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Bulgaria Country Information

Travel Advice with Country Information from the CIA.

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Bulgaria Map

Introduction

Background

The Bulgars, a Central Asian Turkic tribe, merged with the local Slavic inhabitants in the late 7th century to form the first Bulgarian state. In succeeding centuries, Bulgaria struggled with the Byzantine Empire to assert its place in the Balkans, but by the end of the 14th century the country was overrun by the Ottoman Turks. Northern Bulgaria attained autonomy in 1878 and all of Bulgaria became independent from the Ottoman Empire in 1908. Having fought on the losing side in both World Wars, Bulgaria fell within the Soviet sphere of influence and became a People's Republic in 1946. Communist domination ended in 1990, when Bulgaria held its first multiparty election since World War II and began the contentious process of moving toward political democracy and a market economy while combating inflation, unemployment, corruption, and crime. The country joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007.

Geography

Location

Southeastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea, between Romania and Turkey

Geographic coordinates

43 00 N, 25 00 E

Map references

Europe

Area

total: 110,879 sq km

land:108,489 sq km

water:2,390 sq km

country comparison to the world: 105

Area - comparative

almost identical in size to Virginia; slightly larger than Tennessee

Land boundaries

total: 1,806 km

border countries (5):Greece 472 km, Macedonia 162 km, Romania 605 km, Serbia 344 km, Turkey 223 km

Coastline

354 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone:24 nm

exclusive economic zone:200 nm

Climate

temperate; cold, damp winters; hot, dry summers

Terrain

mostly mountains with lowlands in north and southeast

Elevation

highest point: Musala 2,925 m

lowest point:Black Sea 0 m

mean elevation:472 m

Natural resources

bauxite, copper, lead, zinc, coal, timber, arable land

Land use

agricultural land: 46.9% (2018 est.)

arable land: 29.9% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 1.5% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 15.5% (2018 est.)

forest:36.7% (2018 est.)

other:16.4% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

1,020 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

21.3 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Population distribution

a fairly even distribution throughout most of the country, with urban areas attracting larger populations

Natural hazards

earthquakes; landslides

Environment - international agreements

party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Heavy Metals, Air Pollution-Multi-effect Protocol, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protection, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Convention, Marine Dumping-London Protocol, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 2006, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified:none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

strategic location near Turkish Straits; controls key land routes from Europe to Middle East and Asia

People and Society

Population

6,919,180 (July 2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 107

Nationality

noun: Bulgarian(s)

adjective:Bulgarian

Ethnic groups

Bulgarian 76.9%, Turkish 8%, Romani 4.4%, other 0.7% (including Russian, Armenian, and Vlach), other (unknown) 10% (2011 est.)

note: Romani populations are usually underestimated in official statistics and may represent 9–11% of Bulgaria's population

Languages

Bulgarian (official) 76.8%, Turkish 8.2%, Romani 3.8%, other 0.7%, unspecified 10.5% (2011 est.)

Religions

Eastern Orthodox 59.4%, Muslim 7.8%, other (including Catholic, Protestant, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox, and Jewish) 1.7%, none 3.7%, unspecified 27.4% (2011 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Bulgaria

conventional short form:Bulgaria

local long form:Republika Bulgaria

local short form:Bulgaria

former:Kingdom of Bulgaria, People's Republic of Bulgaria

etymology:named after the Bulgar tribes who settled the lower Balkan region in the 7th century A.D.

Government type

parliamentary republic

Capital

name: Sofia

geographic coordinates:42 41 N, 23 19 E

time difference:UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

daylight saving time:+1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October

etymology: named after the Saint Sofia Church in the city, parts of which date back to the 4th century A.D.

Administrative divisions

28 provinces (oblasti, singular - oblast); Blagoevgrad, Burgas, Dobrich, Gabrovo, Haskovo, Kardzhali, Kyustendil, Lovech, Montana, Pazardzhik, Pernik, Pleven, Plovdiv, Razgrad, Ruse, Shumen, Silistra, Sliven, Smolyan, Sofia, Sofia-Grad (Sofia City), Stara Zagora, Targovishte, Varna, Veliko Tarnovo, Vidin, Vratsa, Yambol

Independence

3 March 1878 (as an autonomous principality within the Ottoman Empire); 22 September 1908 (complete independence from the Ottoman Empire)

National holiday

Liberation Day, 3 March (1878)

