Bulgaria's June election resulted in a victory for the country's deposed king, Simeon II. The King's campaign promises raised hopes that Bulgaria will find its place in the world economy.
Under previous administrations, most recently the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), the government introduced a currency board, won the support of international financial institutions, and introduced crucial structural reforms. These changes resulted in promising economic indicators, but the stability of the country and its ability to maintain this level of progress will be one of the biggest challenges facing the new government.
The geographic location of Bulgaria certainly works to its advantage. Ten countries with a combined population of over 60 million people lie within a 310-mile radius of Sofia, the nation's capital. The country shares borders with Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Republic of Macedonia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Serbia, and Montenegro to the west. The Danube separates Bulgaria from Romania to the north and provides a direct link to Central and Western Europe. The Black Sea provides its natural eastern border and offers sea access to Ukraine, Russia, and the Mediterranean.
ECONOMIC TRANSITION CONTRIBUTES TO DECLINING POPULATION Preliminary results from Bulgaria's March 2001 census places the country's population at 7,977,646, or 8,149,500 if you include "people who have left the country for more than a year." The figures represent a drop of more than 500,000 when compared to the 1992 census results. The National Statistical Institute attributes this drop to emigration and a reduced birthrate due to the nation's hardship during years of economic transition.
The number of births dropped from 10.4 per thousand in 1992 to nine per thousand in 2000, while the mortality rate increased from 12.6 per thousand to 14 per thousand during the same period. Women account for 51.3 percent of the population. The average age of the population in 2000 was 39.5 years, an increase from 37.5 years in 1990. The average age of Bulgaria's urban population is 37.9, and its average age in rural areas is 44.1 years.
Ivan Balev, Chairman of the Central Census Commission, noted that the depopulation of Bulgaria's rural areas is the result of hopes that a better life can be found in the cities. At present, 69 percent of the country's residents live in towns and cities. Preliminary results indicate that 14.9 percent of the population lives in...