The industrial sector accounts for just under one third of the economy and employs just over one third of the labor force. The metal industry and the manufacture of machinery and vehicles dominated in the past, while the manufacture of textiles, electronics and pharmaceuticals has grown since the turn of the millennium.
Heavy industry was given priority when industrialization came to Bulgaria with the communist takeover of power in the 1940s. It was not until the 1980s that investments were made in the engineering and biochemical industries. The production was focused on exports to the Soviet Union, which supplied the Bulgarian industry with fuel and raw materials.
After the fall of communism in 1989, production fell sharply when state aid was cut, and raw materials and energy had to be bought at world market prices. The industry was also unable to compete with its products on the world market, and many companies were forced to strike again. Manufacturers of electronics and machinery and the defense industry were most affected.
The Bulgarian industry included many large state companies that were mostly unprofitable. During the first years after 1989, smaller companies mainly went into private ownership, but from 1997 the rate of privatization increased. By the turn of the millennium, almost the entire manufacturing industry had acquired private owners.
- COUNTRYAAH: List of top trading partners of Bulgaria. Includes countries that imported most shipments from and exported most goods to the country.
Foreign trade is central to the Bulgarian economy. Bulgaria is dependent on imports of both raw materials and fuel, and therefore has a trade deficit abroad.
During the communist regime, the state had a monopoly on foreign trade, which was then operated within the eastern bloc. During the 1990s, trade against the EU countries, which now receives almost half of Bulgarian exports, was postponed. Turkey is also an important exporting country, while Russia’s largest importing country is due to oil and gas imports.
Bulgaria has long been slow to attract foreign direct investment compared to other countries in Eastern and Central Europe. In connection with the EU accession in 2007, direct investment began to flow in, but the global financial turmoil and the crisis in the euro area countries subsequently caused the flow to slow down.
Bulgaria’s foreign debt is among the lowest in the EU.
FACTS – FOREIGN TRADE
US $ 32,253 million (2018)
US $ 34,935 million (2018)
US $ 2,959 million (2018)
Commodity trade’s share of GDP
109 percent (2018)
Main export goods
clothing and shoes, metals and metal products, chemicals, plastics and rubber
Largest trading partner
Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey, Greece
Bulgaria can offer tourists sun and swimming on the Black Sea, winter skiing, game hunting and ecotourism in the mountains and forests. There are also health resorts and historical destinations.
During the Communist years, the country was a popular destination for holidaymakers in the Eastern Bloc. The tourism industry has grown sharply since the 1970s when Westerners began to travel there as well. By the end of the 1990s, most state tourism facilities were sold. Investments were initiated to, among other things, raise the standard and improve service.
The UN agency Unesco has put seven cultural sights and two natural areas in Bulgaria on its World Heritage list.
Tourism is an important part of the country’s economy and is estimated to provide 170,000 people with jobs. Since the turn of the millennium, the tourist flow to Bulgaria has increased. Most are the visitors from Romania, Turkey, Greece and Germany.
FACTS – TOURISM
Number of foreign visitors per year
8 252 000 (2016)
4164 000 000 US dollars (2016)
The share of tourist income from exports
12.3 percent (2016)
The president forms a political movement
Georgi Parvanov announces that he formed the Bulgarian Renewal Option. As president, Parvanov is not entitled to belong to any party, but he says it is not a political party and that it should not take part in elections.
The former prime minister is being charged with carelessness
Socialist leader Sergei Stanisev is being prosecuted for stealing secret documents during his time as prime minister (2005–2009). He denies the allegations and says they are politically motivated. The documents must have contained important information on corruption and other crime. Stanisev is released in December 2016 from the charges.
The Foreign Minister in question resigns
Foreign Minister Rumjana Zjeleva resigns and withdraws her nomination for the post of EU Commissioner, since her competence has been called into question. New Foreign Minister becomes former Minister of Defense Nikolaj Mladenov, and new Minister of Defense becomes Anju Angelov.