Bulgarian foreign minister addresses international arms control conference BBC - 2003/9/18
Bulgaria's efforts to improve control over arms export involve both tightening controls and improving interaction among the competent bodies: special services, police, customs, investigators, prosecutors and the law courts, said Deputy Foreign Minister Petko Draganov Wednesday [17 September]. Draganov was among the speakers at a conference on modern arms export controls in the process of accession to NATO.

The forum is organized by the NATO Information Centre in Sofia and the Foreign Ministry, jointly with the Ministries of the Economy, of Defence, of the Interior, the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria, the Centre for the Study of Democracy and the Open Society Foundation. Among the presenters at the forum are deputy ministers, international representatives, including of Australia, Albania, Macedonia and Romania, and experts.

Upcoming amendments to the Penal Code will incriminate illegal intermediation by Bulgarian persons and corporations in arms deals outside Bulgaria, Draganov said in his speech. According to him, this is in line with the international trends with regard to trade in arms and potential dual-use goods.

He went on to note the contribution of Bulgaria in intercepting illegal arms deals in Southeast Europe. This is particularly important considering the build-up of small arms in the area of the Western Balkans, which could otherwise end up in the hands of organized crime groups or in embargoed destinations.

According to this deputy foreign minister, Bulgaria is ready to share with the other countries in the region its experience in the area of arms export control.

In his speech at the forum, Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi noted the significance of the conference timing only several days after the anniversary of 11 September and at an advanced stage of this country's preparation for NATO membership in 2004. He believes that NATO can help Bulgaria in the area of arms export control in the pre-accession period.

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