Constitution

history: several previous; latest drafted between late 1990 and early 1991, adopted 13 July 1991

amendments:proposed by the National Assembly or by the president of the republic; passage requires three-fourths majority vote of National Assembly members in three ballots; signed by the National Assembly chairperson; note - under special circumstances, a "Grand National Assembly" is elected with the authority to write a new constitution and amend certain articles of the constitution, including those affecting basic civil rights and national sovereignty; passage requires at least two-thirds majority vote in each of several readings; amended several times, last in 2015

Legal system

civil law

International law organization participation

accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only:at least one parent must be a citizen of Bulgaria

dual citizenship recognized:yes

residency requirement for naturalization:5 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Rumen RADEV (since 22 January 2017); Vice President Iliana IOTOVA (since 22 January 2017)

head of government:Prime Minister Boyko BORISOV (since 4 May 2017); note - BORISOV served 2 previous terms as prime minister (27 July 2009-13 March 2013 and 7 November 2014-27 January 2017)

cabinet:Council of Ministers nominated by the prime minister, elected by the National Assembly

elections/appointments:president and vice president elected on the same ballot by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 6 and 13 November 2016 (next to be held in fall 2021); chairman of the Council of Ministers (prime minister) elected by the National Assembly; deputy prime ministers nominated by the prime minister, elected by the National Assembly

election results:Rumen RADEV elected president in second round; percent of vote - Rumen RADEV (independent, supported by Bulgarian Socialist Party) 59.4%, Tsetska TSACHEVA (GERB) 36.2%, neither 4.5%; Boyko BORISOV (GERB) elected prime minister; National Assembly vote - 133 to 100

Legislative branch

description: unicameral National Assembly or Narodno Sabranie (240 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote to serve 4-year terms)

elections:last held on 4 April 2021 (snap election to be held on 11 July 2021); note - a snap election was called after a third attempt to form a government failed on 5 May 2021, parliament will be dissolved and an interim government will be appointed

election results:percent of vote by party/coalition - GERB-SDS 25.8%, ITN 17.4%, BSP 14.8%, DPS 10.4%, DB  9.3%, ISMV 4.7%, other 17.6%; seats by party/coalition - GERB-SDS 75, ITN 51, BSP 43, DPS 30, DB 27 ISMV 14

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court of Cassation (consists of a chairman and approximately 72 judges organized into penal, civil, and commercial colleges); Supreme Administrative Court (organized into 2 colleges with various panels of 5 judges each); Constitutional Court (consists of 12 justices); note - Constitutional Court resides outside the judiciary

judge selection and term of office:Supreme Court of Cassation and Supreme Administrative judges elected by the Supreme Judicial Council or SJC (consists of 25 members with extensive legal experience) and appointed by the president; judges can serve until mandatory retirement at age 65; Constitutional Court justices elected by the National Assembly and appointed by the president and the SJC; justices appointed for 9-year terms with renewal of 4 justices every 3 years

subordinate courts:appeals courts; regional and district courts; administrative courts; courts martial

Political parties and leaders

Agrarian People's Union or ZNS [Roumen YONCHEV]
Bulgarian Agrarian People’s Union [Nikolay NENCHEV]
Bulgarian Socialist Party or BSP [Korneliya NINOVA] (alliance of BSP, ZNS, PKT, New Dawn, Ecoglasnost)
Bulgaria of the Citizens or DBG [Dimiter DELCHEV]]
Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria or GERB (alliance with SDS) [Boyko BORISSOV]
Democratic Bulgaria or DB (alliance of Yes! Bulgaria, DSB, and The Greens) [Atanas ATANASOV, Hristo IVANOV]
Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria or DSB [Atanas ATANASOV]Ecoglasnost [Emil GEORGIEV]
Green Movement or The Greens [Borislav SANDOV, Vladislav PENEV]
Movement for Rights and Freedoms or DPS [Mustafa KARADAYI]
Movement 21 or D21 [Tatyana DONCHEVA]New Dawn [Mincho MINCHEV]Political Club Thrace or PKT [Stefan NACHEZ]
Stand Up.BG or IS.BG [Maya MONOLOVA]
Stand Up! Mafia, Get Out! or ISMV (coalition of IS.BG, D21, DBG, ENP, ZNS, and Volt) [Maya MONOLOVA, Nikolay HADZHIGENOV]  
There is Such a People or ITN [SLAVI TRIFONOV]
United People's Party or ENP [Valentina VASILEVA]
Union of Democratic Forces or SDS [Rumen HRISTOV]
Yes! Bulgaria [Hristo IVANOV]
Volt Bulgaria or Volt [Nastimir ANANIEV]

