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Defence Minister Tagarev: We’re Working Hard to Enhance Allied Presence in Bulgaria

The Ministry of Defence is still working bard to enhance NATO’s presence on Bulgarian territory. “The presence of allied structures here increases our security,” Defence Minister Todor Tagarev said here on Thursday at the opening of the National Museum of Military History’s exhibition titled “Bulgarian Army – 20 Years part of NATO”, quoted by his Ministry’s press centre. “One of the achievements of recent years was exactly this: we realised that we have to invest in our own army. For many years it was neglected, the budget was constantly falling until 2018. Now we are on the opposite trend and the question is – how to use it,” Minister Tagarev added.

“NATO membership makes us secure,” Tagarev said in his address, adding that over the past 25 years many people have worked very hard and in a difficult environment to enable Bulgaria to prepare for NATO membership and to develop as a worthy member of this most powerful military-political alliance.

Tagarev also said that today “we can look with derision at the initiatives of parties and politicians who talk about Bulgaria’s exit from NATO. They probably do not understand what this membership means in terms of our security and the conditions we have for economic development and improving the welfare of the Bulgarian people. We owe it to our NATO membership that they can even improvise in this way and come up with such bizarre initiatives,” he said.

The Ministry of Defence cannot work without continuity in order to solve the problems in the sector, Minister Tagarev said in to a journalist’s question. “Regardless of which minister comes after me, they will have to look for solutions to the same problems together with the political, military and administrative leadership,” he said, adding that in the last two years, the defence budget has grown significantly and this year it is already over 2% of GDP.”

“20 years ago the Bulgarian public made the right choice for our country to join NATO. Given today’s security situation, this is the most appropriate decision we have made in our recent history,” Defence Chief Admiral Emil Eftimov said. Admiral Eftimov said he wishes defence spending to reach 2.5% of GDP. He noted that this would resolve issues of concern after years of neglecting the need for investment in defence. “In order to catch up, the percentage of GDP for defence should be raised in a few years to address critical needs. After that, we may go down to that level again,” the Chief of Defence said.

The Director of the National Military History Museum, Assoc. Prof. Sonya Penkova, pointed out in her welcome address that the exhibition focuses on the missions and exercises of the Bulgarian Army in the years of its accession to the Alliance, as well as on highlights of the building of capabilities and compatibility with the armies of NATO allies. The opening of the exhibition was also attended by Nikolay Svinarov, former minister of defence (2001 to 2005), during whose term in office Bulgaria officially became a NATO member in 2004, representatives of the diplomatic corps among others.