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Country profile for Bulgaria

Provided Courtesy of Security Exchange 24

Risk Rating

Unselected
Red (High Risk) InTouch advice:

Most parts of the country are dangerous.

Do not travel unless absolutely necessary.

Amber (Moderate Risk)
Amber (Moderate Risk) InTouch advice:

Some parts of the country are dangerous.

Travel with caution.

Unselected
Green (Low Risk) InTouch advice:

Most parts of the country are safe.

Travel freely.

General Information

  • Capital: Sofia
  • Major Languages: Bulgarian
  • Currency: Lev
  • Timezone: GMT +2:00

Country Map

Map of Bulgaria

In February, 2013 Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov resigned following a series of protests against alleged political corruption and economic mismanagement. In July there was also a wave of public anger at the appointment of Delyan Peevski, a media mogul, as the head of the DANS security agency. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets several of the protests resulted in violent clashes between protesters and riot police. Following snap elections Borisov returned as PM and his GERB party formed a centre-right coalition government with the Reformist Bloc in November, 2014. The political environment in Bulgaria has since stabilised, although the government has been hit by a number of high-profile resignations. In late-2015 the Minister of Justice Hristo Ivanov resigned over changes to judicial reforms, sparking anti-government protests in Sofia.

Bulgaria has been directly impacted by the European migrant crisis and the government has taken a tough stance on the issue. In 2015 the country extended a controversial 146km fence along its border with Turkey to limit the flow of migrants into the country. The government also signed an agreement with Turkey, under which migrants who get through the fence are either sent to a purpose-built camp in Pastrogor or returned to the Turkish side of the border. There have also been groups of vigilantes and self-styled “migrant hunters” rounding up migrants near the border before handing them over to the authorities.  In October, 2015 an Afghan migrant was shot dead by police during clashes near the town of Sredets. In 2015 more than 30,000 people were recorded trying to pass through Bulgaria via the Turkish border.

Crime levels are relatively high in Bulgaria, and despite a slight drop in reported crime in 2015, visitors may be targeted by petty-thieves both in Sofia and the developing Black Sea resorts. Between 2008 and 2014, several cases of kidnapping were recorded in relation to gang disputes. The highest profile case was the abduction of the 10-year-old daughter of the Bulgarian drug trafficker Evelin Banev in 2013. Criminal groups also occasionally use improvised explosive devices to target rival gangs, and contract killings are also common. Visitors to Bulgaria are far more likely to encounter street crime than more serious organised crime. Pickpockets operate around large urban areas, transport hubs and areas popular with tourists. There have also been reports of burglaries from hotel rooms in the beach resorts of Burgas and Sunny Beach. Corruption is another issue in Bulgaria and it is important for visitors encountering any officials to request appropriate identification.

In July, 2012 a suicide bomb attack killed seven people and wounded more than 30 others in Burgas. The assailant detonated the device on a passenger bus transporting Israeli tourists, many of them teenagers, from the airport to the resort. The Bulgarian authorities claim the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah carried out the attack via two non-Bulgarian nationals. The incident was an isolated event and appears to have specifically targeted Israelis.  Since 2015 there have been a series of bomb threats around public transport hubs, while in December, 2015 an explosive device was found in a vehicle parked outside Sofia airport.

Alerts for Bulgaria

Four arrested for human trafficking in Sofia

On 11 December, the Bulgarian authorities reported that they had arrested four people on suspicion of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Police forces specialising in organized crime together with local authorities and the Specialised Prosecutor's Office raided properties in Varna and Sofia.  Significant amounts of money, mobile phones, computers and other evidence of criminal activity were seized.

Bulgaria Air flights to Ukraine suspended

On 30 November amid increased tensions between Ukraine and Russia, Bulgaria Air announced that it had temporarily suspended flights between Sofia and Odessa.  The ban will remain in place until at least 16 December, pending normalization of the situation.  Travellers affected should contact Bulgaria Air for further information.

Taxi drivers to protest in Sofia

On 28 November, the National Taxi Syndicate has scheduled a protest in Sofia municipality at 12:00 local time.  Participants will be calling on the government to introduce minimum tariffs and allow taxi drivers to use bus lanes.  Other taxi unions have declined to take part.  

