05 апр


The main purpose of this report is to present briefly the challenges and threats to the security of the European Union and NATO, as well as the applied mechanisms for security and defense policies for resolute establishment and use of capabilities to deal with them.



Major General Grudi Angelov





At the end of the first two decades of the 21st century, despite the efforts made, the state of the world peace and security does not allow the democratic community to concentrate solely on improving the living conditions of the society. The strategic security environment is in a permanent process of dynamic changes, the impact of which is becoming more unpredictable due to the complex interaction between different new trends and security factors. Although the main sources of challenges and threats continue to be of a state character, the number of new asymmetric threats generated by non-state and supranational entities is growing rapidly. Sustainable trends of changes in the global environment stimulate and contribute to increasing the potential of these threats and accelerate the spread of the impact of tensions, crises, and conflicts in near and distant countries and regions as a result of which European security can be directly affected by externally fragmented instability and conflicts in the periphery or far beyond European borders.

Globalization and interrelatedness blur the borders and combine the impact of internal and external security threats. As a result, the current development of new and unknown catalysts of uncertainty has a dramatic effect on changing the approaches of states and alliances in order to ensure security. Nowadays it is of vital importance to apply a comprehensive approach that allows for early recognition and tracking, increasing the response, tackling challenges, eliminating threats, and preventively mitigating the impact of threats by using a combination of military and civilian instruments – political, diplomatic, legal, economic and information.


Driving forces for changes in the security environment


Assessments of the impact of multiple rapid changes in the strategic security environment reveal that negative development trends support the formation of new sets of situations with the emergence of challenges, risks and threats which in turn add to the disbalance and increase the level of uncertainty in the world. Probable scenarios for the potential development of situations vary:

  • from a radical interstate opposition;
  • deep erosion in statehood and large-scale armed conflicts;
  • challenges and threats posed by growing urbanization;
  • economic backwardness, overcrowding and migration;
  • limited access to and insufficient protection of common world natural resources;
  • vulnerability of border protection and increased illegal migration;
  • diversifying and expanding radicalization and terrorism activities;
  • crises and armed conflicts caused by non-state actors;
  • a negative impact of climate changes and anthropogenic factors on security.

The specific challenges and threats to national security can be identified through a comprehensive analysis of the security environment, but the characteristics of the international alliances also affect directly the collective security of NATO and the EU states. In this context, consideration could be given to increasing the likelihood of lowering the positive impact of the mechanisms for maintaining common security and the responsibilities of Member States for more joint political and international legal security engagements. Third-country calls for a revision of the existing international law and order are directed towards an open pursuit of their objectives through a blended use of military force and hidden hybrid non-military approaches. They combine available conventional and unconventional military means with modern non-military instruments – political, diplomatic and economic pressure, disinformation campaigns and propaganda in the media, cyber attacks with covert military operations. Their main objective is to capitalize on the advantages in the establishments and consolidation of new spheres of political influence achieved as a result of their military potential through destabilization of neighboring countries and use of local disputes, arguments and conflicts.


Major challenges to the EU and NATO security


Political instability and on-going large-scale regional conflicts on the periphery or near the borders of Europe lead to many new challenges and lasting negative effects with immediate or indirect effects on the security and defense of the continent. They have helped to exacerbate and deepen the existing over the centuries border, territorial, ethnic, political, economic and social disputes, adding to their negative potential for subsequent escalation in open armed conflicts.Despite the efforts made, the danger of terroristic threats increases and it is one of the most radical forms of violence and pursuit of political goals. A new feature of modern terrorist organizations is the establishment of transnational terrorist networks of loosely-bound groups and individuals that are united on the basis of sharing the same ideology, goals and plans, resources and information; those terrorist networks lack centralized management in their organizational structures.

What is most unpredictable and dangerous is the growing number of potential threats for a massive destructive impact on the lives, health, critical infrastructure, and the environment of the European countries. The geographic proximity to crisis areas and hot armed conflicts contributes to successful recruitment and number growth, as well as assistance in the expansion and diversification of ethnic participants, and facilitates the rapid radicalization of terrorist groups whose nuclei are made up of former foreign fighters. That is why worsened crises, conflicts, migration and terrorism at close proximity to borders present real challenges that increase risks and threats to the security of the countries of the European Union.

