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News 02 Sep 16

Bulgaria Sets National Security as Top Priority

The Bulgarian government and parliament have declared that protection of national security is the key issue - but some experts view this as a crude tactic to win public support.

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia
Bulgaria has been building a barbed-wired fence along its border with Turkey since 2014. Photo: Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov's Facebook Page

Bulgarian MPs on Thursday adopted their annual report on the state of national security, which listed the greatest risks in 2015 as the refugee crisis, the wars in Syria and Ukraine and terrorism.

The parties in Bulgaria’s governing coalition, GERB, and its junior partner, the Reformist Bloc, also declared their commitment to complete the full four-year mandate of the government, naming national security as a top priority at a meeting on Thursday.

The other priorities agreed on were financial stability and preparations for the Bulgarian Presidency of the European Council, which is due to start in January 2018.

“GERB will adopt laws and legal amendments that will guarantee the optimal security of the borders of our country, which is the main priority of this political season,” GERB’s Vice-President, Tsvetan Tsvetan, said in a declaration to parliament on Wednesday.

He noted that Bulgaria is in a delicate situation and that people must be able to trust the authorities.

The government’s pledged commitment to national security follows mounting criticism of Bulgaria’s foreign policy and especially of its warming relations with the increasingly authoritarian regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On August 10, Bulgarian authorities handed over to Turkey Abdullah Buyuk, a supporter of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based Islamic cleric who Ankara accuses of being responsible for the recent failed coup.

Later, on August 26, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov went to Istanbul for talks with President Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on migration, where he slated Europe's “lack of solidarity” with Bulgaria over refugees.

Experts view the prioritization of security and border policies by the government as a crude bid to regain public support.

“If anyone believes that national security can be protected by a barbed-wire fence, they clearly do not understand this term,” Arman Babikyan, а Sofia-based analyst, told BIRN on Thursday.

He also said that border protection should not be considered a national priority because it is just “a normal duty” of any government.

“We are witnessing the propagation of fear in society in relation to the refugee crisis. This is aimed at internal political use, so that people will want to be governed by a strong hand,” Babikyan predicted.

Sociologist Yulii Pavlov also warns that too much focus is being put on the debate on security and says the refugee threat is exaggerated.

“The political season will be marked by fears and uncertainty about who are our friends and who are our enemies in a world shaken by crises,” he told Bulgarian National Radio on Wednesday.

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