Pensioners to protest in Sofia

A further protest by pensioners will take place on 28 November during the discussion of the 2019 draft budget in Sofia.  The demonstrators are demanding a prompt increase in the minimum pension and improved laws to protect the elderly.  Although a petition about the subject was discussed in parliament in September, none of the demands of the pension organizations was taken into account, and one of the organizers of the protest, General Vasil Varbanov said that people are outraged that their demands are being disregarded.

Three arrested over huge cryptocurrency theft

Three people have been arrested for possessing over $3 million in cryptocurrency through illegal schemes.  Police seized computers used by the suspects but said that it was not yet clear how such a large amount of currency had been illegally accumulated, but that innovative methods and specialised software had been used.  According to a US-based cyber security company, theft of cryptocurrencies through hacking of exchanges and trading platforms has increased by 250 percent since 2017.

Centenary of diplomatic ties with Poland celebrated

On 27 November, Polish President Andrzej Duda is to visit Bulgaria to commemorate the centenary of diplomatic ties between the two countries.  Mr Duda will visit his Bulgarian counterpart, Rumen Radev as well as Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.  Topics under discussion are likely to include the EU budget, security in the Black Sea region and collaboration as part of the Three Seas Initiative, which aims to boost co-operation between countries on the Black, Baltic and Adriatic seas.

Yellow warning for heavy rain issued

A yellow warning for severe weather has been issued for seven regions of the country.  Significant rainfall is expected of up to 20 to 30 litres per square metre, with the possibility of flooding and damage to infrastructure.  Motorists are advised to take extra care as there may be reduced visibility and public transportation may be disrupted.  The areas affected are Blagoevgrad, Smolyan, Kardzhali, Haskovo, Yambol, Sliven and Burgas.  

Deputy Prime Minister resigns over disabled children scandal

Following a month of protests, Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov resigned on 16 November, raising questions about the stability of the ruling coalition, which has only a one-seat majority in parliament.  Simeonov had made an offensive statement about the mothers of disabled children who have been protesting about lack of governmental support, calling them "a group of shrill women... taking out in the streets those allegedly ill children in hot weather and rain".  Prime Minister Boyko Borissov accepted his resignation.

Cyber Security Council established

A new Cyber Security Council has been established by the Bulgarian parliament following the adoption of a new Cyber Security Act.  The new law regulates the management of cyber security systems and the Ministers of  the Interior, Defence and Foreign Affairs will be members, as well as the Head of State, the speaker of the parliament and the Prime Minister.

Twenty detained for sale of EU passports

Around 20 people have been arrested in Bulgaria for selling Bulgarian passports to citizens of Ukraine, Moldova and Macedonia.  The head of the department for the affairs of Bulgarians living abroad is among those detained.  According to preliminary reports, the suspects received about 5,000 euros for each passport, allowing its' holder to reside and move freely within the European Union.  

Weather warnings issued for 14 regions

The National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology in Sofia has issued an alert for strong winds and rough seas for the following regions:  Vidin, Vratsa, Montana, Pleven, Lovech, Gabrovo, Veliko Tarnovo, Sliven, Stara Zagora, Plovdiv, Pazardzhik, Sofia-region, Blagoevgrad and Kyustendil.  

Bird flu reported Voivodovo

The Food Safety Agency has reported that bird flu has been found at two farms in Voivodovo.  An order to cull all poultry has been issued, and the transport of birds and eggs within a 10 kilometre radius has been banned.  An outbreak in the southern district of Plovdiv was reported earlier this month.  The Agency said that "there are no people affected, and there is no danger to consumers".  The outbreak comes as China registered a new case of H5N6 avian bird flu on a poultry farm in southern Hunan province, also earlier this month.

Suspect arrested in journalist rape and murder case

Bulgarian national radio has reported that a Romanian national has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of a journalist.  Viktoria Marinova's body was found in a park, and according to preliminary reports, she had been raped before she was killed.  Police are investigating if there are any links between the killing and Marinova's work on the TVN network, where she presented a current affairs talk programme, and had recently been working on a story about corruption.  Thousands of people had taken to the streets on Monday demanding action against corruption and the resignation of government officials.

