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Import regulations and customs duties  - Distribution - Transportation of goods - Standards - Patents and brands

Import regulations and customs duties

The import system in Bulgaria has been liberalised a lot in the recent years. There is almost no import restriction, except when it concerns health or safety. Licensing procedures were set up for these products. Most licenses are automatically granted and serve in order to record the exchanges. Other licenses are required for the import of medicines or substances required for the manufacture of medicines, as well as for products containing some asbestos. These licenses are issued by the Ministry of Economy. Products for veterinarian use should also be authorised by the Ministry of Health or by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Besides that, Bulgaria also uses the UAD ( Unique Administrative Document) of the European Union for custom declaration.

Pharmaceutical productsX
Products containing some asbestosX


Customs duties
Bulgaria applies the Harmonised Customs system on the basis of the international 6 figures key. The custom duty is calculated Ad valorem on the CIF value. For certain products (especially farm products) the customs duty is calculated on the basis of a minimum price.
Bulgaria applies a structure of different duties according to the origin of the products:
  • A General Rate (13.7 % on average, about 11 % for industrial goods and 24 % for farm products).
  • A rate of Generalised System of Preference, based on the model set up by the European Union is valid for most of the developing countries.
  • Preferential Agreements: CEFTA (Central European Free Trade association exchange - 80% of the products will not be subject anymore to customs duties by 2002); the European Union ( tapering of the duty to zero in 10 years from 1994 ); EFTA; Turkey; Macedonia.


Import taxes
Bulgaria applies excise duty to alcohol, tobacco and cigarettes, money games, leather; tea and coffee, petroleum, gasoline, and second-hand vehicles.


Regulations governing payments
There are no restrictions in the exchange rate system.


The transition process to a better market economy in Bulgaria took some time. The trend really accelerated only with the intervention of the IMF in July, 1997 and when the President (Stoyanov) and a new government, both determined to reform the system, came to power.
Important structural reforms have now been set up, especially because of the prospects for future EU membership, and privatisation of public companies which accelerated from 1997 to 1999. During this period the economy rate increased from 20 to 70%.

The Business to Consumer (B to C) market
Retailers' network has come up only recently. They can be easily recognised with the commercial services they offer, compared to other western countries. The retailers offer a particular advantage to the foreign companies to the extent that they do not have to create their own distributive network.

The Business to Business (B to B) market
The big public distribution companies, not any longer having monopoly, still remain major players. They are settled in strategic places (The Universal Central Shop settled in Sofia). They benefit from certain commercial privileges, that the foreign multinationals must concede to them if they are willing to enter the market.
Trade fairs and forums are a recent trend and fast coming up in Bulgaria. The biggest part of these exhibitions concentrate on Plovdiv's site, the second city of the country, where the infrastructure allows holding of international events.


Transportation of goods

By road
The road network is 40,000 km, with 400 km of highways. Roads in Bulgaria have captured a big part of ground transportation. They are divided into 4 categories: national, regional, municipal and local. The first two categories are in very good state and comply with the international standards. All the roads in Bulgaria are tarred.

By rail
The rail network is 4,290 km., out of which 62% is electrified. 744 million ton/kilometres of goods were transported during 1997. The national company is Bulgarian Railways (BDZ).

By sea
The main ports are Varna and Burgas and about 20 million tons of goods are yearly handled through them. The port of Varna has a storage capacity of more than 1,000 containers of standard size. The Bulgarian merchant fleet consists in 100 vessels, out of which 12 are tankers.
A plan for the development of Burgas's port was conceived and presented to the Ministry of Transport in 1997. The project covers a modernisation work which will last until 2015. This will include the construction of 4 new terminals. This project aims at enlarging and modernising the terminal of containers in the Eastern part of Varna.
Transport by inland waterway on the Danube has enabled to develop business connections with countries of Central Europe, especially since a new canal connecting the Danube with Meinz and the Rhine was constructed.

By air
The first Bulgarian priority in the field of the air transportation is the modernisation of Sofia airport to attract some intercontinental traffic. In this context, the airport of Sofia, which handled 12,300 million tons of goods in 1999, will be developed with the creation of an intermodal air terminal allowing the combination of the means of transportation. The 3 other main Bulgarian airports are Burgas, Varna and Plovdiv. The national company is Balkan Air.


The State Agency for Standardisation and Metrology (BDS) is the organisation in charge of the standardisation and ratification of laws in Bulgaria. Its purpose is to harmonise these standards with the European ones.
The standard ISO 9000, though optional is a factor of competitiveness.
The Committee of Normalisation and Metrology has the power to grant the import of some goods when the standard of the country of origin does not totally match the Bulgarian ones.
Special certificates and ratification are compulsory for household electrical appliances, mobile phones equipment, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products.

Patents and brands

The organisation for the protection of trademarks and patents is the Bulgarian Patent Office.
Since 1993, there is a law on copyrights and intellectual property. There is also a law on patents but it is not very reliable.
Bulgaria signed the Agreement of Paris concerning the protection of industrial property and the agreement which establishes the World Organization of Intellectual property (WIPO). Concerning patents, Bulgaria ratified the treaty of co-operation on patents.

Texts currently applying to patents/brands

  Text Date entered into law Period of validity Comment
Patent Patents Act 1991 maximum 16 years


Last modified in 2006 - ongoing update
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