Bulgaria and the euro

Process of Bulgaria adopting the Euro

Eurozone participation
European Union (EU) member states
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Bulgaria committed to switching its currency, the lev, to the euro upon its joining the European Union in 2007, as stated in its EU accession treaty. The transition will occur once the country meets all the euro convergence criteria; it currently meets four of the five criteria. Bulgarian euro coins have not yet been designed, but their motif has been chosen to be the Madara Rider. Bulgaria officially joined the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II) on 10 July 2020.[1][2] Bulgarian government and central bank officials adopted a draft national plan for euro adoption on 30 June 2021.[3] They stated earlier that day Bulgaria's intention to adopt the euro on 1 January 2024.[4] In May 2022, the government adopted a more definitive version of its plan for the introduction of the euro in Bulgaria that reaffirmed the country's commitment to adopt the euro on the target date.[5]

Convergence criteria

The Maastricht Treaty, which Bulgaria acceded to by way of its EU accession treaty in 2007, requires that all members of the European Union join the euro once certain economic criteria are met.

In November 2007 the Finance Minister Plamen Oresharski stated that his goal was to comply with all five convergence criteria by 2009 and adopt the euro in 2012.[6]

Besides not complying with the requirement to be an ERM-II member for two years, Bulgaria also did not satisfy the price stability criterion in 2008. Bulgaria's inflation in the 12 months from April 2007 to March 2008 reached 9.4%, well above the reference value limit at 3.2%. However, Bulgaria fulfilled the state budget criterion of only having a deficit at maximum 3% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). The country had posted surpluses since 2003, which in 2007 was at 3.4% of GDP. At the time, the EC forecast that it would remain at 3.2% of GDP in both 2008 and 2009. Bulgaria also complied with the public debt criteria. During the prior decade the Bulgarian debt had declined from 50% of GDP to 18% in 2007. It was expected to reach 11% of GDP in 2009.[7] Finally, the average for the long-term interest rate during the prior year was 4.7% in March 2008, and thus also well within the reference limit at 6.5%.[8]

A 2008 analysis said that Bulgaria would not be able to join the eurozone earlier than 2015 due to the high inflation and the repercussions of the global financial crisis of 2007–2008.[9] Some members of Bulgarian government, notably economy minister Petar Dimitrov, have speculated about unilaterally introducing the euro, which was not well-met by the European Commission.[10]

In all of the three latest annual assessment reports, Bulgaria managed to comply with four out of the five economic convergence criteria for euro adoption, only failing to comply with the criteria requiring the currency of the state to have been a stable ERM-II member for a minimum of two years.[11][12][13]

Joining ERM II

The lev has been pegged to the euro since the latter was launched in 1999, at a fixed rate of €1 = BGN 1.95583 through a strictly managed currency board. Prior to that the lev was pegged on par to the German Mark. While the currency board which pegs Bulgaria to the euro has been seen as beneficial to the country fulfilling criteria so quickly,[14] the ECB has pressured Bulgaria to drop it as it did not know how to let a country using a currency board join the euro. The Prime Minister has stated the desire to keep the currency board until the euro was adopted. However, factors such as a high inflation, an unrealistic exchange rate with the euro and the country's low productivity are negatively affected by the system.[15]

Simeon Dyankov, Bulgaria's then-finance minister, said in September 2009 that Bulgaria planned to enter ERM II in November,[16][17][18] but this was delayed. It was then delayed further due to an increased budget deficit, outside the Maastricht criteria.[19][20] Since 2011, Bulgaria's non-membership of the ERM has been the primary factor that prevented their euro membership, as Bulgaria met the other criteria for euro adoption. In July 2011, Dyankov stated that the government would not adopt the euro as long as the European sovereign-debt crisis was ongoing.[21][22][23] In 2011 Bulgaria's Minister of Finance Simeon Djankov stated that adoption of the euro would be postponed until after the Eurozone crisis had stabilized.[21]

