Republic of Bulgaria
Area: 110,994 sq. km. (slightly larger than
Major cities: Capital--Sofia 1.2 million.
Others: Plovdiv--368,568, Varna--349,482.
Terrain: Bulgaria is located in South Central
Europe. The terrain is varied, containing large
mountainous areas, fertile valleys, plains and a
coastline along the Black Sea.
Climate: Continental--mild summers and cold,
Population (2003): 7,801,300.
Growth rate (2003.): -5.7 (on basis of 1,000
Ethnic groups (2001): Bulgarian 83.94%, Turkish
9.42%, Roma 4.68%, and others.
Religions (2001): Bulgarian Orthodox 82.6%,
Muslim 12.2%, Roman Catholic 0.6%, Protestant
Language: Bulgarian (official).
Health: Life expectancy (2002)--male 68.5
years; female 75.4 years. Infant mortality
rate (2002)--13.3 deaths/1,000 live births.
Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Constitution: Adopted July 12, 1991.
Independence: 1908 (from the Ottoman Empire).
Branches: Executive--president (chief of
state), prime minister (head of government),
Council of Ministers (cabinet). Legislative--unicameral
National Assembly or Narodno Subranie--240
seats. Members are elected by popular vote of
party/coalition lists of candidates for 4-year
terms. Based on results of June 2005 elections,
seat allocation is as follows: BSP--82, NMSS--53,
MRF--34, Ataka--21, UDF--20, DSB--17, BNU--13.
Suffrage: Universal at 18 years of age.
Main political movements: Bulgarian Socialist
Party (BSP); National Movement Simeon II (NMSS);
Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF); United
Democratic Forces (UDF); Democrats for Strong
Bulgaria (DSB); Bulgarian People’s Union (BNU)
and Ataka. Results from the June 25, 2005
general election are as follows: BSP (Coalition
for Bulgaria) 34.17%, NMSS 22.08%, MRF 14.17%,
Ataka 8.75%, UDF 8.33%, DSB 7.08%, BNU 5.42%.
Real GDP growth: 5.6% (2004); 4.3% (2003).
Inflation rate: 6% (2004); 5.6% (2003).
Unemployment rate: 12.7% (2004 average); 14.25%
Natural resources: Bauxite, copper, lead, zinc,
coal, and timber.
Official exchange rate: Lev per $1 U.S.--1.49
(Feb. 2005); 1.58 (2004 average); 1.73 (2003
GEOGRAPHY AND PEOPLE
Bulgaria shares a border with Turkey
and Greece to the south, The Former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro
to the west, Romania to the north and the Black
Sea to the east. The capital, Sofia, lies in the
western region of the country. Ethnic groups
include Bulgarian, Turkish, Roma, and others.
The official language is Bulgarian.
The first Bulgarian state was recognized in 681
A.D. and was a mixture of Slavs and Bulgars.
Several years later, the First Bulgarian Kingdom
or the "Golden Age" emerged under Tsar Simeon I
in 893-927. During this time, Bulgarian art and
literature flourished. Also during the ninth
century, Orthodox Christianity became the
primary religion in Bulgaria and the Cyrillic
alphabet was established.
In 1018, Bulgaria fell under the authority of
the Byzantine Empire. Byzantine rule was
short-lived, however. By 1185 Bulgarians had
broken free of Byzantine rule and, in 1202, they
established the Second Bulgarian Kingdom.
Ottoman domination of the Balkan Peninsula
eventually affected Bulgaria in the late 14th
century, and by 1396, Bulgaria had become part
of the Ottoman Empire. Following the
Russo-Turkish War (1877-78) and the Treaty of
Berlin (1885), Bulgaria gained some autonomy
under the Ottoman Empire, but complete
independence was not recognized until 1908.
During the first half of the 20th
century, Bulgaria was marred by social and
political unrest. Bulgaria participated in the
First and Second Balkan Wars (1912 and 1913) and
sided with the Central Powers, and later the
Axis Powers, during the two World Wars. Although
allied with Germany during World War II,
Bulgaria never declared war on Russia.
