Bulgaria’s centre-right Reformist Bloc, part of the coalition cabinet, has tabled a bill in Parliament envisaging the merger of civilian and military intelligence services into a single State Intelligence Agency, reporting to the Prime Minister.
If the bill is approved, the new agency will take in the personnel and assets of the current National Intelligence Service and Military Intelligence.
Although the head of the new agency will be appointed by decree of the head of state, the President, the new agency will be under the overall guidance of the Prime Minister, who will set its tasks and monitor how they are implemented.
News of the tabling of the bill in the National Assembly on November 21 followed a decision a day earlier by Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, now in the second week of his term after his return to head the government, that he would oversee the State Agency for National Security and the State Commission on Information Security, rather than delegating this to one of his deputy prime ministers or cabinet ministers.
The main tasks of Bulgaria’s envisaged State Intelligence Agency will be to gather foreign, military and economic intelligence important to national security.
Apart from a network of agents, special intelligence-gathering equipment will be used to gather information.
Reports pointed out that the bill did not specify whether this would happen by the intelligence agency conducting such operations itself or whether this would be done through the existing State Agency for Technical Operations.
Although the new agency would be orientated towards gathering intelligence abroad, it would have exclusive rights to request access to automated information systems and information databases of domestic government institutions and municipal authorities.
A report by website Offnews said that a visible flaw in the bill was a lack of clarity on the term of office of the head of the agency and the conditions under which the head could be dismissed.
The new agency will be headed by a civilian, meaning that if a military intelligence officer is appointed, their status would change, including losing their right under the law on military service to early retirement. However, their years of service in the military would be counted in their labour record.
The law cuts back the activities of military intelligence, giving the new agency the right to decide what information to submit to the Defence Minister and whether this information corresponds with the needs of the military.
An explanatory memorandum said that the main reason for the change is that the existing civilian and military intelligence agencies of Bulgaria frequently duplicate each other’s work. It was not uncommon for this to create “unhealthy competition” between them, the memorandum said.