The Bulgarian defence industry experienced a rather productive year during 2011. This was highlighted by the fact that defence exports reached $380 million, as Pressa newspaper reported on January 12. The newspaper cited figures by the Bulgarian Defence Industry Association (BDIA) a non-profit legal entity, founded in 2004 by twelve companies. The association’s aim is to serve as a forum for exchange of ideas between the state bodies and the defensive industry for resolving the problems of the branch and its steady development. The most competitive Bulgarian defence industry products internationally are small arms and light weapons, ammunition, communication systems and surveillance devices.
Furthermore, BDIA refused to specify where its sales went to, yet the newspaper cited Algeria, Afghanistan, the United States and Iraq as traditional buyers of Bulgarian light weapons and ammunition.
In July 2011, a document which was drafted jointly by the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Defence stated that the county plans to shift its arm exports to markets in the European Union and NATO. The document added that arm exports to EU and NATO countries do not exceed 10% of Bulgaria's annual defence sales abroad -- which stand at about 250 million leva (126 million euros, $185 million). This is somehow in contradiction with the statement in the article of the Pressa newspaper, which most probably means that the policy has not been fully implemented.
The Bulgarian defence industry experienced the “golden years” during the Cold War era, as the country was home of a rather active defence industry, whose activities and exports outpaced those of today. It is indicative that before the end of communism, the country’s defence industry was employing 115,000 people.
The collapse of communist regimes created a new geopolitical environment in which the Bulgarian defence industry could not fit in. The main reason was that due to the enormous political changes the government was pressured to reduce its national defence budget. Along with the budget reduction, the Warsaw Pact cooperation mechanisms had been abandoned by the defence industry of the country. Additionally, defence industries of other Central and European countries were structured and developed in order to fulfill the demands of armed forces designed for a high intensity war. Thus, after the end of the Cold War the abovementioned industries found themselves in a completely different environment in which they had to adjust.
According to the document published on July 2011, Bulgaria's defence industry currently employs approximately 15,000 people and makes up 0.5% of the general industry share in the country's gross domestic product.
Epicos Newsletter Head Editor