In January 2015, the then-Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov (under Prime Minister Boyko Borisov) changed approach and said, that it was possible for Bulgaria to join ERM-II before the term of current government. Goranov said he would begin talks with the Eurogroup[24] and a co-ordination council to prepare the country for euro zone membership. The council was to draft a plan for the introduction of the euro, propose a target date, organisation and of the preparation work and coordination of the expert working groups.[25] This was supported by the former governor of the Bulgarian National Bank, Kolyo Paramov, who was in office when the currency board of the state was established. Paramov argued that adoption would "trigger a number of positive economic effects": Sufficient money supply (leading to increased lending which is needed to improve economic growth), getting rid of the currency board which prevents the national bank functioning as a lender of last resort to rescue banks in financial troubles, and finally private and public lending would benefit from lower interest rates (at least half as high).[26] The former deputy governor of the Bulgarian National Bank, Emil Harsev, agreed with Paramov, stating that it was possible to adopt the euro already in 2018, and "Bulgaria's membership in the eurozone will bring only positive effect on the economy" because "since establishing the currency board in 1997, we have been accepting all the negative effects of accession into the eurozone without getting the positive ones (access to the European financial market)".[27]

Following the 2017 parliamentary elections Borisov's government was re-elected. Borisov stated that he intended to apply to join ERM II[28] but Goranov elaborated that the government would only seek to join once the eurozone states were ready to approve the application, and that he expected to have clarity of this by the end of 2017.[29] On taking the presidency of the Council of the European Union in January 2018, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov indicated no clarification had been given but announced he was going to pursue applications for both ERM-II and Schengen by July 2018 regardless.[30][31][32][33] Bulgaria sent a letter to the Eurogroup in July 2018 on its desire to participate in ERM II, and commitment to enter into a "close cooperation" agreement with the Banking Union.[34][35]

In January 2019, Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said he hoped that Bulgaria could join the ERM-II mechanism in July, and introduce the euro on 1 January 2022.[36] However, this deadline was put back to July 2019 due to extra conditions requested by Eurozone governments, namely that Bulgaria:[37]

  • Join the banking union at the same time as ERM (meaning Bulgaria's banks must first pass stress-tests).
  • Reinforce supervision of the non-bank financial sector and fully implement EU anti money-laundering rules.
  • Thoroughly implement the reforms from the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).

While the CVM reforms are mentioned, and progress in judicial reform and organised crime is expected, leaving the CVM is not a precondition.[37]

As of October 2019, Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov's target was to enter the ERM II by April 2020.[38] In January 2020, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said that it was possible for Bulgaria to join ERM II later in 2020 and adopt the euro in 2023 at first.[39] Borisov stated in February that Bulgaria's application would be reviewed in July.[40] In March the Bulgarian central bank said that this target was no longer realistic due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.[41] However, in April Borisov stated that he would push forward the application by the end of April.[42] The reason he gave for this U-turn was the 500 billion euros rescue package to deal with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, which the finance ministers of the Eurogroup had agreed upon on 10 April.[43] On 24 April, Fitch Ratings announced that they would probably upgrade Bulgaria's Foreign-Currency IDR by two notches between Bulgaria's accession to ERM II and euro adoption:

"… Given that the COVID-19 pandemic response is taking up significant resources with regard to political engagement at the EU-wide level, facilitating the Bulgarian lev's ERM2 accession may decline as a relative priority for European institutions. If concerns about risks ease and the process resumes, this would be supportive of the rating, as underlined by our view that all things being equal, we would upgrade Bulgaria's Long-Term Foreign-Currency IDR by two notches between admission to the ERM II and joining the euro."[44]

On 30 April 2020, Bulgaria officially submitted documents to the European Central Bank to apply to join ERM II, the first step to introduce the euro.[45] On 12 May, European Commission executive vice president Valdis Dombrovskis stated that Bulgaria could join ERM II together with Croatia in July,[46] which both countries did on 10 July.[1]


