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Second Annual International Conference: NATO, EU and the New Risks: a Southeast Europe Perspective
29-30 October, 2004
Sofia, Bulgaria

Prof. Georgi Petkanov, Minister of Interior of Bulgaria

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Colleagues and Guests,

I would like to thank you for the opportunity to take part in the international security conference organized by the Center for the Study of Democracy. The conference will undoubtedly benefit from the attendance of high-level NATO and EU officials, SEE ministers of defense and interior, representatives of key international organisations and diplomatic missions, the academia and the non-governmental sector.

Due to its NATO membership and pending accession to the EU Bulgaria has now a unique chance of making its security structures an integral part of the Euro-Atlantic and European ones. Since the 1990s globalization has been the single factor that most crucially determines international relations. The growing interdependence between states has essentially changed the way national interests are to be defended. Throughout this period the international security scene has undergone radical transformations. New trends are appearing. Central and Eastern Europe have been part of the integration process. Bulgaria is a NATO member and is shortly to become an EU member.

Against this backdrop we can state with some certainty that in the mid and long term perspective the Republic of Bulgaria is not facing the risk of a classical war threat. Following September 11, however, the international community has had to revise its priorities and to take steps to strengthen the international legal instruments, institutions and mechanisms that would guarantee the world peace and security.

Bulgaria has accordingly introduced legislative and organizational measures to adapt its security services to the requirements of NATO and the EU. We have reformed the National Security Service (NSS) and rather than being a Soviet-style special service, it is now structured after similar agencies in NATO countries. Pursuant to Bulgaria’s international commitments NSS’ topmost priority is the sound coordination with foreign security agencies in counteracting international terrorism and trans-border organized crime.

Two strategic laws have been adopted: the Law on the Protection of Classified Information and the Amendments to the Law on the Ministry of Interior establishing the NSS’ responsibilities in the national system for the protection of classified information. Some new legal amendments are being prepared that will make the NSS a unified nation-wide agency.

Ladies and Gentlemen, NATO is the primary guarantor of Euro-Atlantic security, so Bulgaria’s membership in the Alliance is a strong guarantee of its national security. Its next enlargement would bring further security to our environment and will make the Alliance stronger and abler to affect the level of security. The open-door policy and the ensuing enlargement with new SEE members will turn the region into an area of common security and stability.

The integration of more countries within the alliance has markedly enhanced security cooperation. Security and law-enforcement services are functioning in this new environment and have to face its challenges. The location of SEE countries along some major illegal goods and drug trafficking routes puts them at imminent risk from trans-border organized criminal activities.

Bulgaria’s unequivocal support to and participation in the international anti-terrorist coalition make the country a potential target of terrorist activities as well, especially as it is geographically close to regions like the Middle East and the Caucasus. Contemporary terrorist organizations present a much greater threat to any state’s social, economic, and political fabric since they can get hold of weapons for mass destruction (WMD).

Immigration flows from the conflict-ridden Central Asian countries are also posing security risks. The Bulgarian law-enforcement agencies with the Ministry of Interior (MoI), and of course their counterparts in the EU states, are increasingly involved in prevention and counteraction of illegal migration and human trafficking.

The risks from illicit trading in arms and dual-use goods and technologies have not lessened either. The MoI is fully aware that the most severe threat to international security nowadays is the possibility of terrorist groups to acquire and use WMD. This makes illicit arms trafficking a major problem that needs to be tackled decisively. Fighting international terrorism is a priority for the Bulgarian MoI and it implements a number of measures following the clear-cut state policy of active support to the anti-terrorist coalition and the UN Security Council’s resolutions on terrorism.

The MoI and its agencies are fully equipped for integration into EU and NATO security structures and are drawing on these partners’ expertise to counteract the risks and threats to national security more effectively. We are building an institutional capacity that will allow us to respond properly to the new terrorist and organized crime risks both on a national and trans-national scale. The MoI’s primary task is to ensure better coordination between the special services, the police, the judiciary, the local authorities, and the emergency services. The country’s security can best be guarded through information exchange that will provide early warning and through the synchronized efforts of all agencies.

Special and law-enforcement agencies use non-military prevention measures to safeguard national security and the constitutional order. The early warning information collected by Bulgarian security services as part of their role in international crisis management and peace-keeping operations is rising in importance.

The MoI is cooperating with all Balkan security services to tackle trans-border organized crime. There is a constant regional information exchange on illegal human trafficking, goods smuggling, psychotropic and radioactive substance trafficking, arms and ammunitions smuggling, terrorist activities and hazardous cargo incidents.

The areas where the MoI has gained considerable ground with the support of its US and EU partners are: interception of drug trafficking, illicit synthetic drugs production and distribution, and counterfeited money and documents. MoI services are successfully implementing joint projects with the British government and Europol targeting trafficking in women and people smuggling in general.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is more than certain that contemporary security threats can only be fought through concerted efforts with our partners from NATO and the EU. We have set the full integration with Euro-Atlantic and EU police and special services as our primary goal because it will help Bulgaria provide adequate response to the new common risks and security threats.

Together we will succeed. Thank you very much.
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