Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev has called for a gradual increase in coming years to meet the country’s commitments to Nato and said that the correct answer to economic problems, growing nationalism and the crisis in Ukraine is “more Europe”.
Plevneliev, head of state and also commander-in-chief of the armed forces, was speaking on May 6, which Bulgaria celebrates as army day.
“We are obliged to work for a new phase of economic, energy, financial, defence, political and human integration, a stronger European Union. A European Union, which effectively counters destabilising actions from any direction. A European Union that will not allow a return to the retrograde policies of Great Powers and peripheral countries between them,” Plevneliev said.
He said that Bulgaria must meet its commitments to the Nato alliance by setting defence spending for 2015 of at least 1.5 per cent of GDP and gradually increasing this in coming years to the Nato norm of two per cent.
The country should also enhance co-operation and strengthen its ties with its allies, Plevneliev said.
He underlined support for the modernisation programme of the armed forces, including the project to buy new jet fighters, and also called for a reduction of Bulgaria’s very high dependence only one country as a weapons producer.
“Bulgaria’s membership of Nato is the main guarantee of our independence and national sovereignty. But this alone is not enough. The transformation process should continue to accelerate and adapt to the realities of a rapidly changing security environment . The goal is clear – to build a modern , mobile and efficient Bulgarian army interoperable with Nato armed forces,” Plevneliev said.
Diversification in the energy and defence fields were key to national security, he said.
He expressed confidence that, in connection with the crisis in Ukraine, the EU will reconsider its energy policy .
The President said that the Ukrainian crisis shows that it is still possible in Europe to redraw borders, to fuel conflicts, to destabilise a country and not to respect the rule of law and international law.
“These events confirm the importance of a true alliance based on values – democracy, respect for the rights and dignity of every citizen, human freedom and the rule of law.
“But we also know that democratic values and national security are not given, not given away for free and not free. A reliable system of collective defence and the development of modern military capabilities are very important and this can now be seen more clearly than in any other time in the years of transition,” Plevneliev said.