Tsvetlin Yovchev, chief of staff of Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev, in an interview with FOCUS News Agency
FOCUS: Mr. Yovchev, the Consultative Council for National Security with the President’s Office held a meeting earlier this week. For the first time in the past 22 years the participants reached consensus about the development of the Bulgarian security services. What does this mean to Bulgaria’s security? What are the phases legislative regulation of the security services’ operation has to go through so that Bulgaria can have security services operating according to the world standards 20 years after the beginning of the transition period?
Tsvetlin Yovchev: You are absolutely right when you say that this is an extraordinary achievement of the Consultative Council for National Security. We should note the role of the president who managed to unite the political parties, executive and legislature during the political consultations and discussions within the Consultative Council about an issue that has not been solved in the past 22 years. The discussions were very constructive and the political parties and the executive made efforts and worked in the name of the national interest. I consider the achievement very important, because it seems the political consensus and expertise piled up in the recent years will make it possible to create a much better mechanism for national security management.
This is a process that has to follow given logic, requires consistency and hierarchy in analyses, decisions and actions. The first thing to do is to outline the framework with an organizational law and I am sure the law will be ready by the end of the year. It should state which the main national security units are, what their functions are, how they should cooperate and how joint processes and activities are managed. What is important, and the President emphasized on it in his speech, is that the mechanism requires a comprehensive, integrated and systematic approach, which means we should consider all institutions and organizations in charge of counteracting national security threats as interconnected and interdependent elements of one system. They should have united management and their operation is dependant on achieving common goals.
Of course, meanwhile the operation of the National Intelligence Service and National Security Service needs to be regulated legislatively and we work to do that. We also work to draft a military intelligence law, because there is has been some legislative vacuum here. Only after building this legal framework so that the services could work in a single legislative space, we should make efforts to organize the working processes, generate a synergy effect, foster abilities for cooperation between the services, which is of high importance.
FOCUS: You managed one of Bulgaria’s security services. Where is the legislative vacuum most perceptible?
Tsvetlin Yovchev: It seems it was most perceptible in the lack of a mechanism for formulating the special services’ goals and main tasks; the mechanisms that would resolve the issues of carrying out joint activities and, of course, the lack of a single approach and one and the same criteria for the operation of the services.
FOCUS: In a time when Bulgaria is reforming legislatively its security services, the Balkans keeps on being a place of insecurity and tension, irrespective of the state leaders’ intentions. Do we have time and ability to arrange our adequacy to the threats?
Tsvetlin Yovchev: This is an important issue you are raising. We live in a time with high dynamics of the security environment. We have to adapt the national security protection and its units very quickly so that we are adequate to this environment and could effectively counteract national security risks and threats. That’s why we need a comprehensive, systematic, integrated approach. Do we have time and ability? I would rather paraphrase the question in the following way – how fast should we do it, because we have no other choice. If we fail to do this, we will never be able to adequately react to threats.
FOCUS: The Western Balkans, Arab countries after the Arab Spring, world terrorism, fundamentalism – what puts Bulgaria’s security at risk right now?
Tsvetlin Yovchev: Everything you have just enumerated and everything related with the so-called asymmetric threats. So right now asymmetric threats are becoming one of the main security problems, not only of Bulgaria, but also of most EU countries and our NATO allies. As the President said in his speech when he opened the meeting of the Consultative Council for National Security, not a single organization or institution can handle threats of this type on its own, because they take different appearances in various spheres.
Second, you cannot use a reciprocal approach towards such kind of threats, i.e. your actions have to be directed at the reasons causing the threats, rather than at the concrete appearances. This entails large potential for collecting and processing information, for analyses and forecasts.
And last, but not least, in asymmetric threats the potential rival can cause huge damages, using very small resources, but institutions and organizations have to invest large resources in order to counteract this type of threats. This entails a fundamentally different approach to the management of resources. We are again back to what we started with – a systematic approach.
FOCUS: The economic crisis affects countries’ security. Logically, less money means less security. Is the world less secure since the start of the economic crisis?
Tsvetlin Yovchev: In any case, the drop in the resources allocated for security is influencing the systems negatively. If the necessary reforms are not conducted quickly, fewer resources will mean less security. Success depends on our abilities to organize the processes in a way that we will be able to achieve synergy, flexibility, effectiveness and efficiency. We have to build abilities for cooperation between the services and, as the President says, for sharing and rational management of resources …
FOCUS: The NATO summit is due in less than a month in Chicago. What is the future of NATO in terms of the relations with Russia and the ties of Bulgaria as a NATO member state with Russia?
Tsvetlin Yovchev: The NATO-Russia relations do not start now. They have their history. There is a special Russia-NATO Council which discusses these relations and the respective policies are designed. It seeks cooperation in the context of the new threats you have mentioned. As to the Chicago summit, it will probably discuss the new conditions and abilities of the North-Atlantic Pact to counteract threats in these new conditions.
FOCUS: What would be Bulgaria’s messages at the summit in terms of the bid of the Western Balkan countries?
Tsvetlin Yovchev: We should not be hasty in sending messages. Bulgaria is a NATO ally and I am sure its policy will strengthen its role in the decision-making process.