Bulgarian journalist murdered in Ruse

A Bulgarian journalist has been found dead at a park in the northern city of Ruse. Interior Minister Mladen Marinov said Viktoria Marinova had been raped before she was killed.  Police are investigating if there are any links between the killing and Marinova's work on the TVN network, where she presented a current affairs talk programme. Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said, "it is just a matter of time before the perpetrator is found".

Marches held to support children with disabilities

On 2 October peaceful marches were held across the country by mothers of children with disabilities.  The gatherings were to protest that MPs had not met the promised deadline to vote on at least one of the three draft laws to assist people with disabilities, personal assitance and social services.  The mothers of children with disabilities have been voiced their dissatisfaction for over four months, and insisted that they would continue with the protsests and road blocks until social reform is implemented.  Bulgaria's Prime Minister has said that people with disabilities will receive an additional 150 million BGN in the 2019 budget.

Illegal immigrant dies of exhaustion near Greek border

An illegal migrant has died from exhaustion near the village of Siva Reka close to the Greek border.  He had been left behind by a group of foreigners who were stopped by a border patrol with no identification documents and they advised police that they had abandoned the other individual en route.   The people are believed to be from Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Bulgaria is located on a migrant route to Central and Western Europe, and almost 3,000 illegal migrants were arrested in 2017.  

Eighteen illegal immigrants detained near Trakia motorway

The Ministry of the Interior has reported that 18 illegal immigrants have been detained near the Trakia motorway, following reports by local residents.  The group, consisting of 14 men and 4 children, were undocumented and were taken to the regional police department in Pazardzhik for further investigation as to their nationality and identity.  

Journalist assaulted while investigating expired foodstuffs

A Bulgarian television journalist has been assaulted whilst he was filming a story at a warehouse in Veliko Turnovov about the relabelling and resale of expired foodstuffs.  The two assailants were arrested and detained, and a police investigation opened.  The story has been ongoing since June when the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency and the Prosecutor's Office were informed about irregularities with the business, but there had been no response from them.  The Association of European Journalists said that the reporter was defending the public interests by alerting the authorities about a practice dangerous to society.  Physical attacks and death threats against journalists by criminal groups are common in Bulgaria.  

Former Minister's assets seized in corruption investigation

A court in Sofia has announced that they have seized the assets of former Minister of Economy and Energy, Traicho Traikov in connection with a corruption case.  According to a spokesman from Nova TV, an investigation revealed a discrepancy of BGN 2.4 million between the property owned by Mr Traikov, and his declared revenue.  The issue centres around accusations of the privatisation of energy distribution company EVN at discounted prices.  Mr Traikov has until Friday to prove how he has acquired the seized assets.  

Bulgaria defends Hungary against EU sanctions

Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Krassimir Karakachanov, has said that Bulgaria would oppose the European Parliament's (EP) proposal to strip Hungary of its' voting rights over their failure to uphold fundamental European Union values.  Mr Karakachanov said that the move was a "violation of the sovereignty of an EU member state".  The sanctions have also been publicly opposed by the Czech Republic and Poland.  

Protests against journalist's arrests

Around 200 people gathered outside the Palace of Justice in Sofia this week in protest against the arrest of two reporters while investigating alleged fraud involving EU funds.  The journalists were arrested as they filmed the subjects of their investigation burning documents relating to the misuse of EU funds by companies connected to the Bulgarian construction group GP.  They were released several days later.  Bulgarian police denied any wrong-doing, and the GP group dismissed all the allegations.  