A current challenge to the national and European security is the negative impact of increased illegal migration from areas of armed conflict, increasing poverty, and economic isolation and backwardness of the adjacent regions. Regardless of the main causes, the result is enormous increase in illegal migration flows to Europe, which in turn is considered as a source and catalyst for the appearance of new and deepening of many already existing security problems. The historical lessons of the 20th century of the insufficient integration of legally accepted migrants show that illegal migration results in increased manifestations of social, ethnic and economic exclusion and tension, accelerates and deepens the radicalization on religious basis of ethnic minorities and ethnic groups in emerging and existing immigrant communities in Europe.

In the first decades of this century, the phenomenon of terrorist radicalization has spread all over the world, crossing sovereign geographical borders and national identities to attack states and individual citizens. Radicalization is based on a religiously motivated inspiration from radical extremist views calling for and encouraging acts of violent terrorism. Such communities are emerging due to serious political, economic, social, ethnic, and religious reasons and, unfortunately, still have a steady pace of development in Europe. Combating the negative influence of the phenomenon of radicalization requires significant state resources of many specialized agencies and services that implement measures to prevent and support the integration of these communities because both individuals and radicalized social groups present high risk for the national and international security.

Globalization and steadily increasing information interchange facilitate the diversification of the means of proliferation and distribution of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). The events in the Middle East over the past few years repeatedly confirm the existence of real threats generated by the aspirations of governmental and non-governmental parties to openly or covertly acquire and apply weapons of mass destruction. Since the potential impact of WMD has a profound anti-human and social impact upon European security, implementation of measures to resolutely address the proliferation of WMD is one of the major security challenges which NATO and EU face.

Increased access and use of ballistic missiles with conventional or unconventional warheads also rank among the main challenges and threats to modern security. They are conditioned by the increased capabilities to meet targets in the territory of particular member- and partner-states from relatively remote distances and set constantly increasing requirements for establishment of specialized systems for protection and implementation of active and passive countermeasures.

The rapid development and deployment of information technology achievements, coupled with the lack of a well-developed legislative regulatory framework and the lagging introduction of effective protection systems contributed to the rise of the specific for the 21st century information and cyber threats. Modern cyberspace is a specific, complex and inseparable area of ​​the modern security environment that cannot be limited down to definite geographical boundaries. Its strong network interrelations shorten the distance between sources of threats and potential targets, and one of the basic features of cyberattacks is asymmetry. It allows governmental and non-governmental groups and anonymous individuals to harm strategic and vital interests of modern institutions and states without applying conventional means of threat.

Being adrift of introducing new protection information technologies raises another specific feature – regardless of the nature of the chosen goals – public, private sector, political and economic espionage, critical infrastructure – the frequency and complexity of successful cyberattacks are continuously multiplying. The comparability of the results of their impact with the consequences of using conventional destructive military means and terrorist attacks is based on the potential for disruption and destruction of vital and managerial communications, energy and transport networks, industrial and financial systems causing significant information, financial and material damage. The increasing technological dependence and unprotected strategic management information and communication systems, life-guarding services and armed forces command and control systems could reduce information and cyber security levels as well as impact on all other public life areas.

Due to the uncontrolled illegal migration and economic and financial crises, the challenges and threats of rising extreme extremism, inter-ethnic and social tensions are dynamically growing in Europe. The existence of a sufficient number of closed, economically and socially marginalized and excluded minorities, communities and groups catalyzes the development of a difficult-to-control criminogenic environment and inter-ethnic and social tensions that are successfully exploited by ideologies of various extremist groups. They are also the source for manning of organized crime groups, which results in the spread of major economic and financial offences, corruption and crimes related to drugs and human trafficking. Therefore, in the modern security environment, immediate links emerge between organized crime, terrorism, migration and cross-border traffic, which in the form of personal connections and business networking contribute to an increase in the number of crimes and overall decrease of the level of national security.