King Simeon II assumed control of the throne
in 1943 at the age of 6 following the death of
his father Boris III. Following the defeat of
the Axis Powers in World War II, communism
emerged as the dominant political force within
Bulgaria. Simeon, who is currently Prime
Minister, was forced into exile in 1946 and
resided primarily in Madrid, Spain, until April
2001, when he returned to Bulgaria. By 1946
Bulgaria had become a satellite of the Soviet
Union, remaining so throughout the Cold War
period. Todor Zhivkov, the head of the Bulgarian
Communist Party, ruled the country for much of
its time under communism, and during his 27
years as leader of Bulgaria, democratic
opposition was crushed, agriculture and industry
were nationalized, and the Bulgarian Orthodox
Church fell under the control of the state.
In 1989 Zhivkov relinquished control, and
democratic change began. The first multi-party
elections since World War II were held in 1990.
The ruling communist party changed its name to
the Bulgarian Socialist Party and won the June
1990 elections. Following a period of social
unrest and passage of a new constitution, the
first fully democratic parliamentary elections
were held in 1991 in which the Union of
Democratic Forces won. The first direct
presidential elections were held the next year.
As Bulgaria emerged from the throes of
communism, it experienced a period of social and
economic unrest that culminated in a severe
economic and financial crisis in late 1996-early
1997. With the help of the international
community, former Prime Minister Ivan Kostov
initiated a series of reforms in 1997 that
helped stabilize the country’s economy and put
Bulgaria on the Euro-Atlantic path. Elections in
2001 ushered in a new government and president.
In July 2001, Bulgaria’s ex-king Simeon
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha became the first former
monarch in post-communist Eastern Europe to
become Prime Minister. The leadership in
Sofia pursued Euro-Atlantic integration,
democratic reform, and development of a market
economy. Bulgaria officially became a member of
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on March
29, 2004 after depositing its instruments of
treaty ratification in Washington, DC. Bulgaria
signed its Accession Treaty with the European
Union (EU) on April 25, 2005. With the support
of all political parties, the Bulgarian
parliament ratified the EU accession treaty on
May 11, 2005, with a view towards joining the EU
in 2007. Following general elections on June 25,
2005, on August 16, 2005, Sergei Stanishev of
the Bulgarian Socialist Party became the new
Prime Minister of a coalition government.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic. The
unicameral National Assembly, or Narodno
Subranie, consists of 240 deputies who are
elected for 4-year terms through a system of
proportional representation in 31 electoral
regions. Party or coalition lists, rather than
individual candidate names, appear on the
ballots. A party or coalition must garner a
minimum of 4% of the vote in order to enter
parliament. Parliament selects and dismisses
government ministers, including the prime
minister, exercises control over the government,
and sanctions deployment of troops abroad. It is
responsible for enactment of laws, approval of
the budget, scheduling of presidential
elections, declaration of war, and ratification
of international treaties and agreements.
A one-month official campaign period precedes
general elections. The voting age is 18.
Preliminary results are available within hours
of poll closings. Seats in parliament are
allocated both by vote and by voter turnout. The
votes for parties who did not receive a minimum
threshold of votes are redistributed to other
parties proportionate to their own share of the
vote. The lists of newly elected members of
parliament are announced 7 days after the
elections. The president must convene the new
parliament within one month after the elections,
and calls upon parties, coalitions, or political
groups to nominate a prime minister and form a
government. If the three largest parties,
coalitions, or political groups fail to nominate
a prime minister, the president can dissolve
parliament and schedule new elections. In recent
years, it has taken approximately a month for
the new government to form. A general election
in Bulgaria was held June 25, 2005. Results are
as follows: Bulgarian Socialist Party/Coalition
for Bulgaria (BSP) 34.17%, National Movement
Simeon II (NMSS) 22.08%, Movement for Rights and
Freedom (MRF) 14.17%, Ataka 8.75%, United
Democratic Forces (UDF) 8.33%, Democrats for
Strong Bulgaria (DSB) 7.08%, Bulgarian People’s
Union (BNU) 5.42%.
