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Is bulgaria in the EU

Is Bulgaria in the EU?

Bulgaria, also known as the Republic of Bulgaria, is a sovereign state and a European country. Being in Europe doesn't mean though that a country automatically belongs to the European Union (EU). In order to become a member, each country needs to meet specific requirements before applying for the EU membership. Thus, one might wonder: does Bulgaria meet the EU membership requirements? is Bulgaria in the EU? The short answer to "is Bulgaria in the EU" question is - yes.


Is Bulgaria in the EU: a historical perspective

Let's have a quick peek into Bulgaria's history since 1878 to understand how Bulgaria joined the EU.

Long awaited independence

01In 1878 the Bulgarian state was restored, after almost five centuries of Ottoman domination. Not long after that - in 1908, the Bulgaria's independence was officially announced.


On the losing side in World Wars

02After earning their independence, Bulgarians managed to rebuilt their army. After that, Bulgaria found itself fighting three more wars (Balkan War, World War I and II) - in each of them Bulgaria was on the losing side.


Communist rule in Bulgaria

03After the wars and monarchic rules ended, and a move to a plan economy took place during Soviet era, the standard of living in Bulgaria improved significantly by the 1950's. During this time Bulgaria was under communist rule for almost half a century.


Bulgaria on democratic path

04Finally, in the late 1980's democratic change commenced in Bulgaria. Communist Party resigned and Bulgaria set on the path towards a parliamentary democracy and market economy, holding the country's first free elections and adopting a new constitution in 1990.


Bulgaria's efforts to join the EU

Since the beginning of the 1990s, joining the EU became the most important goal for Bulgarian foreign policy. However, Bulgaria's democratic shift with its new constitution didn't boost the economy right away in early 1990's. Only with the introduction of the 1997 reforms the economy began to show signs of improvement. It took another decade for Bulgaria to take the next big leap - join the EU.


Is Bulgaria in the EU: accession timeline

Is Bulgaria in the EU? Yes, eventually, after years of reforms to tackle inflation, unemployment, corruption and crime, Bulgaria officially became the EU member on 1 January 2007.


Bulgaria joining the EU - timeline

  • 1991 - Bulgaria becomes a member of the Council of Europe;
  • 1995 - Bulgarians file an application for the EU accession;
  • 2000 - negotiations regarding the EU accession commence for Bulgarians;
  • 2004 - Bulgaria becomes a NATO member;
  • 2005 - Signing the EU Accession Treaty which gives Bulgaria right to join the EU;
  • 2007 January 1 - Bulgaria officially became a full EU member and was the first country with the Cyrillic alphabet.

Is Bulgaria in the EU: life after accession

Although joining the EU club is a big achievement in the modern history of Bulgaria, the situation in Bulgaria didn't improve as much as it was hoped before the accession. Nonetheless, becoming part of the EU benefited Bulgaria in many ways and set it on a positive path for the future.


Bulgaria in the EU - positive aspects

Bulgarians hold 10 votes in the EU Council (the same number as Austria and Sweden) and has 17 members in the European Parliament. Since joining the EU, Bulgaria has been actively involved in the processes of EU policy making. Thanks to that, the profile of Bulgaria in shaping economic, foreign and security policy in the EU has been raised.

Being part of the EU, allows Bulgaria free movement of people and goods and helps Bulgaria defends its national interest in relations with its non-EU neighbours. EU membership also strengthens Bulgaria's role in the Balkan region: as a foreign partner and is a EU-joining-advocate for the remaining non-EU Balkan countries.

EU membership benefited Bulgarians with a boost to the national trade and economic collaboration with other EU members. Joining the EU is especially beneficial for young Bulgarians - providing them with vast opportunities for studying, working and travelling throughout the EU.


Bulgaria in the EU - difficulties

Bulgaria's adaptation to the new role of the EU member turned out to be a very slow and painful process.

Bulgaria didn't utilise effectively the EU funds that had at its disposal, ranking at the bottom of the EU in this aspect. That led to a paradox situation, where Bulgaria in the first few years after accession contributed more than it received from the EU budget. As a result, Bulgaria lacked financial resources necessary for the country's development. Therefore, it wasn't surprising that in the poll conducted seven years after the EU accession, only about 15% of Bulgarian citizens believed that they benefited from the EU.

Bulgarians hoped that the EU accession will also fix some internal issues that the country was dealing with like political corruption, organised crime or judicial system issues. However, things didn't go as smoothly as hoped and the progress of reforms was additionally hindered by the economic crisis in 2009 - 2010. Some critics also add that Bulgaria joined the EU prematurely, without sufficient preparedness, compared to other members.


Is Bulgaria in the EU: summary

Although Bulgaria is an EU member since 2007, there is still a lot of work ahead for Bulgarians in order to catch up with the rest of the EU and to fully enjoy the advantages that the EU membership provides.


Bulgaria in the EU: quick facts

  • Official name: Republic of Bulgaria;
  • Currency: Bulgarian Lev (BGN);
  • Political system: Parliamentary republic;
  • Independence: since 1908;
  • World Trade Organization member: Yes, since 1996;
  • NATO member: Yes, since 2004;
  • EU member: Yes, since 2007;
  • Schengen area member: No;
  • Seats in the EU Parliament: 17;
  • Votes in the EU Council: 10.