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Small Arms Proliferation and Organized Crime in Bulgaria
Bulgarian and foreign experts discussed the risks posed by small arms proliferation and the current state of the export control system in Bulgaria at a round table on April 5, 2004. Discussions focused on the findings and recommendations of the analytical report Weapons under Scrutiny.The report provides an analysis of the social and economic reasons that have contributed to the reluctance among Bulgarian politicians to strengthen arms controls. It describes the transformation of the defense industry in the post-Communist transition period, as well as its current state. It also examines the factors contributing to illegal arms exports from Bulgaria and offers some data from recent cases with a focus on the potential social, economic, and political effects of stronger arms controls. The report offers a number of recommendations for the improvement of the export-control system.

Task Force experts, representatives of the Ministries of Economy, Foreign Affairs, Interior and Defense as well as Saferworld, SEESAC and SECI experts took part in the discussion. Lord Frank Judd, former UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defense, Minister for Overseas Development, and Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, was a keynote speaker in the round table.

In his opening remarks Mr. Ivan Piperkov, Head of Global Security and Disarmament Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noted that transparency is an important element in countering illicit trade with small arms and light weapons. He put a stress on MFA’ role in increasing the efficiency of the export control system in accordance with the international agreements and the latest trends in this area.

Session one was devoted to the findings of the analytical report developed by a Task Force of state experts and analysts from the CSD and Saferworld. CSD Research Fellow Philip Gounev pointed to several risks factors for Bulgaria, including the difficult financial condition of defense companies, the social price of strict arms controls and corruption of controlling authorities. The report also recommends how to decrease these risks through:

- privatization or restructuring of financially troubled defense companies;
- active policies to destroy or sell surplus arms and ammunition;
- more transparency in the sale of surplus arms and ammunition;
- registration of domestic production and sale of defense products;
- creation of a separate arms control body or elimination of conflict of interests within the current ones and
- more transparency and civil society controls through public annual reports.

Andrew Wilkinson, Team Leader at the SEE Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (UNDP), highlighted the importance of the partnership between public institutions and non-governmental organizations. He said that CSD report was a breakthrough in this partnership and a valuable tool in ensuring transparency.

Galin Genov from the Military Economic Cooperation and Internationally Controlled Trade Directorate at the Ministry of Economy presented the current legislative framework of the export control system in Bulgaria. He also made comments and clarifications to some of the official statistics quoted in the report. Mr. Genov concluded that the report was a good one as it paves the way for a better exchange of information between responsible bodies.

In his speech Lord Frank Judd expressed appreciation of the analytical report. He said that regulations had been set but unless there is a will they would not work. We have to change the perceptions for small arms proliferation worldwide as it is also a humanitarian concern, he said and suggested sound economic strategies to overcome political instability. Lord Judd also appealed to NATO and EU's support in assisting the restructuring of defense systems in Bulgaria.

Session two dealt with the links between the organized crime and illicit trade with small arms. NSBOP Director Gen. Roumen Milanov was positive to the dialogue with the civil society on this issue but he also stressed on the specific operations of the National Service for Combating Organized Crime which would not succeed if they were made public. He specified NSBOP’ tasks to counter small arms proliferation and to control the quantity of legal and illegal weapons owned by organized criminal groups.

In the following discussion, the Deputy Minister of Interior and member to the Interministerial Commission on Export Control Roumen Stoilov commented on the work of the Commission saying that it had ensured a stronger control on trade and proliferation of small arms within the country. Tihomir Bezlov, CSD Expert put a stress on the uncontrolled land and sea borders allowing illicit trafficking. Gen. Milanov shared the opinion of Tatyana Doncheva, MP, who dwelled on the need of a better legislation and stronger control on the possession of small arms.

Weapons under Scrutiny - presentation of Philip Gounev (Power Point, 363 kb)
SALW assessment for Bulgaria
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