The 2001 parliamentary elections ushered in
63 women deputies, placing Bulgaria first within
the region according to the number of women
currently serving in parliament. The president
of Bulgaria is directly elected for a 5-year
term with the right to one re-election. The
president serves as the head of state and
commander in chief of the armed forces. The
president is the head of the Consultative
Council for National Security and while unable
to initiate legislation, the president can
return a bill for further debate. Parliament can
overturn the president's veto with a simple
majority vote. Bulgarian Socialist Party
candidate Georgi Purvanov won the November 2001
presidential election and took office January
2002. Presidential elections are expected in
The prime minister is head of the Council of
Ministers, which is the primary component of the
executive branch. In addition to the prime
minister and deputy prime ministers, the Council
is composed of ministers who head the various
agencies within the government and usually come
from the majority/ruling party or from a member
party of the ruling coalition in parliament.
The Council is responsible for carrying out
state policy, managing the state budget and
maintaining law and order. The Council must
resign if the National Assembly passes a vote of
no confidence in the Council or prime minister.
The Bulgarian judicial system became an
independent branch of the government following
passage of the 1991 constitution. Reform within
this branch was initially slow. In 1994, the
National Assembly passed the Judicial Powers Act
to further delineate the role of the judiciary.
In 2003, Bulgaria adopted amendments to the
constitution, which aimed to improve the
effectiveness of the judicial system by limiting
magistrates’ irremovability and immunity against
The first, appellate, and cassation (highest
appellate) courts comprise the three tiers of
the judicial system.
The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) is
composed of 25 members serving 5-year terms.
Those who serve on the council are experienced
legal professionals and are either appointed by
the National Assembly, selected by the judicial
system, or serve on the SJC as a result of their
position in government. The SJC manages the
judiciary and is responsible for appointing
The Supreme Court of Administration and
Supreme Court of Cassation are the highest
courts of appeal and determine the application
of all laws.
The court that interprets the constitution
and constitutionality of laws and treaties is
the Constitutional Court. Its 12 justices serve
9-year terms and are selected by the president,
the National Assembly and the Supreme Courts.
Principal Government Officials
Prime Minister--Sergei Stanishev
Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Foreign
Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of
Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Disaster and
Minister of Defense--Vesselin Bliznakov
Minister of Economy and Energy--Roumen Ovcharov
Bulgaria maintains an
embassy in the United States at 1621 22nd
Street, NW, Washington DC 20008 (tel.
202-387-0174; fax: 202-234-7973).
Bulgaria's economy contracted dramatically after
1989 with the collapse of the COMECON system and
the loss of the Soviet market, to which the
Bulgarian economy had been closely tied. The
standard of living fell by about 40%. In
addition, UN sanctions against Yugoslavia and
Iraq took a heavy toll on the Bulgarian economy.
The first signs of recovery emerged when GDP
grew in 1994 for the first time since 1988, by
1.4% and then by 2.5% in 1995. Inflation, which
surged in 1994 to 122%, fell to 32.9% in 1995.
During 1996, however, the economy collapsed due
to shortsighted economic reforms and an unstable
and de-capitalized banking system.
Under the leadership of former Prime Minister
Ivan Kostov (UDF), who came to power in 1997, an
ambitious set of reforms were launched,
including introduction of a currency board
regime, bringing growth and stability to the
Bulgarian economy. The currency board contained
inflationary pressures and the three-digit
inflation in 1997 was cut to only 1% in 1998.
Following declines in GDP in both 1996 and 1997,
the Bulgarian government delivered strong,
steady GDP growth in real terms (4.0% in 1998,
2.3 % in 1999, 5.4% in 2000 and 4.0% in 2001).
