Bulgaria - Sofia - National Theatre
National Theatre in Sofia. Photo: Alan Grant

This section offers more than 150 key texts and background documents on the Bulgarian EU accession process. The first section, contractual relations, includes all major pre-accession agreements between the EU and Bulgaria, from the 1993 Association Agreement (called the Europe Agreement at the time) to the Accession Treaty itself. Key European Council conclusions includes those Council conclusions where decisions crucial for Bulgaria's accession were taken.

Major strategy papers developed by DG Enlargement with regard to Bulgaria's run-up to accession are listed in key EU strategy documents related specifically to Bulgaria. The section EU monitoring reports lists all formal monitoring documents, from the 1997 opinion (or avis) to the latest post-accession reports on progress under the "co-operation and verification mechanism" (set up by the European Commission to monitor and assist required reforms in the areas of judiciary, corruption and organised crime). It is followed by a section on pre-accession funds, which gives more details on EU funding for Bulgaria, from regulations on the pre-accession instruments (Phare, ISPA and SAPARD) to respective financial reports and critical assessments by the European Court of Auditors and other institutions.

The last five sub-sections provide a selection of documents on five particular issues related to Bulgaria's accession process: Bulgaria's spectacular economic recovery after the crisis of 1997, judiciary, corruption and crime, and Bulgaria's accession to the Schengen area as well as two examples of areas where Bulgaria's EU accession process has triggered enormous institutional and policy change: environment and rural development.

Contractual relations

The 1993 Europe Agreement is an association agreement that corresponds roughly to the current Stabilisation and Association Agreements for the Western Balkans. Looking at the Accession Partnerships from different periods gives a good overview of how the EU's reform priorities have changed over time.

Key European Council conclusions

Two European Council decisions in particular were of crucial importance for Bulgaria: the Luxembourg European Council 1997, which launched the accession process for the ten East European former communist countries, including Bulgaria (although Bulgaria had just suffered a devastating economic and political crisis). The second one is the Helsinki European Council 1999, which opened accession negotiations with Bulgaria, along with Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Slovakia.

Key EU strategy documents

The strategy documents on the enlargement process produced by the European Commission relevant for Bulgaria. While most cover all accession countries of the 5th enlargement round, a few Commission strategy documents are related specifically to Bulgaria (and Romania), after it had become clear that these two countries would not join the EU alongside the other accession countries in 2004.

EU monitoring reports

Here you find all official reports prepared by DG Enlargement on Bulgaria, including the "opinion" on Bulgaria's application in 1997, all regular reports, the monitoring reports after negotiations were closed, and the reports prepared under the co-operation and verification mechanism after accession.

An overview of the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism can be found here:

Pre-accession funds

This section provides additional reports and web links on Bulgaria and EU pre-accession funds. A very good portal, with regularly updated financial information is the EU funds management website at the Bulgarian Ministry of Finance. Further below you will find reports of the European Court of Auditors, evaluation reports commissioned by the EC and European regulations on the pre-accession funds. The first Bulgarian National Development Plan is another interesting document, the first to include a comprehensive plan on how to spend EU aid over a seven year programme.

For documents on the Sapard programme see the section on Rural Development.

Economic recovery

This section provides a selection of texts and information about Bulgaria's stunning economic transformation, from World Bank reports to an online database of most recent macroeconomic indicators, to texts of leading Bulgarian economists.

Judiciary, corruption and crime

Bulgaria has a particularly bad reputation with regard to corruption and organised crime. Except for descriptions of individual cases and alarmist newspaper articles, however, there are not many analytical reports on these topics. Here you will find materials on the judiciary and the fight against organised crime, including a few selected news articles. Some of the reports are older, as there are not many recent studies available.

With the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD), Bulgaria boasts one of Europe's most sophisticated corruption research institutes. Its costly empirical studies, based on a methodology developed by the centre over nearly a decade, belong to the best of their kind in Europe. Below you will find all available annual reports. For those who want only an overview, a CSD 13-pager on Corruption Trends and Anti-Corruption in Bulgaria 1998 – 2006 makes perfect reading.

Bulgaria's accession to the Schengen area

Although Bulgaria meets the Schengen technical criteria, Bulgaria has still not joined the Schengen area due to resistance from some member states, in particular the Netherlands who demands more reforms in the areas of judiciary and the fighta against corruption. For more information on this process and the related debate see our background section Bulgaria's efforts to join the Schengen area. The most important related key documents you find here:

Documents by EU institutions:

Documents by the Bulgarian government:

Other Reports:

Selected newspaper articles:

Key documents: Environment

Key documents: Rural Development