Name: Republic of Bulgaria
Area: 110,994 sq. km; slightly larger than Tennessee.
Capital -- Sofia. Other cities -- Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas, Ruse,
Terrain: Mostly mountainous with large fertile valleys and
plains; lowlands in the north and southeast; Black Sea coast on the east.
Nationality: Noun and adjective -- Bulgarian(s).
Population (1998): 8.2 million.
Population growth rate (1998 est.):
Ethnic groups: Bulgarian 85.6%; Turks 9.5%; Roma 4%; others 1%.
Religions: Bulgarian Orthodox 83.5%; Islam 13%; Roman Catholic 1.5%; others
0.5%. Languages: Bulgarian (official); Turkish; Roma.
Literacy -- 98%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (1998) --
14.4/1,000. Life expectancy -- males 67 yrs., female 74 yrs.
Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Constitution: July 12, 1991.
Independence: March 3, 1887 (from the Ottoman Empire).
provinces (oblasti) -- Sofia, Sofia City, Burgas, Haskovo, Lovech, Montana,
Plovdiv, Ruse, Varna.
Political parties: Union of Democratic Forces (UDF);
People's Union (comprised of the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union, People's
Union and the Democratic Party); Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP); Alliance for
National Salvation, comprised of the mainly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights
and Freedoms (MRF) and smaller partners; Bulgarian Business Bloc (BBB); and the
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (1998 est): $12.3 billion. About 63.7% of GDP is contributed
by the private sector.
GDP growth rate (1998): 3.5%.
Per capita income:
Inflation rate (1998): 1%.
National resources: Copper, lead,
zinc, lignite, iron, manganese, limestone and lumber.
21% of GDP. Products -- grain crops (more than one-third of the arable
land), oilseeds, vegetables, fruits, tobacco (world's fourth-largest exporter);
Industry (1998): 28% of GDP. Types -- machinery and metal
products, food processing, textiles, chemicals, building materials,
Services (1998): 50% of GDP.
Trade: Imports --
$4,609 million. Exports -- $4,293 million.
Long a crossroads of civilizations (archaeological finds date back
to 4600 B.C.), Bulgaria was first recognized as an independent state in AD 681.
Bulgarian Orthodox Christianity, which became a hallmark of national identity,
was established in the 9th century. Bulgaria was ruled by the Byzantine Empire
from 1018 to 1185 and the Ottoman Empire from 1396 to 1878. In 1879, Bulgaria
adopted a democratic constitution and invited a German nobleman, Alexander of
Battenburg, to be prince. When Alexander abdicated in 1885, Prince Ferdinand of
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha became prince. In 1908 he proclaimed himself King.
In the early part of the 20th century, in an effort to gain
Macedonian and other territories, Bulgaria engaged in two Balkan wars and
become allied with Germany during World War I. It suffered disastrous losses as
a result. The interwar period was dominated by economic and political
instability and by terrorism as political factions, including monarchists and
communists, struggled for influence. In World War II, Bulgaria ultimately
allied again with Germany but protected its Jewish population of some 50,000
from the Holocaust. When King Boris III died in 1943, political uncertainty
heightened. The Fatherland Front, an umbrella coalition led by the Communist
Party, was established. This coalition backed neutrality and withdrawal from
occupied territories. Bulgaria tried to avoid open conflict with the Soviet
Union during the war, but the U.S.S.R. invaded in 1944 and placed the
Fatherland Front in control of government.
After Bulgaria's surrender to the Allies, the Communist Party
purged opposition figures in the Fatherland Front, exiled young King Simeon II,
and rigged elections to consolidate power. In 1946, a referendum was passed
overwhelmingly, ending the monarchy and declaring Bulgaria a people's republic.
In a questionable election the next year, the Fatherland Front won 70% of the
vote and Communist Party leader Georgi Dimitrov became Prime Minister. In 1947,
the Allied military left Bulgaria, and the government declared the country a
communist state. Forty-two years of heavy-handed totalitarian rule followed.
All democratic opposition was crushed, agriculture and industry were
nationalized, and Bulgaria became the closest of the Soviet Union's allies.
Unlike other countries of the Warsaw Pact, however, Bulgaria did not have
Soviet troops stationed on its territory.
Dimitrov died in 1949. Todor Zhivkov became Communist Party chief
in 1956 and prime minister in 1962. Zhivkov held power until November 1989,
when he was deposed by members of his own party, soon renamed the Bulgarian
Socialist Party (BSP).