Three ministers resign over bus crash

Three Bulgarian ministers resigned on Friday on the request of the Prime Minister, following the bus crash that killed 17 people and wounded dozens.  There are suspicions that the accident, near Svoge, could have been caused by defects in the road construction, and the Interior Minister, Transport Minister and the Regional Development Minister were asked by the PM to take "political responsibility" for the crash.  The driver of the vehicle has been charged as he was allegedly driving 13km over the speed limit.  The company responsible for repairing the road, which has been the site of numerous accidents, claim that the road was built and maintained to Bulgarian standards  

Sixteen people die in Iskar Gorge bus accident

On 25 August, sixteen people died and scores were injured when a tourist bus lost control and left the road in the town of Svoge near the Iskar Gorge.  The vehicle apparently collided with three cars coming in the opposite direction before veering off the carriageway due to poor visibility.  The incident occurred at around 17:30 local time and eighteen ambulances were deployed from various hospitals around the region, while the road was closed.  The Prime Minister has announced that 27 August would be a day of mourning for the victims.  

Eleven foreign nationals detained on immigration charges

On Monday, 11 foreign nationals were detained in Svetovrachene, near Negovan village.  The Interior Ministry's metropolitan department told news sources that they have been alerted to the situation by a tip off, and the detainee's status and country of origin were being investigated.

Partial state of emergency declared in Devin

A partial state of emergency has been declared for the villages of Mihalkovo, Churukovo and Osikovo because of road collapses due to torrential rainfall in recent weeks.  Maintenance companies were working tirelessly to repair potholes and remove landslides to enable traffic to reach the affected areas.  

Further protests held over lack of facilities for the disabled

On Monday, over one thousand people took to the streets of Sofia to protest about inadequate facilities and political support for the mothers of children with disabilities.  The event was part of a month-long campaign following the postponement of a proposed law to meet their demands.

Bulgaria warns neighbours of flooding risk

Bulgaria has warned its' neighbours to the south that they could face floods as heavy rains are predicted to swell the Arda and Maritsa rivers, which flow through the territories of Greece and Turkey.  The Foreign Minister said that the Ivaylovgrad dam in the eastern Rhodope Mountains was likely to overflow in the next few days, sending floodwater through the river Arda into Greece and joining the Maritsa river on their border with Turkey.  A state of emergency has been declared in several Bulgarian municipalities following heavy rainfall.

President vetoes amendments to privatization law

President Rumen Radev has vetoed the proposed amendments to a privatization law that the opposition and critics said would have cost the country revenue.  The proposal would have reduced the time that buyers have to fulfill their obligations to five years rather than 10, but Mr Radev said that the changes "do not serve interests of the state and Bulgarian citizens". He also said that the time allowed should depend on the type of business being privatized rather than by legal provision.  Opponents had planned a three-day protest, but the amendments which had been approved by government last week, may still be overturned by parliament.   

Bulgaria and Moldova approve work migration agreement

The Bulgarian government has approved an agreement made in June this year, to allow work immigration between Bulgaria and Moldova.  The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy said that the purpose of the agreement is to strengthen the economies where there are work deficits, with workers from either country able to work in the other for one year without any special permission, and with the ability to extend this period up to three years.  Many Bulgarians choose to work abroad and send money home, but this has created a local vacuum of jobs.  

Heavy rainfall triggers flood across western Bulgaria

Dozens of people have been evacuated as heavy rainfall triggered widespread flooding across central and western Bulgaria. More than 200 residences across Plovdiv, Smolyan, Pazardzhik, Sofia, Vratsa, Lovech, Pleven and Bourgas were damaged. No casualties have been reported. Heavy rainfall and thunderstorms are still expected to affect the region in the coming days.

Prime Minister Borissov's government survives no-confidence vote

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov's government has narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in parliament. Bulgaria's Socialist opposition claims that the ruling party has been widely ineffective in combating crime in the country and failing to impose the rule of law. A number of security incidents prompted the opposition to call the no-confidence vote ahead of local elections to held next year.

Transport unions threaten to protest in Brussels

The Bulgarian Hauliers Union has threatened to stage a protest in Brussels if the European Parliament rejects their demands regarding the EU Mobility Package.  The union says that compliance with the new measures will render haulage services based in Eastern and Central Europe non-competitive against those in the North and West, who are not bound by the bloc's new rules regarding driving hours and the ban on sleeping in vehicles.  They have also threatened to propose a referendum on the country leaving the European Union if their demands are not met.  

