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Country Reports
Download PDF of country response to Human Rights Watch letter.


The Republic of Bulgaria signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Oslo on 3 December 2008. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed Human Rights Watch in February 2009 that the ratification process was underway.[1]

Bulgaria is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and ratified Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War on 28 February 2003.

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Although Bulgaria did not participate in the early stages of the Oslo Process, it emerged as one of the stronger proponents, including hosting a regional conference to promote the convention in September 2008.

Bulgaria first participated in the Oslo Process at the Brussels regional conference in October 2007 and later attended the international treaty preparatory conference in Vienna in December 2007.

On 14 February 2008, Bulgaria announced its adoption of a unilateral “moratorium on the use of cluster munitions currently held by the Bulgarian Armed Forces until the entry into force of an international treaty on the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.”[2]

Although Bulgaria did not attend the Wellington conference in February 2008, it endorsed the Wellington Declaration on 19 March 2008, indicating its intention to participate in formal treaty negotiations in Dublin in May.[3] According to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this was “a manifestation of the country’s consistent policy and active role in the efforts of the international community to take immediate steps to limit the grave humanitarian consequences of the use of particularly dangerous cluster munitions.”[4]

During the Dublin negotiations, Bulgaria called for the “interoperability” issue (joint military operations with states not party) to be addressed in the convention text, aligning itself with remarks on this from the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, and others.[5] Bulgaria also supported the inclusion of a provision allowing for the retention of cluster munitions for training or research purposes and stated that the period for stockpile destruction must be “realistic.”[6] Bulgaria joined the consensus to adopt the convention.

Bulgaria played a notable role in the Oslo Process by hosting a Regional Conference on Cluster Munitions in Sofia, on 18–19 September 2008, to generate regional support for the convention.[7] Ambassador Todor Churov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, opened the conference, calling for an open and detailed discussion on how the convention related to southeast Europe. He noted that Bulgaria’s experience showed that the decision to join the Oslo Process was not easy and required much internal debate.[8]

Upon signing the convention in Oslo, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivailo Kalfin stated, “There are days that leave deep traces in history – today is such a day. December 3, 2008 will be remembered as the day when over one hundred states made a commitment to end needless suffering caused by a weapon which has proved to be harmful and of little, if any, utility. This is a day when a new legal norm is officially set and this norm will have a long term positive effect on thousands of human lives.”[9]

In a February 2009 letter to Human Rights Watch, Bulgaria stated that it has interpreted Article 1 of the convention to mean that “transit” of cluster munitions across the territory of States Parties is prohibited, as is the stockpiling of foreign-owned cluster munitions.[10] It also noted that while a ban on investment in cluster munition production is not explicit in the text, it would need to be “considered in light of the general prohibition on the development and production of cluster munitions.”[11]

With respect to interoperability, Bulgaria stated in the letter that it “will fully observe the regulations of Article 21 of the Convention…. Par.4 of Article 21 stipulates that participation in such military operations ‘shall not authorize a State Party’ to engage in acts prohibited under the terms of the Convention and contains an exhaustive list of such acts.” [12]

Use, Production, Stockpiling, and Transfer

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Cluster munitions have never been used by the Bulgarian Armed Forces.”[13] In response to Human Rights Watch and the CMC listing Bulgaria as a state that has produced cluster munitions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in May 2008 that, “Bulgaria does not and has not produced any type of cluster munitions.”[14] The Foreign Ministry officially confirmed this denial in February 2009.[15]

Bulgaria possesses a stockpile of cluster munitions. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs notes, “There are limited amounts of cluster munitions of the type RBK-250 and RBK-500 which are currently held by the Bulgarian Armed Forces.”[16] The amount stockpiled has been described as “limited” and “the majority of these are deemed to be outdated and unreliable.”[17] Additionally, “The size and composition of the Bulgarian stockpile are among the issues currently studied by experts of the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence and General Staff as an integral part and an important element of the launched ratification procedure.”[18]

In September 2008, a representative from the Bulgarian Armed Forces General Staff stated that Bulgaria planned to destroy its stockpiles of cluster munitions as soon as possible and that planning for its stockpile destruction would begin shortly after Bulgaria signed the convention in December. He stated that Bulgaria was working on the creation of systems and capacity necessary to fulfill its future obligation under Article 3 (stockpile destruction).[19]

[1] Letter from Dr. Petio Petev, Director, Security Policy Directorate, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 25 February 2009.

[2] Statement by Amb. Petko Draganov, Permanent Mission of Bulgaria to the UN, Conference on Disarmament, Geneva, 14 February 2008. He also urged the international community to negotiate such a legally binding instrument.

[3] New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “List of countries subscribing to the Declaration of the Wellington Conference on Cluster Munitions,” updated 23 May 2008, www.mfat.govt.nz.

[4] Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Bulgaria Joined the Wellington Declaration on Cluster Munitions,” 19 March 2008, www.mfa.bg/en.

[5] Statement of Bulgaria, Committee of the Whole on Article 1, Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions, 19 May 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Eleven States from the region attended: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia (FYR), Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey, along with state representatives from Austria, France, Ireland, and Norway. Representatives from the Bulgarian Red Cross, CMC, Council of the European Union, ICRC, NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency, UNDP, and UN Mine Action Service also attended. During the conference, Dr. Petio Petev from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that Bulgaria would sign the convention in Oslo in December 2008.

[8] Statement by Amb. Todor Churov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sofia Regional Conference on Cluster Munitions, 19 September 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.

[9] Statement by Ivailo Kalfin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Convention on Cluster Munitions Signing Conference, Oslo, 3 December 2008.

[10] Letter from Dr. Petio Petev, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 25 February 2009. It said, “The prohibitions stipulated in Article 1 of the Convention create an obligation for the States Parties not to allow the transit, transfer or stockpiling on their territories of cluster munitions…regardless of whether these munitions are foreign or nationally owned.”

[11] Letter from Dr. Petio Petev, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 25 February 2009.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Email from Lachezara Stoeva, Chief Expert, Arms Control and International Security Department, NATO and International Security Directorate, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 17 May 2008. According to Jane’s Information Group, the Vazov Engineering Plant was associated with the production of 122mm Grad rockets, which included a variant that contains 15 dual purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICM) submunitions. See Terry J. Gander and Charles Q. Cutshaw, eds., Jane’s Ammunition Handbook 2001–2002, (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2001), p. 625.

[15] Letter from Dr. Petio Petev, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 25 February 2009.

[16] Email from Lachezara Stoeva, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 17 May 2008.

[17] Letter from Dr. Petio Petev, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 25 February 2009.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Statement by Lt. Col. Valentin Ferdinandov, General Staff of the Bulgarian Armed Forces, Sofia Regional Conference, 18–19 September 2008. Notes by Landmine Action.