The Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) is finally dealing with the hardware for the National Visa Center, which should ensure unimpeded issuance of Schengen visas. The May 17 public procurement is for 180 VPN routers and 4 digital certificate issuers. It is worth BGN 1,279,418.

The requirement is that they are made by a single manufacturer and the MFA has classified the technical specifications on the grounds that, according to a letter from the National Security Agency (DANS), the devices are important for the protection of the national security. This gives grounds to the MFA to avoid the public tender and use a negotiating procedure announced with a notice.

At first glance, such trick seems totally meaningless, as candidates will offer brands and models of devices whose technical specifications are public.

The classification of specifications still makes sense, but it has nothing to do with national security. This is done to cover up the fact that only Cisco routers meet the description of the devices requested by the MFA. If the specifications were public, it would have been obvious to all candidates that the order had been predetermined.

As Bivol wrote in August 2017, Bulgaria is the only country in the EU that is not prepared for the new Visa Code Plus Schengen Issuance System and has failed to carry out successful communication tests with it. These tests and the readiness are a prerequisite for joining Schengen. Even Romania has such readiness since mid-2017.

Eight months later, the VPN devices are just being ordered now and will then be installed in our consulates around the world. This means that by the end of this year, Bulgaria is still unlikely to be ready to work effectively with the Schengen visa system.

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