Bulgaria’s National Assembly has approved the second and final reading of amendments to the Defence and Armed Forces Act that legalise the participation of allied air forces from other Nato countries in protecting Bulgaria’s air space.
The vote in Parliament on February 5 2016 was 96 in favour, 34 against and there were 13 absentions.
Defence Minister Nikolai Nenchev was not present for the vote because he was attending an informal meeting of Nato defence ministers in Amsterdam.
Joint actions on securing Bulgaria’s air space will be conducted on terms and conditions set out in an international treaty and in the case of the necessity of urgent action, on a proposal by the defence minister.
Speaking in favour of the amendments, Valentin Radev of GERB, the centre-right party that is the largest in Parliament and the majority partner in government, said that Nato air space was common, whether it was Bulgarian, Romanian or Turkish.
He was referring to emotional objections from some minority parties about the possible participation of fellow Nato member Turkey in guarding Bulgarian air space, raised against the background of the centuries of Ottoman rule of Bulgaria that ended more than a century ago.
Atanas Zafirov of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) said that the government was adding another fear, for Bulgaria’s national sovereignty, on top of what he said were Bulgarians’ fears about “their bread, their lives, their health”. The nation would not forgive “the betrayal of the Bulgarian sky,” he said.
Petar Slavov of the Reformist Bloc, the centre-right coalition that participates as a minority partner in government, accused the BSP of populism, saying that Parliament was not discussing Bulgaria’s membership of Nato, a decision that had been made years ago, including with the support of the BSP itself.
Independent MP Velizar Enchev, formerly with the nationalist Patriotic Front, said that the legislation conceded control of Bulgaria’s skies and the country had become a frontline state, declaring symbolic war on Russia.
(Archive photo: Gripen multi-role fighters from Nato assist in guarding Iceland’s air space. Nato.int)