Bulgaria is located in southeast Europe and borders Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey. The capital as well as the largest city in Bulgaria, Sofia, is home to over 1.2 million inhabitants. Despite the increasing life expectancy at birth, Bulgaria’s population is slowly declining. It is estimated that the total population of Bulgaria has decreased by half a million inhabitants over the past decade. In 2016, Bulgaria was ranked high among the nations with the highest population decline, however, it is not among the leading 20 countries in 2016. In addition, it is estimated that the total population in Bulgaria will decline further to approximately 5.8 million in 2050.
After the Second World War and prior to becoming a member of the European Union, NATO, and the Council of Europe, Bulgaria was a satellite of the Soviet Union. Becoming a member of the European Union was not easy for Bulgaria; before joining in 2007, Bulgaria was tormented by corruption and organized crime. Today, corruption is still the main cause of nation-wide protests: In early 2013, the perception that the government had close ties to foreign-owned privatized monopolies, which led to an increase in the fuel costs, sparked violent protests.
Bulgaria’s economy has been unstable and weak for the past decade. In 2013, the unemployment rate in Bulgaria was over 13 percent, and was still at over 7.5 percent in 2016, but is estimated to decline slightly in the next years. The economic sector responsible for the highest share of total employment in Bulgaria is the services economic sector, while the share of the agricultural sector, once one of the country's main economic pillars, is constantly declining. Bulgaria’s economic weakness is a result of the large trade deficit, which reached its peak in 2008, when the country reported a trade deficit of more than 14.5 billion U.S. dollars. Since then, however, the trade balance in Bulgaria seems to recover slowly with the deficit decreasing in recent years. Until now, it has been reduced to less than a fifth of the 2008 figure.
But there are some silver linings to Bulgarian economy: Despite the high unemployment rate, it is estimated that gross domestic product per capita in Bulgaria has been on the rise for the past ten years. Still, the inflation rate, estimated to recover from a three-year deflation in 2017, is anything but stable.
All in all, Bulgaria is an emerging market with a promising future.
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