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Full Country Name: The Republic of Bulgaria
Population: 7.36 million (National Statistical Institute, 2011)
Capital City: Sofia
Main Ethnic groups: Bulgarian (84.8%), Turk (8.8%), Roma (4.9%)
Official language: Bulgarian
Religion(s): Eastern Orthodox (76%), Islam (10%), Protestant (1.1%), Roman Catholic (10.8%)
Currency: Lev

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(2010 data: Source: Bulgarian National Bank, National Statistical Institute)
GDP: € 38.0 bn
GDP per capita: €4787
Unemployment: 9.8%
Exports: € 15.6 bn
Imports: € 18.8 bn
Major Industries: Chemicals and plastics, machine building and metal working, refined petroleum products, food processing, construction materials, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, textiles and clothing, power generation (including nuclear)

Main trade partners: Germany, Turkey, Italy, Greece, Russia, Austria

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Early History

The Bulgarians are descended from the Slavs who migrated into the Balkan Peninsula from the 5th Century. In the 7th Century a new wave of migrants, the Bulgars (proto-Bulgarians), arrived in what would soon become Bulgaria. The first Bulgarian Kingdom was declared in 681 when the Byzantine Emperor was forced to cede Moesia (the northern half of present-day Bulgaria) to Khan Asparukh. The Bulgars were eventually assimilated into the majority Slav population leaving only their name as a legacy. Under the Bulgar Khans, Bulgaria expanded taking Central Macedonia and Albania from Constantinople.

Ottoman Rule - 1396-1878

Infighting between Bulgarian feudal lords weakened the Bulgarian Empire, which in the fourteenth century was pressed by the Serb kingdom to the West and the Ottoman empire to the South. Turnovo, the capital city, fell to the Ottomans after a 3-month siege in 1393, and Bulgaria was fully annexed in 1396.

Bulgaria remained a part of the Ottoman Empire until the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. The war concluded with the Treaty of San Stefano, which created a large Bulgarian state, encompassing much of present-day Macedonia. However, the Western European powers, worried that the existence of a large pro-Russian country might destabilise the Balkans, demanded that the treaty be re-negotiated. The Treaty of Berlin provided for a smaller Bulgarian state, ruled by Prince Alexander Batenberg (1879-1886) and an autonomous region of Eastern Rumelia. Bulgaria was finally unified in 1908, and Prince Ferdinand was declared Tsar of the Bulgarians.

The early twentieth century

Bulgaria enjoyed mixed fortunes in the Balkan wars of the early twentieth century. They gained territory during the first Balkan War (1912), but the second Balkan war (1913) ended disastrously.

In summer 1915, Bulgaria entered the First World War on the side of the central powers, and signed an armistice with the Franco-British force on 29 September 1918. The peace treaty with Bulgaria was signed on 27 November 1919 at Neuilly-sur-Seine. Bulgaria lost some land, and was forced to pay reparations, but did not suffer as badly as many of the other defeated states.

Following the defeat, Tsar Ferdinand abdicated and was succeeded by his son, Tsar Boris III. Between the wars, Bulgaria was ruled by a succession of short-lived governments. Upon the outbreak of World War II, Boris III declared Bulgaria’s neutrality. However, Bulgaria came under huge pressure to join the Axis and, despite Boris’ best efforts, the Bulgarian army gradually became involved in military operations. Of particular note, though, was the Bulgarian government’s refusal to implement the Final Solution, as a result of which the majority of Jews living in Bulgaria were saved from the Holocaust.

In September 1944 Bulgaria switched sides to the allies and declared war on Germany, although not before a few confused hours where they were technically at war with every major combatant except Japan.

Communist Bulgaria

After the Second World War the Bulgarian Communist Party emerged to become the leading political force in the country. Under Soviet guidance, a purge destroyed the remnants of the old system, and a one-party system was imposed in 1947. From 1954 to 1989 Todor Zhivkov, Chairman of the State Council, dominated political life, becoming the longest serving leader of any of the Soviet bloc nations. Policies were a direct imitation of Soviet practice; industry was nationalised and agriculture collectivised. Unlike other eastern bloc nations, there were no Soviet troops in Bulgaria.

The communists attempted to modernise Bulgaria’s economy, and achieved some success with industrialisation, thanks not least to the Comecon scheme, which gave Bulgaria a captive market for transport and IT products in Eastern Europe. But by the 1980s, as elsewhere in Eastern Europe, the economy stagnated and the system began to collapse.

Modern Bulgaria

Zhikov resigned on 10 November 1989, the day after the Berlin Wall was breached. Although his demise had been catalysed by economic and social unrest, his departure was the consequence of a party coup rather than a general revolt. He was replaced by Petur Mladenov, who oversaw the 14th Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) congress in February 1990, where the totalitarian system was dismantled and a market-based economy and multiparty democracy announced.