Convergence criteria
Assessment month Country HICP inflation rate[47][nb 1] Excessive deficit procedure[48] Exchange rate Long-term interest rate[49][nb 2] Compatibility of legislation
Budget deficit to GDP[50] Debt-to-GDP ratio[51] ERM II member[52] Change in rate[53][54][nb 3]
2012 ECB Report[nb 4] Reference values Max. 3.1%[nb 5]
(as of 31 Mar 2012)
None open (as of 31 March 2012) Min. 2 years
(as of 31 Mar 2012)
Max. ±15%[nb 6]
(for 2011)
Max. 5.80%[nb 7]
(as of 31 Mar 2012)
(as of 31 Mar 2012)
Max. 3.0%
(Fiscal year 2011)[57]
Max. 60%
(Fiscal year 2011)[57]
 Bulgaria 2.7% Open (Closed in June 2012) No 0.0% 5.30% No
2.1% 16.3%
2013 ECB Report[nb 8] Reference values Max. 2.7%[nb 9]
(as of 30 Apr 2013)
None open (as of 30 Apr 2013) Min. 2 years
(as of 30 Apr 2013)
Max. ±15%[nb 6]
(for 2012)
Max. 5.5%[nb 9]
(as of 30 Apr 2013)
(as of 30 Apr 2013)
Max. 3.0%
(Fiscal year 2012)[60]
Max. 60%
(Fiscal year 2012)[60]
 Bulgaria 2.4% None No 0.0% 3.89% Un­known
0.8% 18.5%
2014 ECB Report[nb 10] Reference values Max. 1.7%[nb 11]
(as of 30 Apr 2014)
None open (as of 30 Apr 2014) Min. 2 years
(as of 30 Apr 2014)
Max. ±15%[nb 6]
(for 2013)
Max. 6.2%[nb 12]
(as of 30 Apr 2014)
(as of 30 Apr 2014)
Max. 3.0%
(Fiscal year 2013)[63]
Max. 60%
(Fiscal year 2013)[63]
 Bulgaria -0.8% None No 0.0% 3.52% No
1.5% 18.9%
2016 ECB Report[nb 13] Reference values Max. 0.7%[nb 14]
(as of 30 Apr 2016)
None open (as of 18 May 2016) Min. 2 years
(as of 18 May 2016)
Max. ±15%[nb 6]
(for 2015)
Max. 4.0%[nb 15]
(as of 30 Apr 2016)
(as of 18 May 2016)
Max. 3.0%
(Fiscal year 2015)[66]
Max. 60%
(Fiscal year 2015)[66]
 Bulgaria -1.0% None No 0.0% 2.5% No
2.1% 26.7%
2018 ECB Report[nb 16] Reference values Max. 1.9%[nb 17]
(as of 31 Mar 2018)
None open (as of 3 May 2018) Min. 2 years
(as of 3 May 2018)
Max. ±15%[nb 6]
(for 2017)
Max. 3.2%[nb 18]
(as of 31 Mar 2018)
(as of 20 March 2018)
Max. 3.0%
(Fiscal year 2017)[69]
Max. 60%
(Fiscal year 2017)[69]
 Bulgaria 1.4% None No 0.0% 1.4% No
-0.9% (surplus) 25.4%
2020 ECB Report[nb 19] Reference values Max. 1.8%[nb 20]
(as of 31 Mar 2020)
None open (as of 7 May 2020) Min. 2 years
(as of 7 May 2020)
Max. ±15%[nb 6]
(for 2019)
Max. 2.9%[nb 21]
(as of 31 Mar 2020)
(as of 24 March 2020)
Max. 3.0%
(Fiscal year 2019)[72]
Max. 60%
(Fiscal year 2019)[72]
 Bulgaria 2.6% None No 0.0% 0.3% No
-2.1% (surplus) 20.4%
2022 ECB Report[nb 22] Reference values Max. 4.9%[nb 23]
(as of April 2022)
None open (as of 25 May 2022) Min. 2 years
(as of 25 May 2022)
Max. ±15%[nb 6]
(for 2021)
Max. 2.6%[nb 23]
(as of April 2022)
(as of 25 March 2022)
Max. 3.0%
(Fiscal year 2021)[73]
Max. 60%
(Fiscal year 2021)[73]
 Bulgaria 5.9% None 2 years 0.0% 0.5% No
4.1% (exempt) 25.1%
  Criterion fulfilled
  Criterion potentially fulfilled: If the budget deficit exceeds the 3% limit, but is "close" to this value (the European Commission has deemed 3.5% to be close by in the past),[75] then the criteria can still potentially be fulfilled if either the deficits in the previous two years are significantly declining towards the 3% limit, or if the excessive deficit is the result of exceptional circumstances which are temporary in nature (i.e. one-off expenditures triggered by a significant economic downturn, or by the implementation of economic reforms that are expected to deliver a significant positive impact on the government's future fiscal budgets). However, even if such "special circumstances" are found to exist, additional criteria must also be met to comply with the fiscal budget criterion.[76][77] Additionally, if the debt-to-GDP ratio exceeds 60% but is "sufficiently diminishing and approaching the reference value at a satisfactory pace" it can be deemed to be in compliance.[77]