International organization participation

Australia Group, BIS, BSEC, CD, CE, CEI, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECB, EIB, EU, FAO, G- 9, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, IHO (pending member), ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, NATO, NSG, OAS (observer), OIF, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, SELEC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMIL, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Tihomir Anguelov STOYTCHEV (since 27 June 2016)

chancery:1621 22nd Street NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone:[1] (202) 387-0174

FAX:[1] (202) 234-7973

consulate(s) general:Chicago, Los Angeles, New York

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Herro MUSTAFA (since 18 October 2019)

telephone:[359] (2) 937-5100

embassy:16 Kozyak Street, Sofia 1408

mailing address:American Embassy Sofia, US Department of State, 5740 Sofia Place, Washington, DC 20521-5740

FAX:[359] (2) 937-5320

Flag description

three equal horizontal bands of white (top), green, and red; the pan-Slavic white-blue-red colors were modified by substituting a green band (representing freedom) for the blue

note: the national emblem, formerly on the hoist side of the white stripe, has been removed

National symbol(s)

lion; national colors: white, green, red

National anthem

name: "Mila Rodino" (Dear Homeland)

lyrics/music:Tsvetan Tsvetkov RADOSLAVOV

note: adopted 1964; composed in 1885 by a student en route to fight in the Serbo-Bulgarian War

Economy

Economic overview

Bulgaria, a former communist country that entered the EU in 2007, has an open economy that historically has demonstrated strong growth, but its per-capita income remains the lowest among EU members and its reliance on energy imports and foreign demand for its exports makes its growth sensitive to external market conditions.

The government undertook significant structural economic reforms in the 1990s to move the economy from a centralized, planned economy to a more liberal, market-driven economy. These reforms included privatization of state-owned enterprises, liberalization of trade, and strengthening of the tax system - changes that initially caused some economic hardships but later helped to attract investment, spur growth, and make gradual improvements to living conditions. From 2000 through 2008, Bulgaria maintained robust, average annual real GDP growth in excess of 6%, which was followed by a deep recession in 2009 as the financial crisis caused domestic demand, exports, capital inflows and industrial production to contract, prompting the government to rein in spending. Real GDP growth remained slow - less than 2% annually - until 2015, when demand from EU countries for Bulgarian exports, plus an inflow of EU development funds, boosted growth to more than 3%. In recent years, strong domestic demand combined with low international energy prices have contributed to Bulgaria’s economic growth approaching 4% and have also helped to ease inflation. Bulgaria’s prudent public financial management contributed to budget surpluses both in 2016 and 2017.

Bulgaria is heavily reliant on energy imports from Russia, a potential vulnerability, and is a participant in EU-backed efforts to diversify regional natural gas supplies. In late 2016, the Bulgarian Government provided funding to Bulgaria’s National Electric Company to cover the $695 million compensation owed to Russian nuclear equipment manufacturer Atomstroyexport for the cancellation of the Belene Nuclear Power Plant project, which the Bulgarian Government terminated in 2012. As of early 2018, the government was floating the possibility of resurrecting the Belene project. The natural gas market, dominated by state-owned Bulgargaz, is also almost entirely supplied by Russia. Infrastructure projects such as the Inter-Connector Greece-Bulgaria and Inter-Connector Bulgaria-Serbia, which would enable Bulgaria to have access to non-Russian gas, have either stalled or made limited progress. In 2016, the Bulgarian Government established the State eGovernment Agency. This new agency is responsible for the electronic governance, coordinating national policies with the EU, and strengthening cybersecurity.

Despite a favorable investment regime, including low, flat corporate income taxes, significant challenges remain. Corruption in public administration, a weak judiciary, low productivity, lack of transparency in public procurements, and the presence of organized crime continue to hamper the country's investment climate and economic prospects.

