Bulgaria: conscription ended

On 25 November 2007, 2413 conscript soldiers completed their nine-month service and stepped into history as the last conscript soldiers in Bulgaria.

In 1998, the Bulgarian army had a complement of about 115 000 people, which was highly inefficient given the economic difficulties of the time. The then government, together with the Defence Ministry, adopted what was known as Plan 2004, which provided for decreasing the number of soldiers to 45 000 by the end of 2004 and ending conscription by 2007.

Ending conscription is simple enough, especially when doing so is stipulated in legislation. However, with conscription over, the military is faced with the problem of finding people who want to be professional soldiers. Although the process of hiring soldiers started a few years ago, there has not been a rush to the ranks.

The main problems are in the land forces. "The process of making the land forces completely professional has reached 83 per cent success so far," land forces commander Lieutenant-General Ivan Dobrev told journalists on November 25. "About 400 to 450 soldiers leave the army a year and the process of hiring soldiers will continue in the next few years," he said. To overcome this, the army has put a lot of effort in making the idea of joining the army attractive to the younger generation. Advertising TV spots appear regularly on Bulgarian National Television and a special website, profarmy.bg, has been launched offering, in its words, the chance to become "one of us".

In addition, Bulgaria - which only badly implemented the right to conscientious objection for conscripts - does not recognise the right to conscientious objection for professional soldiers.

Sources: The Sofia Echo, 30 November 2007