During the transition period that followed, governments were short lived and often coalitions ruled the country. Reforms were patchy. Since the early elections in 1997 caused by an economic and political crisis, governments have been able to fulfil their full 4-year term of office, but no government has yet succeeded in being re-elected. However, relative stability has allowed Bulgaria to make better progress, and the country enjoyed a period of strong economic growth. Bulgaria joined NATO in 2006 and has become a member of the European Union in 2007.

The incumbent President of Bulgaria (fifth after the collapse of the totalitarian regime) is the former leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party Georgi Purvanov. Constitutionally, the President has little power, but Purvanov is influential. He was re-elected President in October 2006, when he won at the second round run-off against the extremist Ataka candidate Volen Siderov.

In 2009, European Parliament and general elections were held in Bulgaria. As a result of the 7 June EP elections out of the 17 Bulgarian MEPs in total, GERB has 5, the coalition for Bulgaria 4, the MRF 3, Ataka 2, the NDSV (party of former King Simeon II) 2 and the Blue Coalition 1. With the Lisbon Treaty Bulgaria has an 18th representative, who is from the Blue Coalition.

The general elections in July 2009 resulted in a resounding victory for the main opposition party GERB, led by the then Mayor of Sofia, Boyko Borissov. GERB won 39.7% of the vote and 116 seats, BSP 17.2% and 40 seats, MRF 14.47% and 38 seats, Ataka (ultra nationalist) 9.37% and 21 seats, Blue Coalition (centre right, EPP) 6.73% and 15 seats and Law, Order and Justice (centre right) 4.13% and 10 seats. Without entering into a coalition but with the support of Ataka, the Blue Coalition and Law, Order and Justice, the new cabinet took office on 27 July 2009. In 2010, following internal disputes, the Law Order and Justice Party split and its Members of Parliament are now independents.

October 2011 saw two elections – for President and for local government. The GERB candidate Rosen Plevneliev was elected next President of Bulgaria with a 52.5% win over his socialist opponent Ivailo Kalfin. Plevneliev’s inauguration is due in January 2012 GERB also won a significant number of local mayoral seats in the parallel local elections, making these elections a significant vote of confidence in Prime Minister Borissov and his party.

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Bulgaria is a member of a number of international organisations, including: the Council of Europe (COE), the European Union (EU), the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the Organisation for Co-operation and Security in Europe (OSCE) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The Bulgarian government has the following foreign policy priorities:

-- Presence of Bulgaria in the core of the European politics. Schengen membership is a top priority this year; Eurozone membership a longer-term aim.

-- Development of the Euro-Atlantic partnerships as a guarantee for peace and global security.

-- Bulgaria becoming a factor of democratic stability and development of the Balkans and the Black Sea region.

-- Increasing the role of Bulgaria in the global economy.

-- Supporting the development of the Bulgarian communities abroa.

See the Bulgaria Ministry of Foreign Affairs ( web-site for more information.


Bulgaria and the UK enjoy a close bilateral relationship, with a number of shared interests, for example in the Atlantic relationship and the fight against organised crime and terrorism. The defence relationship is very good, and Bulgaria continues to contribute significantly to overseas military operations in support of NATO (ISAF) EU (Op ALTHEA as well as UN Observer Missions world-wide.

Around 300,000 British tourists come to Bulgaria each year - to the Black Sea coast in the summer and to ski resorts like Bansko in the winter. In addition, around 3,000 UK nationals are resident in Bulgaria with an estimated additional 15,000 owning property and living here temporarily.

Recent Bilateral Visits

To Britain

-- October 2011 Deputy PM and Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov

-- October 2011 Deputy Economy, Energy and Tourism Minister, Delian Dobrev

-- September 2011 Deputy Defence Minister, Valentin Radev

-- March 2011 Deputy PM and Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov

March 2011 Foreign Minister, Nickolay Mladenov

-- February 2011 EU Funds Minister, Tomislav Donchev

-- January 2011 Deputy PM and Minister of Finance, Simeon Dyankov

February 2010 Prime Minister, Boyko Borissov

-- February 2010 Foreign Minister, Nickolay Mladenov

-- February 2010 Deputy PM and Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov

To Bulgaria

-- February 2012 Minister for Europe David Lidington

-- November 2008 Minister for Europe Caroline Flint

-- April 2008 Minister for Trade and Investment Lord Digby Jones


Bulgaria joined the EU on 1 January 2007, as recommended by the European Commission in a report published in September 2006. However, the report outlined outstanding issues in Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), and Bulgaria's progress on JHA continues to be monitored through the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).

In July 2011 the European Commission published its fifth CVM report on Bulgaria's progress on outstanding issues in Justice and Home Affairs (JHA). The report was supportive of the Bulgarian government's political will for reform and the steps taken so far, but highlighted continuing issues with the judicial reform, the lack of effective asset forfeiture legislation and the administrative capacity of the police and judiciary as well as the need to make further progress in achieving convincing results in the fight against high-level corruption and organised crime.