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 974,056

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:13.89 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 75

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 8,149,389

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:116.21 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 97

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: telecom sector has benefited from Bulgaria's adaptation of EU regulatory measures, more privatization and less govt. monopoly; population is moving to fiber networks for broadband; govt. investment in programs for broadband in rural areas; 5G trials by 2 operators; quality has improved with a modern digital trunk line connecting switching centers in most of the regions; remaining areas are connected by digital microwave radio relay; Bulgaria has a mature mobile market with active competition (2020)

domestic:fixed-line 14 per 100 persons, mobile-cellular teledensity, fostered by multiple service providers, is over 116 telephones per 100 persons (2019)

international:country code - 359; Caucasus Cable System via submarine cable provides connectivity to Ukraine, Georgia and Russia; a combination submarine cable and land fiber-optic system provides connectivity to Italy, Albania, and Macedonia; satellite earth stations - 3 (1 Intersputnik in the Atlantic Ocean region, 2 Intelsat in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

4 national terrestrial TV stations with 1 state-owned and 3 privately owned; a vast array of TV stations are available from cable and satellite TV providers; state-owned national radio broadcasts over 3 networks; large number of private radio stations broadcasting, especially in urban areas

Internet country code

.bg

Internet users

total: 4,571,851

percent of population:64.78% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 87

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 1,903,946

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:27 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 55

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 8 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers:44

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers:1,022,645 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers:1.38 million mt-km (2018)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

LZ

Airports

total: 68 (2013)

country comparison to the world: 72

Airports - with paved runways

total: 57 (2017)

over 3,047 m:2 (2017)

2,438 to 3,047 m:17 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m:12 (2017)

under 914 m:26 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 11 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m:2 (2013)

under 914 m:9 (2013)

Heliports

1 (2013)

Pipelines

2765 km gas, 346 km oil, 378 km refined products (2017)

Railways

total: 5,114 km (2014)

standard gauge:4,989 km 1.435-m gauge (2,880 km electrified) (2014)

narrow gauge:125 km 0.760-m gauge (2014)

country comparison to the world: 37

Roadways

total: 19,512 km (2011)

paved:19,235 km (includes 458 km of expressways) (2011)

unpaved:277 km (2011)

note: does not include Category IV local roads

country comparison to the world: 117

Waterways

470 km (2009)

country comparison to the world: 83

Merchant marine

total: 81

by type:bulk carrier 5, general cargo 15, oil tanker 8, other 53 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 98

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Burgas, Varna (Black Sea)

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Bulgarian Armed Forces: Land Forces (Army), Naval Forces, Bulgarian Air Forces (Voennovazdushni Sili, VVS), Joint Special Forces; Ministry of Interior: Border Guards (2021)

Military expenditures

1.6% of GDP (2020 est.)

3.15% of GDP (2019)

1.45% of GDP (2018)

1.23% of GDP (2017)

1.25% of GDP (2016)

country comparison to the world: 76

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Bulgarian Armed Forces have approximately 32,000 active duty personnel (16,000 Army; 4,000 Navy; 7,000 Air Force; 5,000 other) (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the Bulgarian Armed Forces inventory consists primarily of Soviet-era equipment, although in recent years Bulgaria has procured limited amounts of more modern weapons systems from Western countries, including France, Italy, Norway, and the US (2020)

Military deployments

120 Afghanistan (NATO) (2021)

Military service age and obligation

18-27 years of age for voluntary military service; conscription ended in 2007; service obligation 6-9 months (2019)

Terrorism

Terrorist group(s)

Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham; Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps/Qods Force (2020)

note: details about the history, aims, leadership, organization, areas of operation, tactics, targets, weapons, size, and sources of support of the group(s) appear(s) in Appendix-T

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

none

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 17,551 (Syria) (2019)

stateless persons:116 (2019)

note: 60,084 estimated refugee and migrant arrivals (January 2015-May 2021); Bulgaria is predominantly a transit country

Trafficking in persons

current situation: Bulgaria is a source and, to a lesser extent, a transit and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor; Bulgaria is one of the main sources of human trafficking in the EU; women and children are increasingly sex trafficked domestically, as well as in Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and the US; adults and children become forced laborers in agriculture, construction, and the service sector in Europe, Israel, and Zambia; Romanian girls are also subjected to sex trafficking in Bulgaria

tier rating:Tier 2 Watch List – Bulgaria does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; in 2014, authorities prosecuted and convicted fewer traffickers and issued suspended sentences for the majority of those convicted; victim protection efforts declined and were minimal relative to the number of victims identified; funding for the state’s two NGO-operated shelters was significantly cut, forcing them to close; specialized services for child and adult male victims were non-existent; the government took action to combat trafficking-related complicity among public officials and police officers (2015)

Illicit drugs

major European transshipment point for Southwest Asian heroin and, to a lesser degree, South American cocaine for the European market; limited producer of precursor chemicals; vulnerable to money laundering because of corruption, organized crime; some money laundering of drug-related proceeds through financial institutions

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