Social Minister resigns as tensions grow

On 11 June, Social Minister Bisser Petkov resigned amid growing tensions in the government.  Prime Minister Boyko Borissov accepted the resignation, which is believed to be related to the recent protests by the parents of children with disabilities who have been calling for reforms to the care system.  Bulgarian law means that Petkov's resignation must be approved by the National Assembly in order to take effect.   

Military helicopter crash leaves two dead

A Bulgarian military helicopter crashed on Monday at the Krumovo air base.  According to preliminary reports, the flight engineer survived with injuries, but the pilot and co-pilot were killed.  Authorities are investigating the cause of the crash.  

Bulgarian president to offer Russia new gas link

On 22 May, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said that he was prepared to offer to collaborate with Russia in the creation of a direct gas pipeline across the Black Sea under the title of "Bulgarian Stream".  Mr Radev is due to meet his Russian counterpart in Sochi today.

Truck drivers to protest at Sofia summit

Truck drivers are to demonstrate at the opening of the Sofia Summit on 17 May on the route from Sofia Airport to the National Palace of Culture.  The drivers are protesting against a new Mobility reform package from the European Commission which will oblige transport companies to pay Eastern and Western-based employees similar wages, and would restrict the drivers' hours, as well as preventing sleeping in the trucks.  Bulgarians are concerned about the impact of these rules if bordering non-EU states are not obliged to comply with them.  

Several killed as bus overturns near Sofia

At least six people have been killed and more than 20 others were injured in a bus accident near Sofia. Bulgaria's Health Ministry confirmed on Friday that the vehicle overturned on the Trakia highway near Vakarel, east of the capital. The vehicle was carrying passengers from the seaside town of Burgas to Sofia.

Ceremony to take place in Sofia to mark EU presidency

An official ceremony will be held in Sofia today to celebrate the beginning of Bulgaria's six-month presidency of the European Union, a position which rotates between all the members.  The Palace of Culture in the city has been refurbished to welcome commissioners, the President of the European Parliament and Donald Tusk, the President of the Council.  Bulgaria is considered one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the EU.  

Bulgarian businessman shot and killed in Sofia

Petar Hristov, an influential businessman and owner of one of Bulgaria's biggest dairy companies was shot in broad daylight on Monday morning, outside the company's offices in Sofia.  The 49-year-old, with interests in construction, real estate and tourism was taken to hospital, but died about 30 minutes later.  Hristov was close to senior officials from the ruling GERB party, and his death follows President Rumen Radev's veto of proposed anti-graft legislation, saying the bill was insufficient.  Brussels has criticised Bulgaria for not doing enough to fight criminal gangs and official corruption.  Bulgaria is the European Union's poorest and most corrupt country. 

President vetoes anti-graft law

On Tuesday, Bulgarian President Rumen Raden vetoed an anti-corruption law passed by parliament, saying the bill does not create an adequate legal basis for tackling corruption.   He acted only one day after Bulgaria assumed the six-month rotating presidency of the EU for the first time since it joined in 2007.  According to Transparency International, Bulgaria is the EU's most corrupt country, and has been rebuked on repeated occasions for failing to prosecute and sentence allegedly corrupt officials.  Allegations of corruption have hampered foreign investment in Bulgaria since communism collapsed in 1989.

Thousands take part in anti-Roma protest in Asenowgard

Violence erupted when a group of nationalist protesters stormed a Roma-majority community in southern Bulgaria on Sunday. Thousands of demonstrators - mostly football fans and bikers - marched towards Asenowgrad in a renewed wave of nationwide anti-Roma protests. Authorities believe the action came in retaliation to a previous incident, where Roma ethnic men allegedly attacked canoeists in the area. Clashes with the Bulgarian Roma community are common across major cities in Bulgaria, mostly due to reportedly illegal settlements.

Police officers to take strike action in Sofia

Police officers are due to take industrial action in Sofia next month. On Wednesday 05 July, crowds of police officers will gather outside the Alexander Nevsky cathedral in Sofia to protest against low salaries. The trade union representing the police officers will only negotiate with the government Minister of Interior and has warned that the strike will continue indefinitely until a deal is agreed. Some general traffic disruption should be expected around the area.

