Bulgaria is a southeastern European nation located along the Black Sea. With a population of 7 million people, it is the 14th most populous country in Europe. Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic and its military consists of three branches: the Bulgarian Army, Navy, and Air Force. The Bulgarian armed forces are responsible for defending the country’s borders and sovereignty, as well as providing security to its citizens. In terms of defense spending, Bulgaria spends approximately $1.7 billion annually on its military, making it one of the highest defense spending nations per capita in Europe. The country also participates in several international missions such as those in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Bulgaria is also a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace Program and has close ties with other NATO members such as the United States and United Kingdom through joint military exercises and training opportunities. See naturegnosis to learn more about the country of Bulgaria.
The defense, which is based on selective military duty in 2004 with an initial nine-month service, comprises 45,000 men with about 300,000 men in reserve and is organized into an army of 25,000 men with five mechanized brigades. The Navy comprises 4,400 men with a submarine, a frigate, 23 patrol boats, two landing craft and a naval aircraft with about ten combat helicopters, etc. The Air Force comprises 13,100 men with about 177 fighter aircraft and 25 attack helicopters. The material is semi-modern of Soviet and domestic origin. Semi-military security forces amount to 16,000 men, in addition to 18,000 men for railway and other construction work. To see related acronyms about this country, please check ABBREVIATIONFINDER where you can see that BUL stands for Bulgaria.
Bulgaria applied for membership in NATO in 1997 and joined in 2004. Defense costs have decreased from 6.6 to 2.8% of GDP from 1985 to 2001. Bulgaria participates in some of the UN peacekeeping efforts as well as in Iraq with 500 men.
In October 2014, parliamentary elections were held – the second in 1½ years. The election was a staggering defeat for the Social Democracy BSP, which lost 45 seats and had to settle for 39. GERB also declined – with 13 seats to 84 – but remained Parliament’s undisputed largest party. The third major loser was the right-wing ATAKA, who lost 12 seats and had to settle for 11. The big winner was the Conservative electoral Alliance Reformist bloc, which stormed into parliament with 23 seats. After a few days, Boyko Borisov formed a government with his own GERB and the Reformist bloc.
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The human rights situation in Bulgaria was almost free to fall through 2015, primarily because of the continued violence against Roma, Muslims, Jews and other ethnic and religious minorities as well as the persecution of refugees. Although the Constitution establishes the right to a home, there is still no legislation to protect against forced eviction. Authorities escalated throughout the year the persecution and forced evictions of Roma. Following anti-Roma demonstrations in May and June, authorities announced a plan for the demolition of Roma houses in The Kremikovtzi settlement in the village of Gurmen as well as the Orlandovzi district in Sofia. During the period June-September, 14 houses were leveled to the ground by the Gurmen authorities. In July, the European Court of Human Rights called on the authorities to halt the devastation as long as they did not provide subsequent proper accommodation. Still, after the clearings, 60 Roma were homeless – predominantly old, at least one pregnant woman and two disabled children. In September, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights also called on Bulgaria to stop the serious human rights abuses. By the end of the year, 96 families in the Kremikovtzi settlement were in danger of being evicted. In August, 46 houses belonging to Roma in the Maksuda district of Varna were leveled to the ground. About 400 people, including 150 children, were made homeless in difficult weather conditions.
In June, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner criticized Bulgaria for the sharply increasing number of hate crimes against not only the country’s own ethnic and religious and ethnic minorities but also refugees, refugees and migrants. Authorities consistently treat these crimes as “hooliganism” instead of the far more serious “racist and xenophobic hate crimes”. In May, the European Court of Human Rights issued an order in the case of Karahhmed v. Bulgaria. The order stated that the inability and willingness of the authorities to prevent a group of violent protesters from obstructing the Muslims’ Friday prayer in 2011 was a violation of the right to religious freedom and belief.
Bulgaria was also hit by the massive increase in refugee flows to Europe in 2015 as a result of the Western-backed war on Syria. There was a quadrupling of the number of refugees and migrants crossing the border from Turkey. Instead of acknowledging that there were refugees with convention status who were entitled to asylum, the government announced its intention to extend an already 33km long fence towards Turkey with an additional 60km to force the flow of refugees to the official border crossings. The existing system of sensors and infrared cameras was also expanded. NGOs reported that refugees were systematically rejected by border police, and refugees who had crossed the border were systematically deported back to Turkey. In October, an Afghan refugee died after being shot by Bulgarian police at the border, and in March, two Yazidians who had fled from IS’s terror of hypothermia on the Turkish side of the border died after being bullied by Bulgarian police. At the same time, conditions in the reception centers deteriorated dramatically – in relation to food, access to health and sanitation. In January, authorities removed the € 33 monthly asylum seeker subsidy. Bulgaria’s Helsinki Committee objected to the removal, stating that it was in violation of Bulgarian law. access to health and sanitation. In January, authorities removed the € 33 monthly asylum seeker subsidy. Bulgaria’s Helsinki Committee objected to the removal, stating that it was in violation of Bulgarian law. access to health and sanitation. In January, authorities removed the € 33 monthly asylum seeker subsidy. Bulgaria’s Helsinki Committee objected to the removal, stating that it was in violation of Bulgarian law.
The refugee situation increased xenophobia and intolerance in the country, and in parallel, the government further tightened the refugee policy. In the first 8 months of 2016, 25,000 refugees were deported to Greece and Turkey. In April, national and international media began reporting on “volunteer border patrols” composed of civilians who captured refugees along the border and then handed them over to police. Both the government and the Bulgarian public initially reacted positively to the news, but after the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee formally complained, the police began arresting patrol members and the government urged citizens not to participate in patrol operations along the border.