Population, society and rights
The Bulgarian population has experienced a demographic decline compared to the 1980s, when the country had nearly nine million citizens. Today they have dropped to just over seven million and it is estimated that, by 2020, Bulgarians could drop to seven million. The phenomenon is directly linked to emigration: between the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s many Turks were forced to leave the country and since the beginning of the post-communist transition, net migration has always been negative (from the peak of 70,000 emigrants between 1990 and 1995 to 10,000 between 2005 and 2010). For Bulgaria society, please check homosociety.com.
There are three main ethnic groups in Bulgaria: Bulgarians (85% of the population), Turks (about 9%) and Roma (5%).
There is also a Macedonian minority that is not counted at the official level. Different languages and religions correspond to ethnic groups. The Orthodox represent 84% of the population, Muslims are 13% and Catholics 2%. There are also Protestant and Jewish minorities. The link between ethnic groups and religions is not linear since the Roma are both Christians and Muslims; a minority of Bulgarians is also Muslim.
Although freedom of religion is protected by the Constitution, ethnic and religious minorities are nevertheless discriminated against. Among these, the most affected are the Roma communities, poorly represented politically and repeatedly subject to xenophobic demonstrations and among the major victims of illegal trafficking in persons. The education sector was affected by the reduction in funds available in the post-Soviet era, with a consequent slight deterioration in its quality (expenditure on education slightly exceeds 4% of GDP). However, access to education is growing: the number of graduates is increasing (today they represent more than a quarter of the workforce). Women remain underrepresented in politics; in the 2009 elections they gained 21% of seats in parliament. In those of 2014 they represented 24% of the candidates. While freedom of expression is a right enshrined in the Constitution and generally respected, a critical aspect concerns the independence of the Bulgarian media, partially compromised by political and economic pressures. Most newspapers belong to banks or private companies, while advertising from government and public enterprises is a major source of income, which pushes journalists to self-censor.
Corruption and organized crime are still widespread. In Transparency International’s ranking on perceived corruption, Bulgaria is the penultimate EU country after Greece. Important, in this sense, are the constitutional amendments introduced in 2015 by the executive following pressure from Brussels to reform the judicial system and make it more independent from politics, in order to facilitate its action in the fight against corruption and organized crime.
Economy and energy
Eight years after its entry into the European Union, Bulgaria remains the poorest country in the EU. With an average wage of around 400 euros per month, a per capita income of 18,327 dollars a year, moderate GDP growth(only 1.2% in 2014) and a third of the population living below the poverty line, Sofia has failed to improve the general living conditions of the population. In the nineties, in the phase of economic reconversion, the country went through recurring crises. However, between 2003 and 2008 the Bulgarian economy experienced a strong recovery, growing at an average rate of over 5.5% per year, only to experience a setback in 2009, during the global economic crisis. Public finances have also been rearranged over the past decade and a series of fiscal surpluses have reduced the country’s debt from 70% of GDP.in 2000 to 14.1% in 2008, to then undergo an increase over the last five years, settling at 29%, also thanks to the economic crisis.
The composition of the economy has slowly changed, passing from a clear pre-eminence of the Soviet industry in 1989 to the current prevalence of the service sector (which accounts for about 66% of the national GDP). The conversion has generated a high unemployment rate (12.9%), which has plagued the country for fifteen years and which, with the international economic crisis, has now exceeded the double figure.
Bulgaria has had constant trade balance deficits, mainly due to the fact that its economic system depends to a large extent on the import of energy. It is no coincidence that Bulgarian exports are mainly directed to EU countries and are made up of finished or semi-finished products, while imports come mainly from Russia and are made up of hydrocarbons (almost all of the gas consumed by the country is Russian). Despite the need to import energy, Bulgaria is still dependent on foreign countries for only 36% of its internal energy consumption. This happens because the country, in addition to producing about 40% of the coal consumed, also has a nuclear power plant that satisfies 22.5% of its energy consumption.
On the other hand, among the conditions imposed by the European Union at the entry of Bulgaria there was the request for the closure, for safety reasons, of two of the four reactors of the Kozloduy plant, on the Danube. The power generation of the plant has thus decreased, since 2006, from 45% to about 35% of the total national electricity production. The project to build a new nuclear power plant in Belene has ended due to the financial crisis and a gas power plant will be built in its place, increasing national dependence on energy imports.
Economy GDP Corridors Energy mix