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After years of reluctance, the Interior Ministry has finally given in to calls from the media and NGOs to release information about the number of its employees.
These details will emerge once amendments to the Protection of Classified Information Act (PCIA) are approved in Parliament, Sofia Echo reports
According to Bulgarian-language daily Dnevnik, they have already been approved by Parliamentâ€™s committee on internal security. This promises to make their passing in Parliament a formality. The need for the amendments arose after Prime Minister Boiko Borissov decided to close the Ministry for Disaster Management and the Ministry of State Administration, necessitating revisions to various acts including the Interior Ministry Act and the PCIA.
Should these amendments be approved, Bulgaria will have official data on the number of its police officers for the first time in recent history. Until now, Bulgaria has been the only European Union state not to provide the EUâ€™s statistical office, Eurostat, with such data.
This left a gaping hole in the organisationâ€™s statistics, especially since data from other countries has been available since 1998. The data has always been treated as a state secret by an appendix to the PCIA. This Act, leftover from communist timesand last amended in 2004, currently has 64 provisions on information that qualify as state secrets.
Currently the only data available on the ministryâ€™s staff policy relates to sums allocated by the state towards salary expenses each year. The total for 2008 was 805 million leva (approximately 412 million Euro).
The first to break the silence on police numbers was then minister Mihail Mikov who on June 25 told Parliament that the ministry had 63,000 employees. Of these, 47,000 are police officers, 8,000 are firefighters, 5,000 are employees in administration and another 3,000 exercised similar services. At the time Mikov reasoned that the release of the data did not contravene the act and that the public should know where its money went. Unfortunately, he did nothing to change the law to compel the ministry to reveal information on a regular basis and not just when the minister feels like it.
The new Deputy Interior Minister Veselen Vouchkov recently told Dnevnik that the ministry "has had enough of the police officersâ€™ numbers issue. It is inexcusable for Bulgaria to be the only EU country failing to provide such information to Eurostat".
Now the only information classified will be data pertaining to surveillance and intelligence services as well as the Chief directorate for combating organised crime. Seizing the opportunity, the NGO Access to Information Programme (AIP) asked for more changes to the PCIA list of classified information lists such as the number of special intelligence means adopted by the police.
Not revealing such information breached EU practices, AIP said in its October statement, noting that in the UK, where the fight against terrorism is perhaps more potent, such information was not considered a threat to national security. "In Germany such information is not only made public but also published in the media," AIP said.