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Bulgaria and the euro

File:Eurozone participation.svg
Eurozone participation
  19 European Union member states in the eurozone
  7 European Union member states not in ERM II but obliged to join once convergence criteria are met
  1 European Union member state in ERM II, with an opt-out (Denmark)
  1 European Union member state not in ERM II, with an opt-out (United Kingdom)
  4 non-European Union member states using the euro with a monetary agreement (Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City)
  2 non-European Union member states using the euro unilaterally (Kosovo and Montenegro)

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, the exception being its membership for at least two years of the EU's official exchange rate mechanism (ERM II), which it has not yet joined despite the current Bulgarian lev having been pegged to the euro since its introduction in 1999. 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.[1] Bulgarian euro coins have not yet been designed, but their motif has been chosen to be the Madara Rider.

Selecting the design

Bulgaria euro coins will replace the current national currency, 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.[2] 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.[3][4]

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,[5] the Rila Monastery[6] and the Tsarevets medieval fortress near Veliko Turnovo.[6]

As of 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.[7][8]

Finally, on 29 June 2008 it was announced that 25.44% of the Bulgarian voters had chosen the Madara Horseman to be depicted on future euro coins.[9][10][11][12]

Public opinion

According to a eurobarometer poll in April 2015, 55 per cent of Bulgarians are in favor of introducing the euro(an increase of 4 per cent from 2014) while 39 per cent are opposed(a decrease of 6 per cent from 2014).[13][14]

Convergence criteria

The Maastricht Treaty originally required 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 on 2012.[15]

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.[16] 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%.[17]

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.[18] 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.[19]

The lev is not part of ERM-II, but since the launch of the euro in 1999, it has been pegged to the euro at a fixed rate of €1 = BGN 1.95583 through a strictly managed currency board. 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.[20][21][22]

Joining ERM II

While Bulgaria has not formally joined the exchange rate mechanism, the ±15% floating band permitted within ERM II is less restrictive than Bulgaria's current strict peg of 1.95583 BGN to 1 EUR. The lev has been pegged to the euro since its launch, and prior to that 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,[23] 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.[24]

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. Simeon Dyankov, Bulgaria's finance minister, said in September 2009 that Bulgaria planned to enter ERM II in November 2009,[25][1][2][3] but this was delayed. In November 2009, Bulgaria stated that it planned to apply for joining ERM II in early 2010, but was forced to delay its application for at least one year after updated figures put the budget deficit for 2009 at 3.7% of GDP, outside the Maastricht criteria.[26] On 22 December 2009 Dyankov said that the country would apply to join the ERM II in March 2010,[27] but due to a high deficit Bulgaria decided not to apply in 2010.[28] In late 2009, Dyankov said that Bulgaria would apply for ERM II membership by February 2010,[29] however, the application was further later delayed.[30]

In July 2011 Dyankov stated that the government would not adopt the euro as long as the European sovereign-debt crisis was ongoing, but that euro adoption could take place as early as 1 January 2015.[1] According to Deutsche Bank, at the time the government had selected a target date for ERM-II entry of the beginning of 2013.[31] The government reiterated in September 2012 its intention to remain outside the eurozone for as long as the debt crisis remained unresolved; it wanted a clear understanding of the consequences of adopting the euro before making a decision to do so.[32] Bulgaria abstained from entering ERM-II during 2013 and 2014,[33] while restating their position that they were not planning on adopting the euro in the near future.[34]

In January 2015, the new elect Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said, that it was absolutely possible for Bulgaria to join ERM-II before the term of current government ends in 2018, and that he would begin talks with the Eurogroup to map what sort of preparations the state should undertake to qualify for membership.[35] The former governor of the Bulgarian National Bank, Kolyo Paramov, in office when the currency board of the state was established, believes the euro should be adopted already in January 2018, as this 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).[36] 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)".[37]


Bulgaria met 4 out of the 5 criteria in the last convergence report published by the European Central Bank in May 2014.

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Linguistic issues

File:EUR 10 obverse (2014 issue).png
10 euro note from the new Europa series written in Latin (EURO) and Greek (EYPΩ) alphabets, but also in the Cyrillic (EBPO) 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) [ˈɛvro] (from Bulgarian Европа [ɛvˈrɔpa], 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.[38] 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.[39][40]

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 "EBPO" and the abbreviation "ЕЦБ" (short for Европейска централна банка, the Bulgarian name of the European Central Bank).[41] The first series had only the standard Latin alphabet "EURO" and the Greek "EYPΩ".

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 "EBPO" on the other.

The plural of евро in Bulgarian varies in spoken language – евро, евра [ɛvˈra], еврота [ˈɛvrota] – 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 (the euro).

The word for eurocent is евроцент [ˈɛvrotsɛnt] and most probably that, or only цент [ˈtsɛnt], 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). The word stotinki (стотинки), singular stotinka (стотинка), the name of the subunit of the current Bulgarian currency can 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.


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