HUMAN AND ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
South-eastern European state, in the north-eastern sector of the Balkan peninsula. The population, which at the 2001 census was equal to 7,932,984 residents, according to a 2005 estimate has dropped to 7,726,000. The demographic decline, which has affected the country since the end of the 1980s, is due to the sum of two factors: a negative natural balance (- 4.6 ‰ in 2005), since a low birth rate (9.6 ‰) are matched by high mortality rates (14.2 ‰), due to the progressive aging of the population, and an equally negative migratory balance (- 4.3‰). The latter is fueled by two currents of emigration: that of the members of the Turkish minority, based above all in Dobruja and the region of the Rhodope Mountains, and which in 2001 still represented over 9 % of the total population, and that of young Bulgarian labor, culturally and professionally prepared. The urban population represents almost 70 % of the total, with a certain imbalance in the distribution on the territory. Numerous new cities emerged during the fifties and sixties of the 20th century. they exceeded 50,000 residents in the late nineties. In 2005 the capital, Sofia, welcomed over one million residents, who rose to 1,250,000 considering the urban agglomeration. Other important poles of the country’s settlement network are Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas.
According to ebizdir, after the difficult years associated with the fall of the communist regime and questionable decisions on economic and financial policy, in the early years of the 21st century, thanks also to the aid of the International Monetary Fund and a vast program of structural reforms, the country showed good resilience: in 2003 GDP growth was 4.3 %, inflation 2.3 % and budget deficit limited to 0.5% of GDP. This positive economic trend, however, still showed little impact on the average standard of living; real wages have had modest increases, entirely absorbed by the rise in prices (especially of essential services, such as water and electricity). The further recovery of purchasing power was then hindered by the monetary austerity policy imposed by the International Monetary Fund. Another obstacle is represented by the high unemployment rate, also due to the fact that the production structure of Bulgaria requires massive interventions and numerous privatizations: both, carried out according to the foreseen deadlines, had the final outcome. a drastic cut in jobs. On the other hand, the implementation of a2004 to lower the percentage of unemployed to 13.2 %. Also in 2004, GDP grew by 4.4 %, the budget deficit increased slightly (1.4 % of GDP), but the debt is gradually decreasing (35 % of GDP). The 75 about the value added% produced in the country is now required from private sources, while the growth rate of industrial production has maintained in the early years of the new century high, exceeding 14 % in 2003 and 2004, and, according to some estimates, to 12 % in 2005.
Thanks to the positive economic trend, in the early 2000s there was an increase in foreign investments, facilitated by favorable tax policies and attracted by the prospect of the country’s integration into the European Union (operational since Jan. 1, 2007). The process of joining the EU is accompanied, as in the case of the other countries in the area, by structural reforms and policies aimed at harmonizing with EU regulations. On the monetary front, the national currency has been pegged to the European one, and the Bulgarian Central Bank now has limited room for maneuver, which at this stage is focused on controlling liquidity and, through drainage operations, on inflation. Exports played an important role among the driving forces of the economy (+ 13.1 % in 2004), which have been favored by the increased competitiveness of some products. Despite the progress, however, the trade balance remained in heavy deficit, to limit which Bulgaria signed a support agreement with the International Monetary Fund for the period prior to integration into the European Union. Russia is a major source of imports, especially for energy products: it supplies oil and gas, and the Bulgarian petrochemical sector itself is largely in the hands of a Russian giant in the sector. Other important commercial partners of Bulgaria are, for imports, Germany, Italy (10.2 % of the total in 2003), Greece and Turkey, while for exports the ranking sees Italy first, which receives 14% of the total, followed by Germany, Greece, Turkey and Belgium.
