Bulgaria slides one spot in new European Catch-Up Index

Six years after its accession into the EU, Bulgaria continues to substantially lag behind in the process of catching-up with the more developed countries in Europe, according to the new report on the findings of the new European Catch-Up Index.

Bulgaria is at the bottom of the overall ranking among the EU member states as well as in the four categories of the index: economy, democracy, quality of life and governance. In some indicators of quality of life, the country falls behind neighboring countries such as Serbia and Montenegro, which are still candidate countries.

The report Aftershocks: What Did the Crisis Do to Europe 2013, is based on the second edition of the Catch-Up Index, which measures and ranks the performance of 35 countries – the EU member states, the candidate and potential candidate countries across the four categories – economy, quality of life, democracy and governance – measured by 47 indicators, with standardised scores (100-0 highest to lowest) and ranking (1-35, highest to lowest).

The index is a product of the European Policies Initiative of the Open Society Institute – Sofia.

Bulgaria occupies 29th position among 35 countries in the ranking by overall score, sliding one notch down in comparison to the 2011 index. Economy is the category where the country performs the best – in relative terms – at 28th position, followed by democracy and good governance, again 28th but with worse score.

Quality of life is the category where the country performs the worst, occupying one of the last positions – 31st out of 35, with the indicators measuring progress in areas like education, healthcare, welfare of consumers, etc.

In assessing individual indicators, Bulgaria performs the best in the level of government debt, being second only after Estonia among the 35 countries included in the index. Among the worst indicators of the country are: quality of healthcare – 34th, energy efficiency – 35th and media freedom – 30th position.

Regarding the processes in Europe, the index registers the effects of the economic crisis on the continent and outlines the possible groups in “a multi-speed Europe”. The most advanced groups included countries in the northern and northwestern parts of the continent. The countries most lagging behind are in the southeast of Europe – the Balkans.

This confirms the tendency for an increasing North-South divide, which gradually replaces the previous East-West divisions after many former communist countries and new EU member states – such as the Czech Republic Slovenia, Estonia, Poland and Slovakia – are already catching up the best-performing Western countries in a number of indicators.

Reversely, Greece is among the countries lagging behind and in the “Balkan company” of its neighbors, sliding down the rankings not only in

the economy category – as expected – but also in democracy and governance.

However, Greece retains its position in quality of life. This is apparently the category where the newer member states of the EU are catching-up to the older member states the slowest and with most difficulty.

The report confirms the observation about clear correlation between good governance and the levels of government debt that a country can tolerate. The countries with better governance can afford to sustain higher debt levels without entering a crisis, while countries with worse governance scores should not increase their debt, even though it is much smaller.

(The full report Aftershocks: What Did the Crisis Do to Europe? is available for download at eupi.eu and TheCatchUpIndex.eu. The special online platform at TheCatchUpIndex.eu allows users to view and work interactively with the data of the index. Photo: Steve Ford/sxc.hu)



Marin Lessenski, EuPI

Marin Lessenski is a policy analyst with the European Policies Initiative and an expert with the European Policies and Civic Participation Programme of the Open Society Institute – Sofia. He has been Director of Programmes of the Institute for Regional and International Studies (IRIS) since 1998.