Bulgaria

A foreigner's perspective
Whether you plan a brief visit or a stay of longer duration in Bulgaria, you will find a country with a fascinating cultural background and well-educated citizens who are striving to deal with their economic problems and improve their standard of living.

Politics
After decades of communist rule, Bulgaria established a new multiparty democracy. The 1991 constitution declared Bulgaria a parliamentary republic, a democracy with freedom of expression, political and religious freedom, free economic initiative and respect for international law. Legislative power is vested in an elected 240-member unicameral parliament, the Narodno Sobranye. Members serve four-year terms. Administrative power is held by the Council of Ministers, appointed by the National Assembly, and led by the prime minister and three deputy prime ministers. The president is elected directly by the voters for a term of five years, and may be re-elected once.

In March of 2004, Bulgaria became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The country has hopes to become a full member of the European Union, although Bulgaria did not meet the criteria to be inducted with the 10 new members who joined in May 2004. Since then, accession negotiations have been concluded, with Bulgaria scheduled to join the EU in 2007. On January 1, 2007, Bulgaria became a full member of the European Union.

Economy
Bulgaria has shifted successfully from a planned economy to a free market economy, with industry, agriculture, and tourism as major sectors. Economic reforms have been introduced, inflation has been reduced, corruption is being confronted, and privatization is being initiated. While keeping close ties with Russia through trade agreements and friendship treaties, Bulgaria forges ahead in its efforts to form closer ties with the European Union.

To this end, the beginning of the millenium saw the government focusing on accelerated privatization, tightening financial policies, and other reforms that led the country to sign the Treaty of Accesssion in 2005. This Treaty set Bulgaria on a course to join the EU, which occurred on the first day of 2007.

The economy, after a contraction in 1989, has seen levels of growth averaging around five percent since 1997. GDP growth for 2006 was nearly six percent, with growth in 2007 expected to be just under five percent.

Key industries and locales
Since the end of World War II, chemicals, machinery, metals, and textiles have become mainstays of Bulgaria's economy. Westerners, however, may be more familiar with such delicate exports as Bulgaria's inexpensive and delicious wines, its dark and aromatic tobaccos, and rose attar, an essential oil for perfume, the country's oldest industry. Foreign travelers are increasingly discovering Bulgaria's tourist attractions, both on the Black Sea and in the mountains.

Bulgaria's business center, Sofia, is one of Europe's oldest capitals. This ancient city in the western part of the country gracefully combines 2,000-year-old Roman ruins and wide Parisian-style boulevards with a bracing capitalist tempo of business life. The city of Plovdiv is a thousand years older than Sofia It is a lively manufacturing and trading center, with an historic center filled with Roman ruins and 19th century Bulgarian National Revival houses.


Sofia

Official Name: Republic of Bulgaria
Capital City: Sofia
Type of Government: Parliamentary Democracy
Official Languages: Bulgarian
Area: 110,910 sq.km/42,823 sq.mi
Population: 7.5 million
Religion: Bulgarian Orthodox (85%), Islamic (13%)
Currency: Lev, plural Leva (Lv or BGN)
Number of Time Zones: 1
Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) plus 2 hours; Eastern Standard Time (EST) plus 7 hours; European Summer Time observed March 31 to Sept. 30
Weights and Measures: Metric system
Country Domain: .bg
Country Tel Code: 359