Internal Security Challenges – Bulgaria Deals with Terror Suspects & Economic Risks

Bulgaria, 22 Jul - 18 Aug 2015
Bulgarian authorities searching for terror suspects ++ Economic tensions expected in spite of GDP growth ++ UN report: Bulgarian population to shrink most rapidly. by Alice Greschkow
Bulgarian authorities searching for terror suspects

Several media reports revealed the search by the police of a male Romanian and a female French citizen, who are suspected to be connected to the terrorist organization Islamic State (IS). Further reports stated that the suspects’ mission is to recruit fighters for the jihad in the name of IS. As a consequence, surveillance by the police at crowded public places like airports, rail and bus stations has been increased.

Although the reports have not been confirmed by the National Security Agency (DANS), the authorities have yet been criticized for the inability to remain the search a secret. Pictures of the suspects have been handed to the police and were revealed on television reports. Although the Ministry of Interior claims that the intensified presence of the police is only part of broader measures against illegal immigration and the falsification of documents, the Bulgarian public reacts nervously to the topic of religious conflicts.
Since the 2012 terrorist attack against Israeli tourists at the airport of the coastal city of Burgas and the high number of illegal refugees through the Bulgarian boarder to Turkey, terrorism has become an important topic on the political agenda.

Economic tensions expected in spite of GDP growth

Plamen Dimitrov, the chairmen of the Bulgarian Confederation of Independent Trade Unions, is forecasting economic tensions this autumn, especially in the sectors of healthcare and culture.

Rising electricity prices are pressuring Bulgarian citizens, of which 11% live on the minimum wage of 380 Leva (190 Euro). Electricity prices have been volatile in the country due to the significant share of foreign investors and the new energy mix, which includes more renewable sources – the most expensive type of electricity in Bulgaria.

Although the economic analysts have calculated positive trends, such as the GDP growth of 2.2% in the second quarter of 2015 and the decline of official youth unemployment rates by 4% to 17.7%, economic restructuring is necessary, according to Social Minister Ivaylo Kalfin and EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva. Georgieva has proposed a Juncker Investment Plan in order to facilitate growth of businesses and expertise, and to increase to robustness to the ongoing crisis in the neighboring country of Greece. However, in spite of the the prospect for growth, poor allocation of revenues and corruption leads to the discrepancy between the average citizens – of which 20% live below poverty line – and the overall economy.

UN report: Bulgarian population to shrink most rapidly

According to the United Nations’ World Population Prospects, Bulgaria’s population will shrink from 7.15 to 5.15 million inhabitants between 2015 and 2050. Losing nearly a third of its population, Bulgaria peaks at the top 10 the least of the fastest shrinking nations, alongside other Eastern European countries, like Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine and Serbia.

The low fertility rate and severe brain drain foster this development, which might lead to a decrease of the population to 3.4 million in the year 2100, the UN report reveals. Especially young people seek a chance to realize their professional and private plans abroad, since financial social support for families is very low and better salaries are attracting the skilled labor force to other countries. In the report, the status quo of fertility rate and the living conditions have been used in order to extrapolate the long-term prospect. Although this trend is not surprising, rather the future prospect of Bulgaria’s ethnic constellation regarding the Roma population and Bulgarian Turks seems to be the main part of the debate instead of the shrinking itself.

Source: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection | CC BY-SA 2.0

Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response

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Economic Crisis
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