  Criterion not fulfilled
  1. ^ The rate of increase of the 12-month average HICP over the prior 12-month average must be no more than 1.5% larger than the unweighted arithmetic average of the similar HICP inflation rates in the 3 EU member states with the lowest HICP inflation. If any of these 3 states have a HICP rate significantly below the similarly averaged HICP rate for the eurozone (which according to ECB practice means more than 2% below), and if this low HICP rate has been primarily caused by exceptional circumstances (i.e. severe wage cuts or a strong recession), then such a state is not included in the calculation of the reference value and is replaced by the EU state with the fourth lowest HICP rate.
  2. ^ The arithmetic average of the annual yield of 10-year government bonds as of the end of the past 12 months must be no more than 2.0% larger than the unweighted arithmetic average of the bond yields in the 3 EU member states with the lowest HICP inflation. If any of these states have bond yields which are significantly larger than the similarly averaged yield for the eurozone (which according to previous ECB reports means more than 2% above) and at the same time does not have complete funding access to financial markets (which is the case for as long as a government receives bailout funds), then such a state is not be included in the calculation of the reference value.
  3. ^ The change in the annual average exchange rate against the euro.
  4. ^ Reference values from the ECB convergence report of May 2012.[55]
  5. ^ Sweden, Ireland and Slovenia were the reference states.[55]
  6. ^ a b c d e f g The maximum allowed change in rate is ± 2.25% for Denmark.
  7. ^ Sweden and Slovenia were the reference states, with Ireland excluded as an outlier.[55]
  8. ^ Reference values from the ECB convergence report of June 2013.[58]
  9. ^ a b Sweden, Latvia and Ireland were the reference states.[58]
  10. ^ Reference values from the ECB convergence report of June 2014.[61]
  11. ^ Latvia, Portugal and Ireland were the reference states, with Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus excluded as outliers.[61]
  12. ^ Latvia, Ireland and Portugal were the reference states.[61]
  13. ^ Reference values from the ECB convergence report of June 2016.[64]
  14. ^ Bulgaria, Slovenia and Spain were the reference states, with Cyprus and Romania excluded as outliers.[64]
  15. ^ Slovenia, Spain and Bulgaria were the reference states.[64]
  16. ^ Reference values from the ECB convergence report of May 2018.[67]
  17. ^ Cyprus, Ireland and Finland were the reference states.[67]
  18. ^ Cyprus, Ireland and Finland were the reference states.[67]
  19. ^ Reference values from the ECB convergence report of June 2020.[70]
  20. ^ Portugal, Cyprus, and Italy were the reference states.[70]
  21. ^ Portugal, Cyprus, and Italy were the reference states.[70]
  22. ^ Reference values from the Convergence Report of June 2022.[73]
  23. ^ a b France, Finland, and Greece were the reference states.[73]

