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Located on the Balkan peninsula in southeast Europe, Bulgaria lies on the Black Sea. The transition from a satellite of the Soviet Union was troubled and marked by political instability and widespread corruption. Discrimination against Roma children is among the most prominent violations of children’s rights in the country.
Located on the Balkan peninsula in southeast Europe, Bulgaria borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south and the Black Sea to the East. Its capital and largest city is Sofia.
Population and Language
The country has a population of 7.4 million,, though over the last decade, this figure has decreased by almost 600,000. Two thirds of the decrease is due to negative natural growth and one third as a result of emigration . Nearly three quarters of the population lives in the cities.
Bulgarian is the official language and it is spoken by the vast majority of the population.
History and Politics
A Bulgarian state was first established in its present location in the seventh century. After prolonged periods of Byzantine and Ottoman rule, the modern Bulgarian state was founded in 1878 in the form of a principality. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Bulgaria abolished its monarchy and became a Soviet state as a satellite of the USSR. Upon the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, democratic reforms took place, and the first post-soviet elections were held in 1990.
Since the passage of the Constitution of 1991, Bulgaria has been a parliamentary republic. The centre-right wing Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (CEDB) Party, established in 2006 and led by current prime Minister Boyko Borisov, has been the largest party in the Parliament since the 2009 parliamentary elections, though the Party does not hold a majority. The President and Vice-President, elected in 2011, are CEDB-supported Rosen Plevneliev and Margarita Popova, both former Ministers from the Borisov Cabinet.
The European Commission Report on Bulgaria, issued in July 2012, identified organised crime and corruption as two of the most pressing social problems and urged the government to take steps to reform the judicial system and ensure the efficacy of the judicial process .
Bulgaria has a free market economy with a large private sector. It uses its own currency (lev) which is pegged to the Euro. There has been a rise in foreign investment since the accession to the European Union and the state registered a steady rate of economic growth at the time. However; Bulgaria remains among the States with the lowest GDP per capita in the European Union . The biggest economy sectors include: agriculture, mining and metallurgy, food processing, energy and tourism. The rate of unemployment is at about 12 per cent .
Media and Civil Society
Freedom of the press is guaranteed by art. 40 of the Constitution, but commentators have been critical of restrictions on media freedom in practice. Reporters Without Borders (RWB) rated the country 80th out of 179 in its Press Freedom Index of 2011-2012, a ranking indicating “noticeable problems” and one that has fallen every year since 2006 . Freedom House has also reported of cases in which journalists are subject to intimidation and even physical attacks for political, economical or criminal interests. The conditions in the country and the combination of impunity for those who carry out the intimidatory practices, low-paid journalists and weak professional associations, lead to a climate of self-censorship . Although the Freedom of Information Act provides for a right to information, freedom of information requests are often delayed and access is restricted.
Human Rights and Children’s Rights
Human Rights organisations and international human rights mechanisms have raised a range of concerns with regards to human rights standards in Bulgaria. Widespread discrimination against the Roma population, is almost universally recognised, and the UN Treaty Bodies have particularly drawn attention to the discrimination facing Roma children in access to education and healthcare . In May 2012, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the the practice of evicting Roma families from communities outside Sofia constituted a violation of the right to life. The European Roma Rights Centre has also continued to report on violence against Roma people, including 14 incidents in the twelve months leading up to July 2012 .
Amnesty International has also raised concerns over the lack of transparency in the appointment of high judicial officials, compromising the principle of an independent tribunals, and that the right of a speedy trial has not been observed. Reports have also emerged of excessive use of force and harassment and ill-treatment by police and accounts of ill-treatment of people with mental disabilities . The detention of children as part of the asylum process is also an matter of ongoing concern in the country .
- (National Statistical Institute)
- European Commission, “Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the progress in Bulgaria under the Cooperation and Verification mechanism” 18 July 2012
- Eurostat, “GDP per capita in the Members States ranged from 45 per cent to 274 per cent of the EU27 average in 2011” 20 June 2012
- Eurostat, “August 2012: Euro area unemployment rate at 11.4%, EU27 at 10.5%” 1 October 2012
- Reporters Without Borders, “Press Freedom Index 2006-2012”
- Freedom House, “Freedom of the Press 2012: Bulgaria”
- CRIN, “BULGARIA: Children's rights in the UN Treaty Body reports” 24 April 2012
- European Roma Rights Centre, “Attacks against Roma in Hungary, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic” 15 July 2012
- Amnesty International, “World Report 2012: The state of the Worlds human rights”
- Al Jazeera, “BULGARIA: Asylum seekers routinely jailed” 11 November 2011