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Bulgaria covers an area of roughly 42,800 square miles. It is mountainous, with plains in the north and in the south-east. It shares borders with Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Turkey, and has a long Black Sea coast.

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Britain was the fourth largest investor into Bulgaria in 2010, with a total of just under €3 billion worth of investments, following the Netherlands, Austria, and Greece. UK investment in Bulgaria in 2010 decreased by 6.37% compared to 2009, from €2,897.3 million to €2,712.8 million. Bilateral trade has been growing steadily since 2001. For the first eight months of 2011 UK exports to Bulgaria reached £189.9 million (an increase of 31% on 2010 figures for the same period), with the highest value exports being specialised machinery for particular industries, telecoms and sound recording equipment and electrical machinery and appliances. Overall, bilateral trade has increased by 28% for the period January - August 2011.

There is increasing interest from UK companies in Bulgaria and it is an important and growing business for UK consultants. Priority sectors include:

-- Water - the introduction of private-public partnerships in the water sector in Bulgaria opened new opportunities for UK water companies and consultancies. Significant EU funding will be allocated for the construction and improvement of water and wastewater infrastructure.

-- Environmental - improvement and development of waste treatment infrastructure, cleaner technologies and processes, environmental consultancy and monitoring, renewable energy production.

-- Transport infrastructure - EU funding will help the construction and extension of roads, railways, ports and airports, with ongoing opportunities for consultancy and equipment.

-- Education and Training - especially health and safety training, professional English training, vocational training, supply of special education needs products, supply of content for e-study books and distance learning.

Communication - one of the UK’s main exports.

-- Advanced engineering and Specialised machinery.

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The FCO 2009 Annual Human Rights Report ( has information on Bulgaria’s human rights record.

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Government system: Parliamentary Republic
President: Georgi Purvanov (Rosen Plevneliev, from 22 January 2012)
Prime Minister: Boyko Borissov
Foreign Minister: Nickolay Mladenov
Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic ruled by a democratically elected government. The Prime Minister is head of the executive branch. The National Assembly consists of 240 deputies who are elected for 4-year terms. Since 2009, 31 of the MPs are elected by majority vote and 209 by proportionate vote where voters select candidates from party or coalition lists in each of the twenty-eight administrative divisions. A party or coalition must receive at least 4% of the national vote to enter parliament. Parliament is responsible for, amongst other things, enacting laws, approving the budget, scheduling the presidential elections, declaring war and ratifying international treaties and agreements. There is no second chamber.

The President of Bulgaria is elected for a five-year term, with a two-term maximum. The President serves as the head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. The President's main duties are to schedule elections and referenda, represent Bulgaria abroad, and to head the Consultative Council for National Security. The President does not have the power to invite someone to form a government following Parliamentary elections. He/she must instead grant the mandate to the party with the most seats. Also, the President has no veto; he/she may return legislation to the National Assembly for further debate, but it can be passed again by a majority vote. Presidential elections can go to two rounds. For a candidate to win in the first round he/she needs i) more than 50% of the vote and ii) a 50% turnout. If either condition is unfulfilled, the election goes to a run-off between the two nominees with the most votes.

Main Political Parties

Ruling Party:
-- Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) 117 seats
Centre-right party founded in December 2006. GERB won 116 seats in the 5 July general elections. The minority GERB cabinet was supported by the Blue Coalition, Ataka and the Law, Order and Justice MPs.
Leader: Tzvetan Tzvetanov (although the de facto leader is the Prime Minister Boyko Borisso)
European Parliament affiliation – European People’s Party (EPP) five MEPs

-- Other Parliamentary parties:
-- Coalition for Bulgaria 40 seats. A loosely formed composition of left leaning parties, dominated by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP).
Leader: Sergei Stanishev (the former Prime Minister)
European Parliament affiliation - Party of European Socialists (PES) 4 MEPs

-- Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) 37 seats.
Centrist/Liberal party, which draws most of its support from the ethnic Turkish minority.
Leader: Ahmed Dogan
European Parliament affiliation - European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR) three MEPs

-- Ataka Coalition 21 seats.
Extreme nationalist party, founded in 2005.
Leader: Volen Siderov
European Parliament affiliation - No group two MEPs.

-- Blue Coalition 17 Seats. Coalition centre right parties
Leader: Martin Dimitrov, chairman of the Union of Democratic Forces, Ivan Kostov, chairman of the Democrats for Strong Bulgaria, and Anastasia Mozer, leader of the United Agrarians (co-leaders)
European Parliament affiliation - European People’s Party (EPP) one MEP

-- Independent 11 seats

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Last Updated: January 2012

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