Another challenge and threat to national security is the destructive potential of new criminal networks to have the potential to ruin the rule of law, the operation of state institutions and the values ​​of society when by infiltrating in and corrupting public authorities threaten the security of society. This is the reason for the emergence of a new phenomenon and challenge to security – combining organized crime activities with corruption practices. They can take forms of influence, clientelism and creation of corruption networks, which further contribute to the destruction of the moral roots of modern society. Such security challenges have the potential to cause severe undermining and long-lasting loss of public confidence in the sustainability and impartiality of public institutions, market distortions, turbulence and economic downturn, social discontent and total destabilization of states’ security. The absence of a clear division line between political and criminal motives for corruption often allows a bind to special „business relations“ of terrorist networks with organized crime structures.

Contemporary security challenges are also potential challenges for the critical infrastructure. It is a key system of vital elements which incapacity or interruption can have a major impact on the support of the basic needs for the economy’s functionality and state security. Due to the high degrees of interrelations and interdependence across sectors, the whole critical infrastructure is exposed to numerous potential cyber, information, technogenic, anthropogenic and natural threats. In addition, the operational capacity of critical energy infrastructure can be exposed to both political pressure and criminally motivated threats. Excellent examples of such are the politically motivated manipulation of strategic raw material deliveries, uncontrolled investments and capital investments with potentially high risk to critical infrastructure, politically motivated sabotage, cyberattacks, and candid manifestations of organized economic crime

It is essential for the functional security of the modern economy and society to ensure the continuity of supply of strategic raw materials and energy. The rapid changes in globalization and close engagement broaden the spectrum of challenges to the security of energy and raw materials supply. The increasing competition for access to strategic raw materials and energy sources is an integral part of modern aspects of foreign affairs. Key priorities are to ensure continuity, diversify sources and suppliers of strategic raw materials, guarantee security of electricity supply, build and maintain strategic reserves. The importance of food supply security and access to drinking water sources will continue to grow.

Disasters and incidents of technogenic, natural and anthropogenic origin also pose a real threat to modern national security, to the life and health of the population and to the protection of the environment. They have a devastating impact on the functioning of the economy and the supply of raw materials and critical infrastructure. The interrelation of the structures, functionality of EU and NATO member states crisis prevention, civil protection and crisis management systems help to maintain readiness to timely respond and provide specialized protection and assistance to casualties not only on national but also cross-border and regional scale. The uninterrupted spread of infection diseases with pandemic potential also raises the vulnerability of modern society and continuously increases the requirements for maintaining the functionality of public health systems and health care provision.


Regional Security Challenges


The current state of security in the region shows that despite the efforts of the states and the international community, the continuing pursuit of diverse regional and geostrategic interests presupposes the preservation of the conflict opposition in the Middle East, the Black Sea region and the Caucasus region. Regardless of the concrete measures taken, the insufficient positive results of the attempts to resolve the crisis in Ukraine and the constant attempts to instigate an armed conflict in its eastern part can be seen as potentially threatening the regional peace and security. Therefore, the ongoing destabilization of the country and the serious change in the power ratio suggest a continuing increase in the disbalance across the Black Sea region. The immediate proximity and the high transport and energy interconnection of the Republic of Bulgaria will continue to have a negative impact on the external aspects of our national security.

A striking example of a contemporary violation of international norms is the annexation of Crimea by Russia, achieved through a hidden use of force. This act changed the nature and the means of achieving territory control and violated the rules of border control between Ukraine and Russia. It questioned the possibilities of complying with international norms for ensuring security and the understanding of sovereign territorial integrity, which were not questioned during the Cold War. All legitimacy of the international order and peace established after the end of the block opposition was put in doubt. The actions of Russia in and around Ukraine confirmed the destructive potential of the acquired capabilities of implementing a complex strategic model of intentional hybrid war, weakening the vulnerable levers of the legitimate state power through synchronized long-term pressure and use of weaknesses to disrupt the functioning of state institutions.

