One of the last two entrants to the European Union, Bulgaria had a GDP per head in 2005 of only $3,480 compared to $9,240 for the eight post-Communist entrants in 2004 and an EU average of $29,330. It has a population of just 8M. Bulgarian is a Slavic language like Russian or Polish. However, some 9% of Bulgarians are ethnic Turks. Around 800,000 Bulgarians live abroad.
Throughout the first half of the 1990s, Bulgaria was wracked by political instability and strikes. The former communists remained a powerful influence. Although the end of the decade was more stable, there was little tangible progress with economic reform. Under Bulgaria’s former king, Simeon II, who was prime minister between 2001 and 2005, the country pressed ahead with market reforms designed to meet EU economic targets. The country achieved growth, saw unemployment fall from highs of nearly 20% and inflation come under control, but incomes and living standards remain low.