Although marked by important advances in foreign policy, the years at the turn of the 21st century. they saw the Balkan country engaged in a difficult process of renewing political institutions and modernizing the economic structure. The support for the military intervention of NATO in Yugoslavia (1999) earned Bulgaria the gratitude of the United States and the prospect of integration into NATO, to favor which the Bulgarian government launched a radical reform of the army. In September of the same year, the headquarters of the South-Eastern Europe Brigade, the first multilateral peacekeeping force in South-Eastern Europe, established the previous year in Skopje, was established in Plovdiv. In November 1999 the country undertook to close the Kozloduj nuclear power plant early (by 2003), thus taking an important diplomatic step towards opening negotiations for integration into the European Union. On the regional level, a significant result was achieved by the Bucharest summit (February 2000), with the signing of a ‘good neighborly charter’ between Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia and Turkey; on the same occasion a cooperation agreement was signed between Bulgaria and Romania, in order to accelerate their entry into the EU, and the construction of a bridge over the Danube between the two countries was decided. In March 2001B. offered NATO the use of its territory for possible peacekeeping operations, and in the autumn made the port of Varna available as a base for military operations in Afghānistān. Furthermore, in April of the same year, the requirement of a visa for entry into the countries of the Schengen area was officially abolished for Bulgarian citizens.
On the domestic level, the relatively positive economic balance of the country did not, however, prevent a significant increase in the unemployment rate between 1999 and 2001, caused by the closure of several companies in deficit. The stunted success of the majority party, the Union of Democratic Forces (UFD), in the local elections of October 1999 (31.3 % of the votes, against 29.4 % obtained by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, PSB), led to the first Minister I. Kostov to carry out a radical overhaul of the government, an effort thwarted by the accusations of corruption and nepotism made against Kostov and his party (April 2000). The popular discontent aroused by these events was expressed in the parliamentary elections of June 2001, in which 42.7 % of the voters gave their preference to Simeon ii of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, while the UFD and the PSB respectively obtained 18, 2 % and 17.1 %. Returning home from exile in April 2001, the former ruler of the Bulgaria had managed in a short time to obtain broad consensus around himself and the personalistic movement he founded, the National Movement of Simeon II.(MNSII), and in July he was appointed prime minister. The October-November administrative elections, however, already showed a sharp decline in support for the former sovereign’s party, which had not brought the country the promised economic progress and, above all, had proved unable to tackle the problem firmly. organized crime. The decline of Simeon ii and the divisions within the UFD benefited the PSB, led by S. Stanišev, which secured 33 % of the votes (against 11 % of the MNSII and 20 % of the UFD), while in the presidential elections (November) the victory went to the socialist candidate, G. Parvanov (54.1 % in the ballot, against 45.9% obtained from the outgoing president P. Stojanov), who assumed the post of President of the Republic in January 2002. In February 2003, despite widespread popular dissent, the government supported the military intervention in ̔Irāq, providing logistical bases for US forces and sending a military contingent, including 97 chemical and biological weapons specialists. In April 2004, Bulgaria officially became a member of NATO, while, to facilitate the integration process in the EU (which was scheduled to start on Jan. 1, 2007), she promised the definitive closure of the Kozloduj nuclear power plant (some units had been closed in2002); the concerns raised by this decision (the plant supplied 42 % of the electricity) were partly allayed by the announcement (May 2004) of the resumption of construction of the Belene nuclear plant, which was interrupted in 1991. In the parliamentary elections of June 2005, the coalition led by the Socialists obtained 30.9 % (82 seats), outpacing the MNSII (19.8 %, 53 seats), the Movement for Rights and Freedom (MDL; 12.8 %), 34 seats), spokesman for the Turkish minority, and the UFD (7.6 %, 21 seats). The votes also decreed the unexpected affirmation (8.1 %, 21 seats) of the newly formed Ataka coalition (Attack), led by V. Siderov, a movement against the country’s accession to NATO and its integration into the EU, as well as an advocate of a strongly discriminatory policy towards the Turkish minority and the Roma. In August the new governing coalition (PSB, MNSII, MDL) was formed and Stanišev was appointed prime minister.