Bulgaria’s Progress of Becoming a Member State of the European Union

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Jack Wheeler

Intro to EU Law

Bruce Carolan

July 24, 2002

Bulgaria’s Progress of Becoming a Member State of the European Union


        Bulgaria is a small country of eight million citizens situated south of the Danube River, and north of Egypt with 130 km of beaches along the Black Sea.   The largest part of the population is urban.  85% of Bulgarians are Christian Orthodox, whereas 13% of the population practices Islam.   The Bulgarian ethnic group represents 85.8% of the population.   Other major ethnic groups are the Turks (9.7%) and Roma (3.4%).   Founded in 681 Bulgaria is one of the most ancient states on the European continent.   Its rich historic heritage, coupled with beautiful natural scenery is most conducive to the development of tourism.   The country is famous for its Tracian Gold Treasure.   It also boasts nine cultural monuments and natural reserves featuring on the UNESCO list, among which the Rila Monastery, the Boyana Church, the Madara Horseman, and the Pirin National Park.   Bulgaria’s main exports are light industry products, foods and wines, which are successfully competing on European markets.

        Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic.  The Constitution is the supreme law of the country.  The latest Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria was adopted in July of 1991 and features all basic principles of modern constitutionalism.  It provides for a multi-party parliamentary system and free elections on the basis of universal suffrage.  The three branches of power in Bulgaria are the legislative, the executive and the judicial.

        Since the 1996-97 crises, the country has achieved macro-economic stability and has a stable currency board, low basic interest rate, and substantial foreign-exchange reserves.  Real economic growth significantly accelerated from 2.4 percent in 1999 to 5.8 percent in 2000, and this trend has been confirmed by the latest 2001 data (4.5 percent in the first quarter).

Relations between the European Union and Bulgaria

Bulgaria has continued to implement the Europe Agreement correctly and contributed to the smooth functioning of the various joint institutions.   The share of the European Community in Bulgaria’s overall foreign trade dropped from 52.1 % of all exports in 1999 to 51.1% in 2000.  The share of the European Community dropped from 48.4% of all imports in 1999 to 44.0% in 2000.  Bulgaria's main exports to the Community were base metals, textiles and machinery.   While its main imports from the EC were machinery, textiles and chemical products.

Regarding agricultural products, a new agreement on reciprocal concessions with Bulgaria entered into force in July 2000 on an autonomous basis, pending the conclusion of an Additional Protocol to the Europe Agreement.  As a consequence of this agreement, approximately 66 % of traditional EC agricultural imports from Bulgaria are duty-free while 51 % of EC agricultural exports to Bulgaria are exempted from duties.  

Negotiations regarding a free trade agreement on fish and fisheries products are still ongoing.   An anti-dumping complaint relating to imports of urea was lodged in October 2000 against Bulgaria (among other countries).  The investigation was concluded and a provisional price undertaking reached in July 2001.  Definitive anti-dumping duties were imposed in September 2001 on imports of hardboard from Bulgaria (among other countries).

Criteria for Membership

Political Criteria

In its 1997 Opinion, the Commission concluded that Bulgaria had fulfilled most of the political criteria necessary to join the European Union.  Since that time, Bulgaria has made considerable progress in further consolidating and deepening the stability of its institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities.  Over the past year, further efforts have been made in this direction as Bulgaria continues to fulfill the Copenhagen political criteria.  Many employees have civil servant status and there is now a Code of Ethics for Civil Servants.  Further steps are needed to ensure an efficient, transparent and accountable public administration.  The recent adoption by the government of two strategies, one on judicial reform and the other on combating corruption, is a significant development for Bulgaria.  

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The judicial system remains weak and further efforts are needed for it to become strong, independent, effective and professional and able to guarantee full respect for the rule of law as well as effective participation in the internal market.  Corruption has continued to give serious cause for concern.  Enforcing the legal framework effectively presents a challenge and greater focus is needed on prevention of corruption.  There is a need to address police behavior, notably as regards reported cases of ill treatment, which continues to give cause for serious concern in the field of human rights violations.  

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