According to NATO assessments, the increase in Russia’s military power is likely to continue to be among the major challenges to European and Euro-Atlantic security. Meanwhile, the threats along the southern periphery of the Alliance by the so-called Islamic state are generating prolonged instability in vast regions adjacent to Europe – from the Middle East to North Africa. Powerful non-governmental armed groups destroy state structures and cause internal and external migration in Syria and Iraq. Over the past years they have caused a massive humanitarian crisis and gross emigration of large groups of indigenous population. The financial, military and ideological potential of this terrorist organization still has a significant impact on the security of the North African countries. The existence of potential risks of unresolved disputes and claims over the development of the relations among the Western Balkan countries also affects the overall political and economic stability of the region. Despite the fact that there is some positive progress in particular areas, the continuing trends of separatism and ethnic division delay the NATO and the EU integration of a part of the countries and present some serious challenges for achieving progress in the democratic changes. With political and economic separation from Europe, the region still has a negative potential for generating risks for stable development, ethnic and religious intolerance, and the emersion of extreme nationalist ideologies. Therefore, the only working tool to counter all these challenges which we could consider is the accelerated acceptance of all countries in the region to NATO and the European Union.


Policies and Instruments of the EU and NATO


With the Global Strategy for International and Security Policy (2016) the European Union confirmed the member states’ interest to enhance cooperation on the issues of European security and defense. It started specific practical measures for cooperation in the field of security and defense through applying new structures and frameworks, monitoring mechanisms, coordination and financing, as well as through joint defense research and practice. Based on the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), the European Union contributes to world security through civilian missions and military operations. Since 2003 the Union involvement has constantly increased (34 missions and operations) to the present 6 military operations and 10 civilian missions. The EU involvement in the CSDP varies from military participation on land and at sea to security force and civilian expert training in management and observance of laws. In order to achieve better coordination and cooperation, a Military Planning and Conduct Capability Command Center has been established.

The utilization of the Global Strategy for International and Security Policy enabled the activation of a mechanism for Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and started the Coordinated Annual Review of Defense (CARD). Those instruments are directed to gradual synchronization and adaptation of the national defense planning cycle and the development of the capabilities of member states through sharing defense expense plans, identifying flaws and coordinated building of capabilities. 25 member states of the Union participate in the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) to enhance the cooperation and binding commitments of the member states in the field of defense and security. In groups they work out training and exercise projects, cooperate in land-, naval-, air- and cyber- capabilities project improvement. The European Defense Fund is another instrument of the cooperation mechanism designed to finance joint research and directed to the enhancement of the effectiveness of security and defense expenses. Those instruments are part of a coordinated mechanism of all EU institutions and the member states, including European Defense Agency (EDA), whose long-term goal is to enhance effectiveness and planning, public tender assignment and conduct of defense and security operations.

The European College of Security and Defense (EKSO), established in 2013, incorporates national institutions, colleges, academies and security and defense policy institutions. Its mission is to offer education at various managerial levels and carry out CSDP research. Since March 2018 member states have had access to a cyber security and defense platform, conducted by European College of Security and Defense, enabling them to offer education, training, exercises and evaluation (ЕТЕЕ). The European Union takes specific measures to build and maintain institutional sustainability through accelerated enhancement of recognition, analysis and reaction capabilities in case of hybrid threats; a Center of Excellence has been founded for the purpose.

An EU Strategy to Fight Radicalization helps counteract the reasons for and acts of terrorism, and more specifically citizens and communities radicalization.  The Strategy offers common standards and measures preventing terrorism-induced radicalization in a few fundamental fields; which does not exclude member states’ responsibilities and power of authority.

  • Seizure of terrorist networks recruitment activities;
  • Promotion of social values over extremist ideas and ideology;
  • Guarantee of security, equality and democracy.

The EU Instructions of 2017 have completed the Revised EU Strategy to Fight Radicalization and terrorist recruitment by applying 26 new measures, varying from developing specialized national strategies to intensive work together with the media and social networks.

As a result of the armed conflict in Syria the number of illegal migrants to the EU gradually increased and, in 2015, reached over a million. Irrespective of the present ease of migration process, we cannot exclude the probability of its resumption. In addition to its impact on terrorism and radicalization, illegal migration deeply influences the general criminal situation in Europe. According to Interpol certain crime networks have considerably increased their involvement in the migration process through organizing illegal traffic; in fact more than 90% of the migrants to EU have used their services. Criminal networks exploit the desperation and vulnerability of migrants, most of which escape from armed conflicts, persecution and destitution.  They are offered a variety of services such as transportation, accommodation and forged documents at extremely inflated prices. On many occasions migrants work illegally to pay for the services; such exploitation is expected to increase compared to the previous years. According to Europol the revenue created by the traffic networks in Europe is estimated between 3 and 6 billion Euro and will continue its considerable long-term negative influence on the future of European economy and the consolidation of criminal networks. If the crisis and migration continue the turnover created by such attractive business is estimated to reach double or even triple figures. Trough the European Migrant Smuggling Centre (EMSC), established in 2016, Europol coordinates member states’ measures and the collective response of their law enforcement institutions in order to more effectively counteract the criminal groups which organize illegal mass influx of migrants into the EU.