Advantages of euro adoption

Because the lev is pegged to the euro at a fixed exchange rate, it can be argued that Bulgaria is already a de facto member of the euro area insofar that it cannot pursue an independent monetary policy and is therefore bound by the monetary policy and interest rate decisions of the European Central Bank (ECB) without having a say. Adopting the euro and thereby becoming a de jure member of the euro area would enhance Bulgaria's position by giving it a voice within the ECB.[43]

Moreover, the fact that the lev is pegged to the euro at a fixed exchange rate also means that Bulgaria cannot devalue its currency in order to make its exports more competitive. Therefore, Bulgaria would not lose anything in this regard by adopting the euro.[43]

Other advantages of adopting the euro include the improved supervision of Bulgaria's systemically important banks once it has joined ERM II together with the Banking union, and the decreased cost of borrowing and full access to the rescue packages of the euro area that are intended to deal with the economic effects of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.[43]

Selecting the design

Bulgaria euro coins will replace the lev once the convergence criteria are fulfilled. As the current lev was fixed to the Deutsche Mark at par, the lev's peg effectively switched to the euro, at the rate of 1.95583 leva = 1 euro, which is the Deutsche Mark's fixed exchange rate to euro.[78] On the occasion of the signing of the EU accession treaty on 25 April 2005, the Bulgarian National Bank issued a commemorative coin with a face value of 1.95583 leva, giving it a nominal value of exactly 1 euro.[79][80]

The Madara Rider was one of the favourites to become the symbol of Bulgaria to be used on the national side of the country's euro coins. Other eminent pretenders for the title 'Symbol of Bulgaria' were the ancient tradition of the nestinars (Bulgarian fire-dancers), Cyrillic,[81] the Rila Monastery[82] and the Tsarevets medieval fortress near Veliko Turnovo.[82]

By 17 June 2008, debates about the design of the future Bulgarian euro coins were held all over the country. They continued until 29 June when a vote decided the symbol to be used on all coins. Bulgarians voted in post offices, gas stations and schools.[83][84]

Finally, on 29 June it was announced that 25.44% of the Bulgarian voters had chosen the Madara Horseman to be depicted on future euro coins.[85][86][87][88]

Linguistic issues

10 euro note from the new Europa series written in Latin (EURO) and Greek (ΕΥΡΩ) alphabets, but also in the Cyrillic (ЕВРО) alphabet, as a result of Bulgaria joining the European Union in 2007.

The Bulgarian language's use of a Cyrillic script and its not straightforward transliteration of the word euro have caused some issues regarding the official use of the language relating to the euro. The European Central Bank and the European Commission initially insisted that Bulgaria adopt the name ЕУРО (i.e., euro), rather than the original ЕВРО (i.e., evro) Bulgarian pronunciation: [ˈɛvro] (from Bulgarian Европа [ɛvˈrɔpɐ], meaning Europe), claiming the currency's name should be standardised across the EU as much as possible. Bulgaria maintained that its language's alphabet and phonetic orthography warranted the exception.[89] At the 2007 EU Summit in Lisbon the issue was decided in Bulgaria's favour, making евро the official Cyrillic spelling from 13 December 2007.[90][91]

This ruling has affected the design of euro banknotes. The second series of notes (beginning with the €5 note issued from 2013) includes the term "ЕВРО" and the abbreviation "ЕЦБ" (short for Европейска централна банка, the Bulgarian name of the European Central Bank).[92] The first series had only the standard Latin alphabet "EURO" and the Greek "ΕΥΡΩ".

The euro coins only have the Latin "EURO" on their common side. Greek coins include the alternative Greek spelling on the national (obverse) side. Bulgarian coins, therefore, may follow suit, having "EURO" on one side and "ЕВРО" on the other.

The plural of евро in Bulgarian varies in spoken language – евро, евра [ɛvˈra], еврота [ˈɛvrotɐ] – but the most widespread form is евро – without inflection in plural. The word for euro, though, has a normal form with the postpositive definite article – еврото ([ˈɛvroto], the euro).

The word for eurocent is евроцент [ˈɛvrot͡sɛnt] and most probably that, or only цент [ˈt͡sɛnt], will be used in future when the European currency is accepted in Bulgaria. In contrast to euro, the word for "cent" has a full inflection both in the definite and the plural form: евроцент (basic form), евроцентът (full definite article – postpositive), евроцентове (plural), 2 евроцента (numerative form – after numerals). However, the word stotinki (стотинки), singular stotinka (стотинка), the name of the subunit of the current Bulgarian currency, could be used in place of cent, as it has become a synonym of the word "coins" in colloquial Bulgarian; just like "cent" (from Latin centum), its etymology is from a word meaning hundred – sto (сто). Stotinki is used widely in the Bulgarian diaspora in Europe to refer to subunits of currencies other than the Bulgarian lev.[citation needed]

Public opinion

Public support for the euro in Bulgaria[93]

See also

  • flagBulgaria portal
  • iconMoney portal


  1. ^ The political status of Kosovo is disputed. Having unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, Kosovo is formally recognised as an independent state by 100 UN member states (with another 13 states recognising it at some point but then withdrawing their recognition) and 93 states not recognizing it, while Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory.


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