Sofia, November 5, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
The European Union and NATO should consider South Eastern Europe not as a periphery, but as a centre for geopolitical interests and policies, Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev said at a summit of leaders from member states of the alliance in Bucharest.
Leaders of Central and South Eastern European countries met in the Romanian capital on November 4 to discuss the challenges NATO is facing in the context of the changes in the geopolitical security environment.
Plevneliev described the security environment in the region as unpredictable, as a result of the record number of crises.
“Our citizens feel that instability. They expect from politicians to act boldly, to solve, not to deepen these crises. We should not wait for the crises to appear on our TV screens before we act. It is high time we acted together and addressed the causes, not the consequences. Peace is not just the absence of war. Peace means rules and the rule of law that apply to everyone.”
NATO should be ready to face the challenges “coming from all directions,” he said.
“All Allies must be equally protected. The adoption of the NATO Contingency Plan for Bulgaria and Romania, as well as the implementation of the Readiness Action Plan from Wales, are an important step in this direction,” Plevneliev said.
He said that that the Readiness Action Plan should be followed by a Long Term Adaptation of the Alliance by adopting a balanced approach, which should include sustained assurance measures, strengthening the military capabilities of the allies and readiness for a rapid deployment of the NATO forces wherever necessary. Bulgaria expects that the topic will be the main one at the next NATO summit in Warsaw in 2016.
Plevneliev welcomed the Alliance’s focus on the security in the Black Sea region after the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation.
“Conducting joint military training and exercises is the way to increase the compatibility and interoperability of our Armed Forces,” he said.
Plevneliev said that a key task of the allies is increasing the investments in defence.
“In order to reverse the trend of a declining defence budget, I recently initiated a meeting of the National Security Council in Sofia. As a result Bulgaria will increase defence budget from 1.19 per cent currently to 1.35 per cent in 2016, and gradually towards two per cent within a decade,” he said.
A decision was made at Bulgaria’s Consultative Council on National Security to speed up the compatibility of the Bulgarian armed forces with those of its allies, by only obtaining equipment and technology that are in full compliance with NATO standards.
In Plevneliev’s view, the answer to limited financial resources is the implementation of Smart Defence projects.
“For instance, we should consider joint maintenance of NATO fighters and pilot training with other member states in the region,” he said.
The opening of the NATO Force Integration Unit in Sofia and in five other countries on the Eastern flank, and also the decision to create two additional ones in Slovakia and Hungary is a significant step towards increasing their joint defence capabilities, he said, and highlighted the importance of the NATO Crisis Management Centre and called on the allies to actively participate in its activities.
“The Warsaw Summit will give us an excellent opportunity to unite efforts in strengthening our security and ensure that our Alliance is well prepared for any future threats. Bulgaria is ready to contribute further to our own defence and to the collective security of the Alliance,” Plevneliev said.