Bulgaria’s stepped-up security includes cameras, plan for new rules for residence of foreigners

Bulgaria’s stepped-up security includes cameras, plan for new rules for residence of foreigners

Sofia, November 18, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe

Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia is to increase the number of security cameras while Plovdiv has stepped up security at public buildings, including cultural venues, in the wake of the November 13 Paris terrorist attacks.

The Bulgarian government has a draft strategy for combating radicalisation and terrorism, which includes punishment for calls for hatred in the media and on the internet, training on recognising potential radicalisation, a national standard for protection of strategic sites including a national system for CCTV, new rules for entry and residence of foreigners, especially citizens of countries identified as risky, real-time linking of the registries of hotels, hostels and guest houses with the Interior Ministry, State Agency for National Security and the Ministry of Finance.

On November 18, it emerged that following a meeting between Interior Minister Roumyana Buchvarova and Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova, video surveillance in the capital city would be enhanced.

Sofia municipality security official Krassimir Dimitrov said in an interview with public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television said that currently, there were more than 3000 cameras at 300 sites in the city, including recently-completed systems in Students’ Town and at the Military Academy. A further 98 facilities were to be constructed.

Separately, it emerged that the Bulgarian government’s draft strategy on combating radicalisation and terrorism, compiled following an agreement to do so at a meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security, called by President Rossen Plevneliev before the Paris terrorist attacks, sees teachers, doctors and social workers as involved in the front line of combating radicalisation and potential terrorist threats.

Compiled under the aegis of Interior Minister Buchvarova, the draft strategy envisages the preparation of manuals for teachers, doctors, social workers and police which will include indicators in the behaviour of people that they are becoming radicalised or a terrorist threat.

Channels will be created for citizens to report indications that someone is becoming radicalised.

Education and upbringing, especially of young people and children from ethnic minorities, will be the main way of the state to work for the prevention of terrorist threats, according to the strategy.

There will also be producing a national standard for the protection of important sites, including how video surveillance should be conducted.

Plans are to build a single national system for CCTV, which would include not only critical infrastructure, but also schools, urban areas, roads and so on.

State efforts to combat terrorism are to be coordinated by special counterterrorism centre at the State Agency for National Security.

The document sees three main threats to Bulgarian national security.

The first is the expansion of the so-called “Islamic State” in the Middle East and North Africa. The second is the passage of volunteers and “soldiers” for the “Islamic State” through Bulgarian territory and the third, the refugee wave.

The Buchvarova document envisages laws providing for action against hate speech in the media and online, with a methodology to be established to detect which websites are being used for propaganda for violence and extremism.

From 2016, the capacity should be increased of the specialist unit for combating terrorism, the document says.

Bulgaria will adopt new rules for entry and residence of foreigners, especially citizens of countries identified as risky. And provision is made for real-time linking of the registries of hotels, hostels and guest houses with the Interior Ministry, SANS and the Ministry of Finance.

The military would have to review the way it guards warehouses with arms and ammunition, to rule out arming terrorists with weapons stolen from the army.

It is also planned to strengthen measures to guard foreign embassies in Bulgaria and those of Bulgaria abroad against attacks.

Meanwhile, in Bulgaria’s second city Plovdiv, police presence at railway and bus stations, the airport and public buildings has been strengthened.

Extra security measures have been put in place at the Boris Christoff House of Culture in Plovdiv, the city’s largest cultural venue, BNT reported. These measures include restrictions on bringing bulky items into the building, inspecting items left at the garderobe, and briefings for staff on how to safely escort the audience to exits without causing panic. Municipal guards have been placed on daily duty at the entrances to the building, and if necessary, the number of security staff will be increased, the report said.