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A look at Bulgaria ahead of European Union entry

A look at Bulgaria ahead of European Union entry

Facts and figures of Bulgaria's history, politics and economy.
_LOCATION:
Bulgaria, a country with an area of 110,000 square kilometers (42,500 square miles), is located at the southeastern corner of the Balkan peninsula. It borders the Black Sea to the east, Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, and Turkey and Greece to the south.
_POPULATION:
7.8 million, including a 800,000-strong ethnic Turkish minority, and some 350,000 ethnic Roma, or Gypsies. About 1.3 million people live in the capital, Sofia.
_RELIGION:
About 82 percent are Orthodox Christians, 12 percent are Muslim. The rest are small communities of eastern rite Catholics, Jews, and nonbelievers.
_HISTORY:
Bulgaria was founded as a state in 681 by the union of tribes migrating from Asia to Europe with local Slavic tribes. The first Bulgarian state was pagan, but in 864 under King Boris I it adopted Christianity as its official religion.
Bulgaria was one of the most powerful medieval countries in eastern Europe alongside Byzantium until 1393, when it was conquered by the invading Ottoman Turks.
The country won its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878 with the international agreements that put an end to the 1877-1878 war between Russia and the Ottomans.
In World War II, Bulgaria sided with Nazi Germany, and in 1944 it was occupied by the Soviet army, which helped install a Communist-led government.
The Communist regime collapsed in 1989, and the country undertook painful political, social and economic reforms meant to transform it from a totalitarian state-controlled economy into a market-oriented democracy.
_CONSTITUTION:
Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic. The president is the head of state and is elected every five years, but real power rests with the 240-member National Assembly, or parliament, and the prime minister.
_GOVERNMENT:
Bulgaria is run by a three-party coalition government led by Socialist Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev. It also includes the liberal party of Bulgaria's ex-king Simeon Saxcoburggotski and a small mainly ethnic Turkish party.
The government enjoys a comfortable majority in parliament against a fragmented right-wing opposition of several tiny parties and the ultra-nationalist party Ataka.
_FOREIGN POLICY:
Bulgaria joined NATO in April 2004.
In 1995, it applied for European Union membership and in started entry talks with the bloc in 1999. Earlier this year, the EU decided to allow Bulgaria to join on January 1, 2007.
_ECONOMY:
Bulgaria has enjoyed strong economic growth and a steady flow of foreign investment in recent years that turned it into one of the fastest-growing European economies.
The Economy is expected to grow by 5.5 percent, according to official projections, but the International Monetary Fund has said it expected real GDP growth to reach 6.2 percent in 2006 and to remain at a similar level in 2007.
Average annual inflation is expected to top 6 percent this year, but next year the government will count on an average annual inflation rate of 4.4 percent.
Unemployment rate this year dropped below 9 percent _ a record low since August 1991.
Bulgaria's economic boom, however, has yet to translate into personal wealth for ordinary people. With an average wage of euro180 (US$236) a month, Bulgarians will be among the poorest in the EU.


Updated : 2020-12-02 12:36 GMT+08:00