process for civilian capabilities may emerge at the EU level.

Even though it is small, the gathered expertise from CMOs should be utilized to full extend. This is why it is necessary to 6) create a specialized best practices and lessons learned unite within the MoD. This unit could create its own expertise based on research and also use the experience obtained in past missions. A good first step is to create an extensive and structured debriefing procedure. It is important to note that even the Council Secretariat does not have such a specialized unit. The lack of constructive criticism and the status quo around the Higher Representative to certain extend blocks a more dynamic and efficient ESDP.

chessFinally 7), Bulgaria should encourage the Black Sea policy, which is the natural focus of the Neighborhood Policy. The latter is being restarted almost every year, which signals that not everything is running smoothly. Bulgaria is the Southeastern frontier of the EU and has vital interest to use its traditional links, position and experience to develop the EU’s neighborhood policy. There is a number of good practices for maritime patrolling and early warning that the country can use together with its neighbours.

This of course, is only one of the domains of Bulgaria’s security policy. Yet it is a key one, since it is vital for intra-institutional cooperation, administrative reform and the role and prestige of the country in the EU.

The last years showed that the government cannot adequately tackle the lack of security. Human trafficking, smuggling, organized crime, political corruption, unstable or failing states – these are elements of one puzzle. We cannot assemble it the right way only with traditional approach to security and defense. We have to act smart, adopt more comprehensive approach and use the synergy between different aspects of external and internal security. Above all, however, we need the understanding about the surrounding challenges and a strategic vision how to successfully tackle them.

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