On October 27, 2008 the Center for the Study of Democracy organized a public discussion of the draft of the new Defense Law of the Republic of Bulgaria with the participation of Mr. Nikolay Tsonev, Minister of Defense, General Zlatan Stoykov, Chief of General Staff of the Bulgarian Armed Forces , MPs, Deputy ministers, Ambassadors, Former Chiefs of the General Staff of the Bulgarian Armed Forces, representatives of the Presidency, civil organizations, experts and the media.
In his opening remarks Ambassador Boyko Noev, former Minister of Defense emphasized that Bulgarian membership in NATO, accelerated professionalizing of the army, and the fact that the Ministry of Defense is fulfilling its tasks in an entirely modified environment, necessitate the adoption of a new Defense Law. The lack of public debate of issues concerning the draft of the new Law has led to the misinterpretation of the draft by the general public.
Mr. Nikolay Tzonev, Minister of Defense, underscored the importance of the Law. As it regulates an important national institution, its adoption is not to be delayed and compromise is not to be allowed. Minister Tzonev noted that the draft reflects the changes occurring in the country during the past several years, while also giving considerable attention to the improvement of the social status and security of military personnel.
Mr. Todor Churov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, considered the scope of the Defense Law as part of the reform process in the army and the country as a whole. It is of crucial importance to maintain the depoliticization of the army, as well as to pay special attention to the coordination of Bulgarian missions abroad, seeking a balance between alliance commitments and national interests.
Mr. Lyubomir Ivanov, permanent representative of the Republic of Bulgaria in NATO, explained that NATO does not impose standardized rules with respect to the size and format of the law. Nevertheless, attention must be paid to the remit of article 5 of the NATO Treaty, which concerns our commitments to the united defense of the Alliance and to the clear balance between the requirements of united defense and participation in expedition operations. In this context, Ambassador Ivanov underlined the importance of achieving close cooperation among all institutions involved in the fulfillment of these commitments.
Lieutenant General Atanas Zapryanov, a military representative of Bulgaria in NATO, stated the position of the Ministry of Defense on the guiding principles of the Draft Law. He offered a detailed explanation of the structure of the law, the mechanisms for providing integrity with the active legislation, the goals and the mechanisms for their achievement.
Lieutenant General (ret .) Anyo Angelov made an expert statement defining the integrated model of the Ministry of Defense as well as the relations and interaction among state institutions involved in defense management. He suggested a list of specific amendments to the draft law.
D-r Velizar Shalamanov, former Deputy Minister of Defense, focused on the economic aspects of the draft. He estimated that defense-related expenses will amount to no less than BGN 15 billion in the next 10 years, which calls for a sound and reasonable economic strategy for the effective use of these funds. In this context, the need for efficient forms of civil control was pointed out. Mr. Shalamanov suggested the establishment of a National Guards Unit to guarantee closer relations with civil society and to expand civil authority in dealing with emergencies.
Mr. Asen Agov and Mr. Ilko Dimitrov, Members of the Parliament, drew attention to the importance of the law, warning against a possible Constitutional problem concerning the parts of the draft text dealing with the powers of the President.
Mr. Ilko Dimitrov pointed out that reaching consensus on the idea of an integrated model of the Ministry of Defense was long overdue and the issue could not be delayed any further.
Mr. Asen Agov reflected on some imperfections of the draft which might be an obstacle to achieving consensus in the Parliamentary Defense Commission. Mr. Agov recommended that further efforts be made to improve the text in order to avoid the possible lack of consensus in the Plenary Hall, especially since adequate amendments cannot be made in between the first and second readings. He warned that forthcoming debates on the 2009 budget, and in particular on the defense budget, could also influence a flawed draft law.
Colonel General (ret.) Tzvetan Totomirov and Lieutenant General (ret.), Stoyan Topalov, former Chief and Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Bulgarian Armed Forces, underscored some omissions in the texts of the draft related to the lines of command and the civic control of the integrated model of the Ministry, as well as to the rule of undivided authority and to the issues of raising the prestige and the social status of employees during and after their service.
The closing discussion concluded that the debates had been open and productive and will most likely be followed by other talks on the issue. In his closing remarks, Minister Tzonev affirmed that he would not allow the submission of a fragmented and flawed Draft of the Defense Law before the Council of Ministers.
Agenda (in Bulgarian)
Defense Law of the Republic of Bulgaria - draft (MS Word document, 862 Kb, in Bulgarian)
Presentation by Lieutenant General Atanas Zapryanov, a military representative of Bulgaria in NATO (PPT presentation, 238 Kb, in Bulgarian)
Presentation by d-r Velizar Shalamanov, former Deputy Minister of Defense (PPT presentation, 107 Kb, in Bulgarian)
Presentation by Lieutenant General (ret.) Anyo Angelov (PPT presentation, 102 Кb, in Bulgarian)
Media Coverage (in Bulgarian)