Yellow warning issued amid heavy winds

A yellow warning has been issued due to heavy winds in 12 regions across Bulgaria. The yellow warning has been put in place in the Gabrovo, Lovech, Montana, Pleven, Razgrad, Ruse, Shumen, Silistra, Veliko Tarnovo, Vidin, and Vratsa regions as winds of over 45mph are expected to hit the northern areas. People have been advised to avoid unnecessary travel and to stay indoors where possible. 

Five terror suspects detained at Kapitan Andreevo border crossing

Five German nationals have been detained at the Bulgarian-Turkish border over suspected involvement in terrorist activities. Bulgarian security services revealed that the arrests took place on 12 April at the Kapitan Andreevo border crossing. The suspects were reportedly heading in a train from the Romanian capital Bucharest to Istanbul in the attempt to join an undisclosed active terrorist cell in Syria and Iraq.

Russian embassy heightens security after St Petersburg attack

The Russian embassy in Sofia has reportedly heightened security measures following the terror attack in Saint Petersburg on Monday. Strengthened security measures have also been implemented at the consular offices in Rousse and Varna, as well as at the Russian Cultural Information Centre in Sofia. Travellers should anticipate longer security checks and ensure they travel with the appropriate necessary documents.

Demonstration due to take place in Sofia

A demonstration has been scheduled to take place in the capital city, Sofia on Monday evening. Environmentalist activists have organised a demonstration to take place outside the Environment Ministry in Sofia, to protest against government plans to approve the increase of areas where construction is allowed in Pirin National Park. The protesters claim the proposal was passed by the cabinet without being submitted for an environmental impact assessment.

Building evacuated following bomb threat, Sofia

A building has been evacuated on Moskovska Street in the Sofia Municipality after a bomb threat was detected. The threat was discovered and a bomb alert prompted an evacuation of the whole building. Police attended the scene, and no explosion has ben reported - leading to assumptions that the threat has been neutralised, although this has not been officially confirmed. 

Protesters to block Bulgaria-Greece border checkpoint

Protesters have blocked a Bulgaria-Greece border checkpoint in Serres. The Promachonas-Kulata checkpoint has been targted by protesters as a point of demonstration to restrict access into Bulgaria. The demonstrators are a group of agricultural workers who have used their vehicles to block the access point as way to protest against the Greek government's tax reforms. Those in the area should anticipate travel disruption between Serres and Thessaloniki. Those hoping to cross the border to Bulgaria have been advised to allow extra time for delays, or to find an alternative official crossing point.

Rumen Radev inaugurated as Bulgarian President

Rumen Radev has been inaugurated as the new Bulgarian President. Radev was officially sworn in as President during a ceremony on Monday, which took place in Sveti Alexander Nevsky Square in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. President Radev promised to the Bulgarian people that he would pursue the strengthening of ties with the European Union.

Heavy snow blocks Bulgaria-Romania border routes

Heavy snow has reportedly blocked off many routes across the Bulgaria-Romania border, including the border crossing at Vama Veche. It is estimated that the south-east area of the border has been the worst affected. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has issued a statement warning travellers to avoid using the south-eastern routes over the border, and to plan travel accordingly. Travelelrs and local residents have been advised to monitor local news and media for updates and to avoid taking unnecessary travel risks as the heavy snow continues.

Six killed across Bulgaria as cold wave storms Europe

At least 10 people have died in Poland amid the recent icy temperatures across eastern and central Europe. Major disruptions have been reported in Italy as airports in Sicily and Bari have closed and ferry services have been cancelled due to snow. Further reports in Turkey have revealed that a heavy snowstorm has hit Istanbul and has led to the disruption of shipping services as the Bosphorus strait has been closed for transit. In Bulgaria, at least six people have been killed and dozens have been trapped in their vehicles as temperatures hit between minus 14 and minus 26 degrees Celsius. The cold weather has been caused by a strong cold air jet-stream from the Arctic heading southwards to eastern Mediterranean region as the most affected areas may expect to reach temperatures between minus 20 to minus 30 degrees Celsius.