Bulgaria has been a parliamentary democracy since 1990. Four
parliamentary and two presidential elections have been held since the fall of
the communist dictatorship in November 1989, each followed by peaceful and
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The president, elected for a 5-year term, is 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, conclude
international treaties, and head the Consultative Council for National
Security. The president may return legislation to Parliament for further debate
-- a kind of veto -- but the legislation can be passed again by a simple
majority vote. Petar Stoyanov, the candidate of a united opposition coalition
led by the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), was nominated to run for president
in the country's first primary election in June 1996. Stoyanov was elected in
November and inaugurated in January 1997.
The legislative body is the unicameral National Assembly of 240
members elected to 4-year terms. Political parties must garner a minimum of 4%
of the national vote in order to enter Parliament. Parliament is responsible
for enactment of laws, approval of the budget, scheduling of presidential
elections, selection and dismissal of the prime minister and other ministers,
declaration of war and deployment of troops outside of Bulgaria, and
ratification of international treaties and agreements.
The BSP won the first post-communist parliamentary elections in
1990 with a small majority. The BSP government formed at that time was brought
down by a general strike in late 1990 and replaced by a transitional coalition
government. Meanwhile, Zhelyu Zhelev, a communist-era dissident, was elected
president by the Parliament in 1990 and later won Bulgaria's first direct
presidential elections, in 1992. Zhelev served until early 1997. The country's
first fully democratic parliamentary elections, in November 1991, ushered in
another coalition government, which was led by the pro-reform UDF in
partnership with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF). This coalition
collapsed in late 1992, however, and was succeeded by a technocratic team, put
forward by the MRF, which governed at the sufferance of the BSP for 2 years.
The BSP won pre-term elections in December 1994 and remained in office until
February 1997, when a populace alienated by the BSP's failed, corrupt
government demanded its resignation and called for new elections. A caretaker
cabinet appointed by the President served until pre-term parliamentary
elections in April 1997, which yielded a landslide victory for pro-reform
forces led by the UDF in the United Democratic Forces coalition. Along with the
UDF, there are five other parties represented in Parliament.
The Council of Ministers is the principal organ of the executive
branch. It is usually formed by the majority party in Parliament, if one
exists, or by the largest party in Parliament along with coalition partners.
Chaired by the prime minister, it 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 the prime minister.
Bulgaria's judicial system is independent and is managed by the
Supreme Judicial Council. Its principal elements are the Supreme Court of
Administration and the Supreme Court of Cassation, which oversee application of
all laws by the lower courts and judge the legality of government acts. There
is a separate Constitutional Court, which interprets the Constitution and rules
on the constitutionality of laws and treaties.
Six out of the 34 political parties and coalitions that fielded
candidates in the last election are represented in Parliament. The UDF
recaptured Parliament in April 1997 with 123 seats out of 240. Its electoral
coalition partner, the People's Union, carried 14 seats. Also in that election,
the BSP dropped from its 1994 majority of 125 seats to 58. The MRF formed the
Alliance for National Salvation with several smaller parties, taking 19 seats.
The other party on the left is the Euroleft (comprised largely of defectors
from the BSP with a social-democratic orientation), which holds 14 seats. The
next parliamentary elections must take place no later than April 2001.
Principal Government Officials
President -- Petar Stoyanov
Vice President -- Todor Kavaldjiev
Prime Minister -- Ivan Kostov
Ambassador to the United States -- Filip
Ambassador to the United Nations -- Vladimir Soitirov (acting)
The Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in the United States is
located at 1621 22nd Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008; tel. 202-387-7969; fax.
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 Serbia (1992-95) and Iraq took a heavy
toll on the Bulgarian economy. First signs of recovery emerged when GDP grew
1.4% in 1994 for the first time since 1988, and 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 the BSP's go-slow, mismanaged economic reforms, its
disastrous agricultural policy, and an unstable and decapitalized banking
system, which led to inflation of 311% and the collapse of the lev. When
pro-reform forces come into power in spring 1997, an ambitious economic reform
package, including introduction of a currency board regime, was agreed with the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, and the economy began to
The government of Prime Minister Kostov, elected in April 1997,
has made a clean break with the failed policies of the early and mid-1990s. In
this, the Bulgarian Government received the backing of international financial
institutions and committed itself to sound financial and structural policies as
the only way out of crisis.
Since July 1997 the Bulgarian Government has been operating under
a currency board as required by the International Monetary Fund's $510 million
standby arrangement of March 1997. From July 1, 1997 to December 31, 1998 the
Bulgarian lev (BGL) was tied to the German deutschmark (DM) at a rate of BGL
1000 to one deutschmark. Since January 1, 1999, the lev is tied to the euro at
an exchange rate of 1,955.83 leva to one euro. Since July 5, 1999, BGL 1,000
was redenominated by the issuance of new currency and coins to be one lev
(BGN). Thus BGN 1.00 equals DM 1.00.