In spite of the transition to a new
government in July 2001, Bulgaria remained
committed to the market reforms undertaken in
1997. Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg’s
economic team of young, Western-educated
financiers continued to implement measures that
helped sustain stable economic growth and curb
unemployment. The government was expecting a
record-high GDP growth of 5.8% in 2004,
following GDP growth of 4.9% and 4.3% in 2002
and 2003, respectively. As a result of these
moves, in October 2002 the European Commission
declared Bulgaria had a "Functioning Market
Economy." Measures introduced by the government
were targeted at reducing corporate and
individual taxes, curtailing corruption, and
attracting foreign investment. The government
also implemented a set of measures that helped
restructure the country’s foreign debt and
revive the local stock market. It also moved
ahead with long-delayed privatization of some of
the major state monopolies. But while
macroeconomic data reveal private sector growth,
a double-digit increase in exports and imports
and higher foreign investment, incomes remain
low. The new government of Prime Minister
Stanishev will need to act on its pledge to
secure higher living standards.
In November 2002, Bulgaria was invited to become
a member of the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO), and officially became a
member of NATO on March 29, 2004 after
depositing its instruments of treaty
ratification in Washington, DC. Bulgaria's
military is currently undergoing an ambitious
restructuring program aimed to bring the army up
to NATO standards.
Bulgaria also has played an important role in
resolving recent interethnic disputes within the
Balkan Peninsula. Small contingents of Bulgarian
troops are currently deployed with international
forces serving in Bosnia and Herzegovina and
Kosovo, as well as Afghanistan. A Bulgarian
battalion is currently deployed in Iraq as part
of U.S.-led coalition forces there.
Bulgaria, which is advancing towards greater
Euro-Atlantic integration, officially became a
member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
on March 29, 2004 after depositing its
instruments of treaty ratification in
Washington, DC. Bulgaria signed its Accession
Treaty with the European Union (EU) on April 25,
2005. With the support of all political parties,
the Bulgarian parliament ratified the EU
accession treaty on May 11, 2005, with a view
towards joining the EU in 2007. Bulgaria is a
member of the United Nations and in 2002-2003
served a 2-year term as a nonpermanent member on
the UN Security Council. Bulgaria served as
Chair-In-Office of the Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2004.
Bulgaria joined the World Trade Organization
in 1996. In July 1998, Bulgaria became a full
member of the Central European Free Trade
Agreement (CEFTA), which called for the
reduction of tariffs by 2002 on most industrial
and agricultural goods traded between CEFTA
countries. Bulgaria has initialed free trade
agreements with Turkey, Macedonia, Croatia,
Lithuania, Estonia, Israel, Albania, and Latvia.
Currently, Bulgaria is holding consultations for
launching free trade agreement talks with
Moldova as well.
Bulgaria's relationship with its neighbors
has generally been good. Bulgaria has proven to
be a constructive force in the region and has
played an important role in promoting regional
The year 2003 marked the 100th anniversary of
diplomatic relations between the United States
and Bulgaria. U.S.-Bulgarian relations were
severed in 1950 but were restored a decade
later. Bilateral relations between the two
nations improved dramatically after the fall of
communism. The United States moved quickly to
encourage development of a multi-party democracy
and a market economy. The U.S. signed a
Bilateral Investment Treaty in 1994 and gave
Bulgaria most-favored-nation trade status in
In 1989, the U.S. Congress passed the Support
for East European Democracies Act (SEED),
authorizing financial support to facilitate
development of democratic institutions,
political pluralism, and free market economies
in the Balkan region. Since 1990, Bulgaria has
received more than $460 million in SEED
Bulgaria hosts the only fully American
university in the region, the American
University of Bulgaria in Blagoevgrad,
established in 1991, drawing students from
throughout southeast Europe and beyond.
Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Jeffrey D. Levine
Counselor, Public Affairs--David Siefkin
Director, USAID--Michael Fritz
Political/Economic Counselor--Brad Freden
Senior Commercial Officer--James Rigassio
Consular Officer--Daniel Perrone
U.S. Embassy is located at 16 Kozyak
Street, Sofia; tel:  (2) 937-5100;
facsimile:  (2) 9375-320.