Train derails amid severe wintry conditions

A train has derailed in central Bulgaria due to the severe wintry conditions. The train was en route from Panagyurishte to Plovdiv, when it allegedly hit a large pile of snow on the track between Panagyurishte and Septemvri, which caused the incident. No casualties have been reported. Severe disruption to public transport services should be anticipated, and people have been advised to avoid unnecesary long-distance travel whilst the extreme cold conditions continue.

Severe wintry conditions expected in north-east and south-west regions

Severe wintry conditions are expected in the north-east and south-west regions of Bulgaria - including the Smolyan and Pazardzhik areas. Strong winds and heavy snow are expected to disrupt travel and public transport services over the weekend, with estimations that the bad weather will last until Sunday 08 January. Travellers have been advised to follow the news for regular weather updates and to follow the advice of local authorities if travelling long-distance by car.

Stricter border controls over Christmas period

On 22 December, Rumyana Bachvarova, the Bulgarian Interior Minister, stated that stricter border controls will be implemented over the Christmas period. Travelling into and out of Bulgaria will also be carefully monitored in order to react to possible terror threats faster. 

Five killed and twenty wounded after train derails in Shumen province

At 05:30 local time (03:30 GMT), on 10 December, a train carrying liquid petroleum gas derailed and exploded in the village of Hitrino, Shumen province, killing five people and wounding more than 20. Dozens of people are being treated in hospital for burns, with several people reported to have suffered burns to more than 90 percent of their bodies. Local authorities have ordered an evacuation from the area as firefighters attempt to extinguish the fire, with reports of at least 20 buildings being damaged. Initial investigations state that two tanks of the train hit an electricity line and exploded when the train derailed. 

Protest against construction of new migrant facility in Lesovo

On 6 December, residents in Lesovo held an anti-migrant protest in response to the construction of a new migrant facility in the city. Protesters were carrying signs saying "I do not want refugees in Bulgaria."

Acting PM refuses to form new government

The Bulgarian acting prime minister has declined to form a new government after his resignation following his party losses on mid-November's presidential elections. The decision will pave the way to anticipated elections, which is the third time in less than three years. Boiko Borisov is leader of the conservative centre-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), which was defeated by the socialist leader Rusmen Radev.

Riot in Harmanli refugee centre

On 24 November, 1500 migrants clashed with riot police in the Harmanli refugee centre, two days after the facility was sealed off following reports of an alleged infection outbreak. Protesters threw stones at riot police who responded by using water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. Approximately 400 migrants were arrested and 24 police officers were injured in the clash.

Anti-refugee protest in Harmanli, Sofia and Varna

On 20 November, residents and far-right nationalist groups in Harmanli and Varna marched through the town in anti-migrant protests. Demonstrators in Harmanli called for the closure of a refugee camp in the city. The protests in Varna were organised by the so-called Civil Initiative, who claim that most migrants arriving in Bulgaria not refugees but economic migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. They have called for the borders to be secured by the military, "an annulment of illegal statuses and an end to the harsh violations of the law on the asylum and refugees". These protests follow similar ones in Sofia on the 19 November, in which nationalists demanded the closure of migrant centres and the deportation of illegal immigrants. 

Ten police officers arrested for corruption on Danube bridge

On 16 November, ten police officers were arrested in a joint Bulgarian and Romanian Prosecutor's Office inspection on the Danube bridge. The inspection is still ongoing. It comes amid a crackdown on corruption among border officials. 

Prime Minister to resign after party loses presidential election

On 13 November, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said that he will resign, after his party's candidate was defeated in presidential elections. Borisov had supported the centre-right speaker of parliament, Tsetska Tsacheva, who only received 35 percent of the votes on 12 November. Rumen Radev, a former Air Force commander and political outside, backed by the opposition Socialist Party, won 58 percent of the votes. Borisov stated that he will quit in the coming days. President-elect Radev has stated that he will keep Bulgaria in NATO, but stated that "being pro-European does not mean being anti-Russian."

Twenty-four migrants arrested in Draganovtsi

On 3 November, Bulgarian police arrested 24 migrants hidden in three vehicles in Draganovtsi eastern Bulgaria. Police reportedly stopped the vehicles for regular checks and found the migrants, who claim to be from Afghanistan. The migrants and three drivers have been taken into custody for processing. 

