At a press conference on 24 November 2021, experts form the Center for the Study of Democracy presented the results from the pilot Vulnerability Index 2021, coordinated by GLOBSEC, Slovakia, and supported by the US Department of State’s Global Engagement Center. The Index evaluates the vulnerability towards foreign influence in eight countries in Central and Eastern Europe: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia. The assessment covers five dimensions vulnerable to influence from authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China – public attitudes, political landscape, public administration, information landscape, and civic and academic space.
According to the data of the Vulnerability Index 2021, out of the eight CEE countries, the Czech Republic and Romania are the least vulnerable with a total score of 29 (out of 100 – most vulnerable), followed by Slovakia with 32 and North Macedonia with 40. More vulnerable to Russian and Chinese influence are Bulgaria with a score of 42, Hungary and Montenegro with 44, and Serbia with 55.
Thus, Bulgaria is the most vulnerable EU Member State to foreign influence and spread of disinformation narratives. The study confirms the conclusion that membership in international organizations (EU and NATO) contributes to a higher degree of resilience in terms of political decisions and collective defense. However, this requires a more active national position and effective policies, which are not in place in the case of Bulgaria. It is necessary that the Bulgarian government and the media, as well as civil society organization undertake urgent coordinated measures to safeguard the country’s democratic discourse from propaganda and disinformation, including such that originates from foreign authoritarian sources.