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Bulgaria Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

There is an elevated risk that the government coalition, led by the centre-right GERB party, does not complete its full four-year term ending in 2021. Government instability risk stems from reoccurring corruption-related scandals involving politicians from the ruling coalition, and leadership battles within GERB and its junior coalition partner, the UP. Ministerial resignations are probable.The government is likely to pursue orthodox economic policies to stimulate business activity and attract foreign investment, emphasising preservation of the low corporate tax environment and balanced budgets. However, the business environment is likely to continue suffering from heavy administrative burdens and corruption risks. Policy reversal, especially on environmental and social issues, is likely in response to civil protests.Bulgaria currently is preparing to join the Eurozone's financial sector oversight – the banking union – at the same time as it enters the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II (ERM-II), the two-year interim arrangement required before full Eurozone entry. Our baseline forecast is that Bulgaria will enter ERM-II by 2022 and adopt the euro in 2023 at the earliest. Private consumption and fixed investment will remain the main drivers of growth, gaining momentum following gradual, modestly paced recovery from the 2009 global recession, and being boosted by the inflow of EU structural funds. A wide domestic output gap and elevated unemployment had weighed on real incomes, but the recently improving labour market is now pushing up real wages, supporting household budgets. Exports will continue to hinder growth, reflecting the slowdown in key export markets.There is an elevated risk of construction delays or contract cancellations given the inconsistent regulatory framework, corruption allegations, environmental protests, court challenges, and inadequate enforcement of regulation. Local contractors are likely to be favoured when awarding procurement contracts. Corruption risks remain high, posing barriers to entry for foreign companies and reputational and business disruption risks after entering market.
Last update: December 5, 2019

Operational Outlook

Road and rail infrastructure quality remains below the EU average, with much modernisation needed in some regions, especially for rail. Governments are likely to continue prioritising infrastructure projects, but regulatory constraints and corruption are likely to lead to slow progress. Priority projects include rail lines refurbishment, a rail connection from Sofia to Skopje, North Macedonia, a tunnel under the Balkan Mountains, and the Hemus motorway. Attracting foreign direct investment and EU funds for such projects is a priority. The labour force is relatively cheap, and there is a low risk of long and disruptive strikes. There is a high risk of political corruption.

Last update: November 5, 2019

Terrorism

Elevated

Close co-operation with the US, troop contributions in Afghanistan (about 160 troops under the Resolute Support mission), weapons' sale to the Middle East, and an influx of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere have increased the likelihood of domestic Muslim radicalisation, but home-grown terrorist risk remains low. The overall terrorist threat is lower than in Western Europe. In 2016, parliament passed legislative measures intended to strengthen prevention and enforcement tools. However, the capacity of law-enforcement bodies and specialised courts on organised crime and terrorism remains questionable amid high corruption risks, including among security officials, and lack of a successful record in combating organised crime.

Last update: October 11, 2019

Crime

Bulgaria has a persistent problem with organised crime. However, violent incidents are rare and there is a low likelihood of injury to bystanders. Extortion demands are probable, especially in tourist resorts. Governments have made efforts to tackle the issue, but the risk of extortion is likely to persist. Bulgaria is an important transition country for smugglers of hard drugs, counterfeit products, and people. The government is keen to join the Schengen zone, the EU’s free-movement area, but this has repeatedly been blocked by various other member states, which have cited concerns over organised crime and corruption. Increased cyber-crime capabilities pose a threat to businesses, particularly financial institutions.

Last update: December 6, 2019

War Risks

Bulgaria's relations with its neighbours are expected to remain peaceful. Although military conflict with Russia is highly unlikely, relations with Moscow have been somewhat strained because of Russia's opposition to Bulgaria's defence co-operation with the US. In 2015, NATO opened a regional co-ordinating unit in Bulgaria. Bulgaria will participate in NATO military exercises in the Black Sea as part of the Alliance strategy to establish a deterrence capability against Russia along its eastern flank. This elevates the risk of maritime incidents between military and potentially commercial vessels, which could lead to transport disruption. Exploratory cyber attacks against governmental websites or CNI assets are likely.