Forty customs officers arrested in anti-corruption operation in Lesovo

On 2 November, Bulgarian police arrested 40 customs officials at the Lesovo checkpoint as part of an anti-corruption operation targeting organised crime. The customs officials are suspected of demanding and accepting bribes. The operation is underway in Lesovo, Burgas and Yambol. 

Millions of fake euros found in reservoir in Purvomai

On 2 November, police divers discovered an estimated €13 million (£11.7 million) in fake banknotes in the   near Purvomai, southern Bulgaria. Police acted on a tip-off and found bundles of counterfeit €500 notes. The exact value of those seized will not be known until the notes have dried. Three Bulgarians have been arrested and a number of weapons confiscated following an investigation into the discovery. One of those arrested, the owner of a printing company, had already been sentenced to six years in prison for counterfeiting money. 

Truck drivers protest on six border crossings, disrupting traffic

On 31 October, truck drivers are protesting against what they have described as "inhumane conditions" where they have to wait for 40-50 hours to cross out of the country. The government has given no explanations for the waiting times. Protests have been planned for six border crossing points, including Kapitan Adreevo and Lesovo, on the border with Turkey; Kulata, on the border with Greece; Kalotina, on the border with Serbia; and the two Danube bridges to Romania. It is not yet clear whether traffic will be sealed off as a result of the protests. 

Bulgaria and Russia settle debt over cancelled Belene nuclear plant

On 26 October, Bulgaria and Russia signed two agreements to settle debt over the cancelled Belene nuclear plant. The international arbitration court in Geneva ruled that Bulgaria will have to pay the debt in full to Russia before 15 December, 2016. In exchange, Russia will not ask for the $25.09million (€23million) interest on the debt. The Belene Nuclear Power Plant Project was scrapped in 2012 by the Bulgarian government. 

Security increased around transport hubs

Bulgaria has increased security at major transport hubs in the country following the attacks at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport in neighbouring Turkey.  Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova said the measures had been taken after a joint meeting of the parliamentary Internal Security and Public Order Committee and the committee responsible for control of the security services.  The chairperson of the State Agency for National Security (DANS) Dimitar Georgiev also said that there is high risk, but no concrete threat for Bulgaria.

Border guard shoots dead Afghan migrant

A Bulgarian border guard has shot dead an Afghan migrant in the south-east of the country.  A group of around 50 people were trying to cross the border from Turkey near the town of Sredets late on Thursday when the guards opened fire. Patrol officers fired in the air and "a migrant was injured by a ricochet - according to the testimony of one of the three police officers - and succumbed to his injuries on the way to the hospital", said interior ministry official, Georgy Kostov.

Deadly flooding kills 10 in Varna

At least 10 people have been killed after torrential rain and heavy floods hit eastern Bulgaria.  All of the reported deaths were caused when a flood surge of up to 1m struck low-lying areas in the port city of Varna.  Many residents had to be rescued as cars were swept away, while electricity was cut off in the area.

Police clash with protesters outside parliament

Bulgarian riot police have clashed with anti-government protesters outside the country's parliament in Sofia.  Hundreds of demonstrators attempted to blockade the parliament building by forming a human chain before police intervened.  Students at the city's university have been staging a sit-in protest for the past three weeks as unrest over poverty and corruption grows.

MPs freed after protesters block parliament

Bulgarian police have evacuated politicians from the countries parliament after protesters setup a blockade outside.  The MPs had been trapped inside the building for more than eight hours after anti-government demonstrations turned violent in the capital, Sofia.

President calls for early elections

Bulgaria's president, Rosen Plevneliev, has called for another snap election following three weeks of mass protests in the country.  The current government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski only took office in May after the resignation of his predecessor Boiko Borisov.

Bulgaria Data Sheet

Population:
7.2 million
Major Religion/s:
Christianity
International dialing code:
+359
International dialing prefix:
00
Emergency services:
112
Drives:
Right
Voltage:
230V
Climate:
Temperate
Ohter Major Cities:
Plodiv, Varna, Burgas, Ruse
Borders:
Serbia, Macedonia, Romania, Greece, Turkey