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Small Arms and Light Weapons in Bulgaria
On March 30, 2005 the CSD launched an analytical report on the small arms and light weapons in Bulgaria, initiated by the South East Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC). Taming the Arsenal – Small Arms and Light Weapons in Bulgaria is a report on the findings of research conducted on questions relating to SALW in Bulgaria from July to November 2004 by the CSD and London-based Saferworld.

The discussion benefited from the participation of representatives of the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior and its agencies, Ministry of Defense, Saferworld and SEESAC.

Roumen Stoilov, Deputy Minister of Interior, highlighted some aspects of the efforts of the Ministry to curb the illegal trafficking of small arms. In his opinion, the control on arms transfer in Bulgaria is strong enough and an organized illegal transfer of SALW through Bulgaria has not been registered. He admitted that he was surprised to learn that most of the Bulgarian citizens share a negative attitude towards SALW distribution which was not the case during the debate over the draft law on the control of explosive substances, firearms and ammunition leading to the introduction of a registration regime for acquisition and use of firearms. He also stated that due to the strengthened export control, transfers of SALW to countries at risk did not take place in the last years.

Hans Risser from SEESAC underlined that SALW distribution is not a local problem, but a global one and uncontrolled proliferation is particularly worrying because it increases insecurity, hampers development and provides income for terrorism and organized crime. Since 2002 SEESAC is carrying out a series of surveys in the countries from the region to assess public attitudes and perceptions among various groups of the societies as well as the capacity of the governments to conduct efficient SALW intervention.

Philip Gounev, CSD Research Fellow and Simon Rynn, Project Coordinator for Central and Eastern Europe at Saferworld, presented the survey results and the main conclusions of the report. Mr. Rynn pointed out that the international observers expect that countries exporting arms respect international humanitarian law and need to be cautious to the risk of conflict breaking. Cooperation with international organizations and foreign embassies is therefore essential because routine exchange of information and regular checks would be beneficial for correct use of the export.

Vladimir Gaidarski, Head of Smuggling of Weapons, Hazardous Materials and Proliferation Department at the National Service for Combating Organized Crime, stated that modification of gas pistols into firearms is among the most serious problems. He explained that the illegal export of gas pistols to the EU countries is a usual practice because of the 500% retail profit. The high profit attracts even people who do not have links with the organized crime to commit illegal transfers. Mr. Gaidarski suggested a registration regime for gas pistols to be introduced as well. In the following discussion Mr. Stoilov put a stress on the need to punish the persons who modify gas pistols into firearms, rather than registering gas pistols.

Nikola Mihailov, Director of the International Organizations and Arms Control Department at the Ministry of Defense shared the opinion that currently there exists a strict control over the acquisition and use of arms. He dwelled on the surpluses of arms in the country and expressed doubts that the envisaged Regional center for arms destruction will ever work since most of the neighboring countries prefer to destroy weapons on their own territory.

Agenda of the discussion
Taming the Arsenal – Small Arms and Light Weapons in Bulgaria
Media coverage (in Bulgarian)
SALW assessment for Bulgaria - CSD past and current activities
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