June 15, 2017

External and internal security environment of the Republic of Bulgaria, risks and threats to the national and the international security

     Joseph Nye has a very powerful metaphor: ‘Security is like oxygen—you tend not to notice it until you begin to lose it, but once that occurs there is nothing else that you will think about.’ Security in the broadest sense is a condition that implies guaranteed protection by various ways and means of basic vital interests of the individual, society, and the state, from all internal and external threats.

     Professor Nikolay Slatinski divides security into five levels: 1) security of the individual; 2) security of a group of individuals; 3) state security; 4) security of a community of states; 5) security of the world. The Five Security Levels scheme very well illustrates and outlines the different levels of security, as well as the basic scope of national and international security[1].

     Under the conditions of increased globalisation, the risks and threats to the national security of the Republic of Bulgaria are mostly asymmetrical. The external and internal security environments are increasingly interdependent. Amongst the main risks and threats to Bulgaria's internal security environment are the demographic crisis, the problems of poverty and inequality, the inability to tackle corruption, the heavy and inefficient bureaucracy, organised crime, money laundering, human trafficking, political instability, the neglect of education, science, culture, and sport, and the lack of solutions to reduce crime in certain regions of the country.

     From the point of view of the external security environment, the probability for violation of the sovereign and territorial integrity of the Republic of Bulgaria is not very high, taking into account that the country is a member of both NATO and the EU, and that it maintains good relations with its neighboring countries. Nevertheless, international terrorism, the migrant wave, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), regional conflicts, cybercrime, international organised crime, the economic crises, and environmental damage, are all issues that have a significant impact on the global and regional security environment.

     The complex situation and trends in the Middle East pose serious challenges for the countries of the European Union and NATO. This is especially true for Bulgaria, since the country forms part of the external borders of the two organisations. The risks of increased migratory pressure, the intensification of radical movements, and the activation of international terrorist networks, are real. Unnecessary provocations by certain countries, through the development and testing of nuclear and missile programs, are also harsh on the international environment.

     Speaking of risks and threats to regional security, the refugee and migrant crisis emerges immediately in mind. The European capacity to assimilate this migration has already been achieved. The Islamic State and other terrorist organisations are taking advantage of the situation and bring their members into Europe, which increases the terrorist threat and the radicalisation of Muslim communities. Further alarming is the expansion of ISIS in Iraq and Syria in the recent years. The Middle East and North Africa are in chaos. The Iraqi invasion of 2003, the Arab Spring, the civil war in Syria, the conflicts in Libya and Yemen, have contributed to this. The rise of the Islamic State turned Iraq and Syria into a bloodbath. These are all factors that generate and intensify migratory waves across the Mediterranean and Southeastern Europe[2].

     In recent months and years, there has also been an increase in international terrorism. Several EU and NATO member states, and not only, suffered from violent terrorist attacks. Terrorism is both a regional and a global threat that does not give signs to decline soon. The situation is complicated on the Western Balkans as well. The spread of extreme Islamist ideas among Muslim communities, including returning fighters from terrorist organisations in the Middle East, brings security risks. Corruption in the region provides a good environment for organised crime which actively deals with money laundering, trafficking in human beings, drugs and weapons.

     The complex international environment calls for inter-state co-operation to address modern risks and threats to security. No state is able to counteract alone all the threats to national security, especially those coming from the outside.

[1] Проф. Слатински, Николай. Петте нива на сигурността. // гр. София, Военно издателство, 2010 г.

[2] Министерски съвет. Доклад за състоянието на отбраната и въоръжените сили на Република България 2016 г.// гр. София, март 2017 г


Author: Roberto Ivanov, Expert Committee: Defence 



1. Проф. Слатински, Николай. Петте нива на сигурността. // гр. София, Военно издателство, 2010 г.

2. Министерски съвет. Доклад за състоянието на отбраната и въоръжените сили на Република България 2016 г.// гр. София, март 2017 г.