Last update: October 11, 2019

Social Stability

Elevated

Environmental demonstrations attracting up to several thousand people are likely in capital Sofia and other big cities, causing traffic disruption of up to a day. Anti-government protests of up to a few thousand people are probable in Sofia, remaining peaceful and causing transport disruption for up to a day. Union-supported protests by public sector employees, usually leading to road closures in Sofia, are also likely. They often occur in the run-up to legislative amendments on social or taxation issues. Protests by far-right groups pose moderate risk of physical attacks, such as beatings, causing injury to refugees and people perceived as representing minorities.

Last update: November 5, 2019

Health Risk

Very high

Vaccines Required to Enter the Country

No vaccinations are required to enter the country.

Vaccines Recommended for All Travelers

Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary).

Vaccines Recommended for Most Travelers

Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.

Vaccines Recommended for Some Travelers

Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.

Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).

Last update: April 5, 2019

Natural Risks

Very high

Bulgaria is situated in an active seismic zone. In May 2014, a strong earthquake (6.9 on the Richter scale) struck under the Aegean Sea, shaking the country, and hospitalizing 300 in neighboring Turkey. In 2015, a 4.2 magnitude earthquake took place outside Sliven and a 3.8 magnitude earthquake off the Black Sea coast.

The country is known to experience severe weather from time to time. Snowstorms may severely disrupt travel and cause power outages during winter.

Flooding occurs in the spring and winter. Insufficient infrastructures in small towns and villages makes them more prone to flooding. In February 2015, two people were killed while rail and road traffic was several disrupted when floods hit the country. Melting snow and heavy rain increase the water level of reservoirs and rivers and leads to overflowing. In June 2014, flash floods and mud slides due to overflowing led to 11 deaths in Varna. For regular updates regarding weather alert you may visit the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology. 

Wildfires are frequent in mountain areas during summer and tend to be concentrated in Sofia, Haskovo, Sliven, Yambol, and Tazgrad. Summers can be particularly hot and heatwaves can cause transportation and health issues. In late July 2014, temperatures reached 37°C (100°F).

Last update: April 5, 2019

Transportation

Moderate

Roads are in mediocre condition throughout the country. Aside from main highways that have been renovated in recent years, most of the Bulgarian road network is underdeveloped. Secondary roads are very poorly maintained. The ongoing construction and innovation process causes heavy traffic and often lead to road accidents. Traffic lights often blink yellow late at night, giving confusing right-of-way signals, that contribute to accidents.

Bulgaria ranks high among countries in road fatalities. Around 10 people per 100,000 individuals were killed on the road in 2015 in Bulgaria.

Fake security checkpoints are regularly reported. Be vigilant and pay attention; security forces' vehicles are Opel Astras and are marked with insignias. It is illegal for police officers to demand a fine be paid on the spot in Bulgaria; it is considered extortion. If arrested at a checkpoint, ask for a receipt and note the name of the police officer down.

Inner-city buses are frequent and relatively timely. Sofia's Metro is modern and relatively safe.

Individuals should only use official taxi companies, including OK Supertrains in Sofia, Trans Taxi in Varna, and Eko Taxi in Burgas. Upon arrival at the airport, if airport transportation has not already been organized, it is recommended to order a taxi at the desk of official taxi companies inside the airport instead of hailing one outside.

Airline transportation is reliable; the national carrier, Bulgaria Air, complies with the safety standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization. Strict security controls have been introduced since the July 2012 terrorist attack in Burgas airport. Be at the airport at least two hours before takeoff.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Telecommunications

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information

Climate

Bulgaria's climate is continental and varies by elevation. Winters are harsh and snowy, with snowstorms frequent in the mountains until May. Summers are hot and dry with occasional evening thunderstorms. Rain is most common in the spring and autumn months.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +359
Police: 166
UAS: 150

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: April 5, 2019