Natural disasters in Bulgaria are on the increase. For just four months—from June to October 2014—heavy floods affected half of Bulgaria’s regions and took 18 casualties on five different occasions. By the end of October, the total number of disasters since the start of the year exceeded 600, including train crashes and explosions in ammunition factories, the most recent one killing 15 people.
The types of challenges faced come in sharp contrast with the traditional concerns and the approach to protection of the population prior to WWII and during the Cold war. After several waves of reorganisation of the former militarised system for civil defence, the civil protection units and their management bodies are now part of General Directorate “Fire Safety and Civil Protection” (FSCP) within the Ministry of the Interior.
The main legal act regulating their activities is the Disaster Protection Law. A separate concept does not exist at current. The Disaster Protection Law reflects currently prevailing conceptual views on crisis management and disaster response. A number of strategies and executive regulations complement the law in regard to disaster prevention, the functioning of volunteers and volunteer organisations, consultative bodies, mid-term programmes, annual implementation plans, etc. Crisis preparedness and response need to adhere to a number of other laws, e.g. on the Ministry of the Interior, on the environmental protection, on the waters, on the regulation of territories, etc.
The central executive power continues to play the key role, primarily via the MOI General Directorate “Fire Safety and Civil Protection.” The regional and municipal authorities have their own disaster protection plans, and each region has a local FSCP directorate. Along with other ministries and central executive agencies, critical infrastructure operators, other trade companies, volunteers, health services, and the armed forces, they perform their crisis management duties in a Unified Rescue Service.
FSCP provides points of contact for international co-operation, including humanitarian aid, engagement for disaster response and relief, protection of European critical infrastructures, etc.
FSCP has about 8,000 personnel and is sustained through the budget of the Ministry of the Interior. Elements of the monitoring and early warning system are maintained through the budget of respective ministries, agencies, and institutes. Some equipment, infrastructure and training programmes are financed as part of international projects, including EU structural funds. In addition, the Joint Commission for Restoration and Relief (JCRR) to the Council of Ministers has an annual budget of 70-90 mln. BGN, or approximately 0.1 percent of the GDP, to finance “the prevention, containment, and overcoming the consequence of disasters.”
Bulgaria has some crisis management capabilities of potential interest to the EU and other MSs, such as medium search and rescue units for urban environments, medium CBRN units, and land units for fighting forest fires, as well as the FSCP training range in the town of Montana. Mobile medical teams of the Military Medical Academy are regularly deployed abroad in disaster response operations. At the time of writing of this report, a Centre for Crisis Management and Disaster Response in Sofia, pending the accreditation from the North-Atlantic Council, will be declared NATO Centre of Excellence.