The Currency Board rules provide that the Bulgarian National Bank
(BNB) must hold sufficient foreign currency reserves to cover all the leva in
circulation including the lev reserves of the banking system; the BNB can only
refinance commercial banks in the event of systemic risk to the baking system;
and the government is limited in taking on new financial liabilities or
providing sovereign guarantees.
Under other IMF conditions for strict financial discipline, the
Bulgarian government is pledged to close loss-making enterprises and to speed
privatization, bank reform, and restructuring. The government established an
isolation list of 70 state enterprises, accounting for half of the public
sector losses, that do not have access to commercial credit unless they are
privatized. The government succeeded in privatizing or beginning liquidation of
all but one of the isolation list's commercial companies (Group B) by June 30,
The results have been very impressive. Inflation was reined in
relatively quickly. Official reserves rebounded from $400 million in January
1997 to $2,964 million at the end of 1998. Moody's Investors Service upgraded
Bulgaria's credit rating to B2. Foreign investment, including participation by
American investors, has also revived as macroeconomic stabilization and a
friendlier business climate have taken hold. The closure of 18 troubled banks
also has helped to increase confidence in the banking system. Following
declines in GDP in both 1996 and 1997, GDP increased from $10,200 million in
1997 to $12,257 million in 1998. In fact, some experts believe that official
statistics underreport economic activity, and the active unofficial market
statistics could represent an additional 20% to 40% of the official GDP. This
means that there is more money flowing through the economy and higher actual
disposable consumer income than is officially accounted for.
The private sector contributed between 25%-30% of GDP in 1995,
35%-40% in 1996, approximately 65% in 1997 and 1998, 62% in 1999; it should
increase further with continuing privatization. Since the currency board
constrains borrowing, the government needs to keep wage growth modest and focus
on improving productivity to generate revenues. The main threats to the
Bulgarian economy's medium-term prospects are the effects of the Kosovo
conflict and the threats of wider regional instability and turmoil in global
financial markets affecting investments in emerging markets. This may adversely
affect revenues to the government from privatizing large enterprises. Due to
Bulgaria's geography, the Kosovo situation has interrupted Bulgaria's main
highway and Danube River trade routes with western Europe through Serbia in
Yugoslavia, which have increased transport costs and may reduce future economic
growth and market potential over the short term. However, the Governments of
the United States, European Union countries, and southeast European countries
have committed to a Stability Pact aimed at developing prosperity and stability
throughout the southeast Europe region. Washington is currently developing a
major comprehensive plan for economic development in the region to be
implemented in the aftermath of the Kosovo crisis. This should lead to new and
expanded trade and investment opportunities in Bulgaria over the long term.
A second potential impediment to Bulgaria's economic
transformation is the slow and less than fully transparent privatization
process itself. The Bulgarian Government has relied heavily on controversial
management-employee buyouts for smaller enterprises, and on use of foreign
consultants to privatize pools of medium and large companies. The privatization
framework has also included complex criteria for selecting buyers that has
generated concerns about transparency and corruption. As a result, ownership
transfer has been delayed and, in some cases, has provoked litigation.
However, the government completed a number of large privatization
deals in mid-1999, meeting its commitment to sell or commence liquidation of a
group of loss-making enterprises by June 30, 1999. These deals included sales
of the Kremikovtsi Steelworks, Balkan Bulgarian Airlines and DZU compact disk
As a relatively small market in the Balkans, Bulgaria will have to
make extra efforts to attract investors--by improving transparency, for
example--as well as by more fully marketing its many advantages, including a
highly skilled, low cost labor force and proximity to both European and Near
Bulgaria has good relations with its neighbors and has proved to
be a constructive force in the region under socialist and democratic
governments alike. Promoting regional stability, Bulgaria hosted a Southeast
European Foreign Ministers meeting in July 1996 and a Southeast European
Defense Ministers conference in October 1997. Bulgaria also participated in the
1996 South Balkan Defense Ministerial in Albania and is active in the Southeast
European Cooperative Initiative. In 1998, Bulgaria and FYROM solved their
so-called language dispute and have developed closer bilateral relations.
With their close historical, cultural, and economic ties, Bulgaria
seeks a mutually beneficial relationship with Russia, on which it is largely
dependent for energy supplies. Negotiations are underway among Greece,
Bulgaria, and Russia for construction of a gas pipeline from Burgas on the
Black Sea to Alexandropolis to transport Caspian Sea oil.