NATO Policies and Instruments


Migration crisis is considered an unusual challenge to security by NATO and is assessed as a specific humanitarian problem which has originated from the periphery of the Euro-Atlantic zone. NATO’s unequivocal response through missions in the Mediterranean Sea was aimed at counteracting the wave of migration and solving the crisis in Europe. The uniqueness of the response consists in using for the first time military capabilities to guard and protect EU borders from a non-military threat. Having in mind that NATO military alliance does not have enough civilian capabilities to react to the challenge of migration for its member states and for the EU countries, the mission of those operations was to minimize the consequences of the mass of migration and its influence on other security challenges. The activation of NATO Article 4 on that specific crisis management shows that, despite limitations, the Alliance possesses the potential to participate in the resolution of the migration crisis as well.

Two NATO naval missions in the Mediterranean, i.e. the operation in the Aegean Sea and the Sea Guardian operation, have shown their different scope of activities but with the common goal of supporting the countries and guaranteeing security in the Mediterranean. The assessment of their effectiveness could be compared to the less than successful Sofia operation conducted by the EU. The Sea Guardian operation in the Mediterranean Sea carried out the decisions made at the Warsaw Summit Meeting in 2016 with three main goals, i.e. support to situational conversance at sea, fighting terrorism and building capabilities to enhance security at sea. The second operation’s aims have been of larger dimensions and scope of activity exceeding the challenge of illegal migration response by increasing security at sea and protecting the external borders of the member states of NATO and EU.


EU – NATO Cooperation


In the context of presented security challenges in the current strategic environment, the close EU-NATO cooperation is essential to achieve the desired outcome. On July 8th, 2016, a joint declaration was signed on boosting integration in all areas of security and defense. This is prompted by the rapid increase in the number and imminence of cross-border threats that cannot be overcome with the efforts of individual countries.

The approach responds to the interests of 512 million citizens for more security, stability and a coordinated response to current threats, whereby Member States retain their sovereignty to implement their own decisions. In the opinion of the leaders of the two alliances, security and defense cooperation has been extensively developing, especially in the areas of internal and external security, the fight against terrorism, hybrid threats, economic instability, climate change impact and energy insecurity. Responding to such a combination of negative challenges requires a common integrated approach – enhanced coordination and mobilization of all available tools, as well as operational commitment of other international partners.

A special role is assigned to the cooperation between the two alliances in establishing the necessary defense capabilities. The main objective is to make joint efforts to preserve the technological advantages of ensuring long-term security. The implementation of the mechanisms already mentioned is of key importance both for interoperability and industrial competitiveness. The capacity-building and planning mechanisms as well as the long-term traditions of the 2003 enhanced cooperation (the Berlin Plus Agreement) are parallel to the crisis-response capabilities and shared situational awareness – from the readiness to deploy combat groups to their total funding. The establishment of specialized conflict prevention structures in the EU – PRISM, is aimed at establishing an integrated   approach conflict prevention center, security sector reform, stabilization and mediation.


Counter-Terrorism Instruments


Terrorist acts are considered to be an immediate threat to the citizens’ and NATO Members States security, to the international stability and prosperity.

They are evaluated to be global threats and a challenge, regardless of borders, nationality or religion, so the international community has to tackle the problem together. NATO work in the fight against terrorism concentrates on raising awareness, specialized education, training, building the capabilities to address the threat and boosting the partners and other international organizations’ commitments. The Center of Excellence in the antiterrorist fight, established in 2005, the specialized Work Program and the commitment of all institutions allow the achievement of real successes. The reaction to the terrorist threats challenged NATO to activate for the first time in 2001 article #5 of the Washington Treaty for collective defense in response to the terrorist attacks against The United States on 11th of September. Currently the building of capabilities to address terrorist threats as well as the command of terrorist attacks consequences keeps going in cooperation with the partners and the international organizations. The common objective is the attraction of allies and the full potential usage of any motivated participant in the fight against terrorism. The establishment of a regional center of NATO Joint Force Command in Naples serves as a hub meant to boost the situational awareness of the specific challenges in the region and the available responsiveness. The creation of specialized intelligence and hybrid threat counteraction structures and the assignment of a coordinator of the fight against terrorism are directly connected with the necessity of coordination of NATO efforts in its fight against online and social media terrorism.

