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Bulgaria factfile

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Basic facts about Bulgaria, which holds snap parliamentary elections on Sunday:

GEOGRAPHY: Bulgaria, which covers 110,994 square kilometres (42,855 square miles), is located in the Balkans, with an eastern coastline on the Black Sea. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west and Greece and Turkey to the south. The capital is Sofia.

POPULATION: 7.365 million (2011 census). The main ethnic minorities are Turks (8.8 percent of the population) and Roma (five percent officially, but other estimates put them at 10 percent).

LANGUAGE: Bulgarian, which uses a cyrillic script. Turkish is also spoken.

RELIGION: Mainly Orthodox Christianity, with a 10-percent Muslim minority.

HISTORY: Bulgaria first emerged as a state in the second half of the seventh century and was part of the Byzantine empire and then the Ottoman empire for almost five centuries after 1396.

Newly independent after 1878, it sided with Germany in World War I and the Nazis in World War II.

Occupied by the Soviet Union at the end of the conflict, it became part of the communist eastern bloc until the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989.

In 2004, Bulgaria joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and in 2007, the European Union.

POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS: Bulgaria is a republic with a single-chamber parliament renewed every four years by proportional representation.

The president, who has a mostly ceremonial role and is elected directly every five years, appoints a prime minister from the leading party.

President Rosen Plevneliev was elected in 2011.

A centre-right government headed by Prime Minister Boyko Borisov came to power after the last general elections in 2009 and its term was due to end in July. Street pressure forced its resignation however on February 20, opening the way to early elections.

ECONOMY: Bulgaria's main activities are in energy, agro-food production and tourism. With the introduction of Western-style capitalism in the 1990s, Bulgaria suffered a major decline and is the European Union's poorest state.

CURRENCY: Bulgaria is not part of the eurozone but its currency, the lev, is pegged to the European single currency at 1.956 leva to the euro.

GROWTH: 0.8 percent in 2012.

GDP: 39.7 billion euros in 2012 (preliminary statistics).

UNEMPLOYMENT: 11.8 percent in March (employment agency).

INFLATION: 2.7 percent in March, an average 3.0 percent in 2012.

PUBLIC DEBT: 7.4 billion euros, or 18.5 percent of GDP in end-2012 (central bank).

GOVERNMENT WEBSITE: www.government.bg

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130506/bulgaria-factfile