Bulgaria's EU Association Agreement came into effect in 1994, and
Bulgaria formally applied for full EU membership in December 1995. In 1996,
Bulgaria acceded to the Wassenaar Arrangement controlling exports of weapons
and sensitive technology to countries of concern and also was admitted to the
World Trade Organization. Bulgaria is a member of the Zangger Committee and the
Nuclear Suppliers Group. After a period of equivocation under a socialist
government, in March 1997 a UDF-led caretaker cabinet applied for full NATO
membership, which the current government is pursuing as a priority.
Bulgaria joined NATO's Partnership for Peace in 1994 and applied
for NATO membership in 1997. It is working toward NATO compatibility in
communications and training, and has established a Peacekeeping Training
Center. In 1999, Bulgaria inaugurated the headquarters of the Multinational
Peacekeeping Force Southeast Europe.
U.S.-Bulgarian bilateral relations improved dramatically with the
fall of communism in 1989. The United States moved quickly to encourage
development of a multi-party democracy and a market economy. Initial progress
was rapid, leading to full normalization of bilateral political and trade ties.
A trade agreement was signed in 1991 and a bilateral investment treaty in 1992.
The U.S. accorded Bulgaria unconditional most-favored-nation trade status in
1996. In 1998, the U.S. was Bulgaria's third-largest investor, with investments
of $148 million. There is active bilateral military cooperation, including a
linkage between the Bulgarian military and the Tennessee National Guard.
Bulgaria hosts the only fully American university in the region, the American
University of Bulgaria in Blagoevgrad, established in 1991 and drawing students
from throughout southeast Europe and beyond. The American College of Sofia, a
high school founded in the 1860s and closed under communism, reopened in 1992.
In 1989, the U.S. Congress passed the Support for East European
Democracies Act (SEED), authorizing financial support to facilitate the
development of democratic institutions, political pluralism, and free market
economies in the region. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
administers the SEED programs in Bulgaria under the guidance of the U.S.
ambassador. Bulgaria has received more than $290 million in SEED assistance as
of 1999, along with an additional $60 million in food programs and a
$15-million endowment for the American University in Bulgaria. Much of USAID's
assistance focuses on strengthening non-governmental organizations and other
grassroots initiatives, promoting the private sector, and enhancing local
government effectiveness and accountability. An additional $25 million has been
pledged for budget support due to losses incurred during the Kosovo crisis.
In addition, the Peace Corps, with 106 volunteers in Bulgaria as
of 1999, offers assistance in English-language instruction, small business
centers, and environmental protection programs. The Department of Defense
provides monetary and professional assistance through several programs,
including the Joint Contact Team Program, Partnership for Peace, International
Military Education and Training, Excess Defense Articles, Foreign Military
Financing, and humanitarian assistance. Bulgaria serves as coordinator for the
South Balkan Development Initiative, which is funded through the U.S. Trade and
Development Agency to promote infrastructure development in Bulgaria, Albania,
and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador -- Richard M. Miles
Deputy Chief of Mission --
Political and Economic Counselor -- Steven L. Blake
USAID Country Director -- John Grant
Agricultural Officer -- Holly
Public Affairs Officer -- James W. Hutcheson
Defense Attache --
Col. Barry Shade
Commercial Officer -- Richard Kanter
Officer -- William Loskott
Consular Officer -- Laurence Tobey
Security Officer -- David T. Schnorbus
Peace Corps Director -- Perdita
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
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provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and Public
Announcements. Consular Information Sheets exist for all countries and
include information on entry requirements, currency regulations, health
conditions, areas of instability, crime and security, political disturbances,
and the addresses of the U.S. posts in the country. Travel Warnings are
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a
certain country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to
disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively
short-term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by calling
the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand system:
202-647-3000. Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings also are
available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page:
http://travel.state.gov. Consular Affairs
Tips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on obtaining
passports and planning a safe trip abroad are on the internet and hard copies
can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing
Office, telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. For
after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-4000.
Passport information can be obtained by calling the National
Passport Information Center's automated system ($.35 per minute) or live
operators 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number
is 1-900-225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat
rate of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648). It also is
available on the internet.
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at
877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and a web site at
give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or
requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and
countries. A booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS
publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government Printing
Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to travelers
also may be obtained before your departure from a country's embassy and/or
consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal Government Officials"
listing in this publication).
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous
areas are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country
(see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). This may
help family members contact you in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on
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policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; daily
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foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an
annual basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the
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foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact the Superintendent
of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA
15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S.
Department of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related
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NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.