In its challenge evaluation, the European Union also reports to be facing a new form of international terrorism. The evaluations take into consideration the change in the strategy of the so-called Islamic State, namely, the transfer of the terrorist attacks to Europe with the participation of an increasing number of foreign terrorists who return or migrate in NATO Members States. In January 2016, in order to provide an effective response to these challenges, Europol founded The European Center for Terrorism Combat (ECTC), acting as an operational center and an expert base for capability enhancement of the EU for the fight against terrorism.

The Center activity is focused on:

  • operational investigation support, when requested by the Members States;
  • handling the migration of foreign militants;
  • intelligence data exchange and expertise to finance terrorism ( by means of the Terrorism Tracking Program and the Financial Intelligence Unit;
  • counteraction to the online terrorist propaganda and extremism ( by means of the EU electronic reference unit);
  • illegal weapon traffic combat, international cooperation with the anti-terrorist authorities.

The maintenance of a specialized, decentralized and complex computer network supplies the financial intelligence units in their combat against money laundering and the terrorism financing. In 2015, Europol founded the EU Reference Unit (EU IRU) to combat terrorist propaganda and related extremist activities on the Internet. The use of Internet and social media by terrorists has increased considerably in the past years. The jihadist groups carry out well-organized and coordinated campaigns in the social media, focused on hiring followers and promoting or glorifying the consequences of the terrorist acts or violent extremism. To handle similar challenges, EU developed a prevention mechanism and by a decision of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, a special department was established within Europol, meant   to handle the Internet impact of the terrorist and violent extremist propaganda. It is applied to identify and disclose any terrorist and extremist activity, to support with operational and strategic analyses the Internet suppliers in NATO Members States

Building these capabilities is a specialized confidence-boosting precaution, implemented in the relations with the law-enforcing authorities in EU and non EU states and in the private sector, which relies on the secure communication channels, the established data base and the international contracts in the security field.

The partners’ commitment aims at promoting common security and stability support. The European Union cooperates with number of states and international organizations contributing to the peacekeeping and security processes, which are defined as strategic partners. The collaboration with NATO keeps expanding after the joint declaration of NATO and EU leaders in 2016. The targeted 42 actions in 7 main areas relate to specific operational aspects of the defense capability building, the joint counteraction to hybrid and cyber threats. The signing of the Framework Agreement dealing with mutual support supply on missions and operations accelerates the cooperation with UN. The cooperation with the African Union is focused on the prevention and crisis management in Somalia, Sahel and other countries.




The brief overview and analysis of modern security issues and threats reveals many challenges in establishing operational capabilities meant to deal with them. Irrespective of the assessment that immediate threats to military security are absent, the latter cannot be totally ruled out, especially due to the conduct of allied operations and missions in crisis and conflict areas. Enhancement of effectiveness in dealing with modern challenges and threats is determined by the increasing need to set up a new attitude towards their nature, and the availability of multiple political, economic, social, ethnic and cultural differences. Dealing with challenges and threats must take into account the interdependence of international, state and public systems in a uniform infrastructure, the opportunities to enhance the co-operation of opponents on common ideologies, religions, and ultimately the concentration of challenges in today’s highly urbanized and socialized environment.

Therefore the search for scientific solutions to security problems, resulting from the presence of modern challenges and threats as a subject of detailed scientific and expert research, is the basis for the selection of the topics discussed at this conference. The results are expected to contribute to finding means of setting up shared scientific and expert understanding of the nature and scale of security challenges in Europe. The future study of these issues, as well as the establishment of new approaches to building appropriate counter-threat capabilities, will serve as a basis for promoting current and new academic and qualification programs at Rakovski National Defense College.