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Greco-Bulgarian relations
Greece   Bulgaria
Map indicating location of Greece and Bulgaria
     Greece      Bulgaria

Relations between Greece (the Hellenic Republic) and Bulgaria (the Republic of Bulgaria) have been cordial since the 1950s, preceded in the earlier 20th century by periods of intense mutual hostility. Since Bulgaria's independence in 1908, Greece and Bulgaria faced each other in three major wars: the Second Balkan War, the First World War and the Second World War, in which Bulgaria briefly occupied parts of northern Greece.



Greko-Bulgarian relations have existed since the 680, when the Bulgarians supposedly settled on the Balkan peninsula. The two nations have been in many wars, a sort of a perpetual power struggle. In the early 10th century Simeon the Great claims the title Tzar(emperor)over Bulgarians and Romans (meaning Byzantine Greeks)after conquering most of the Balkan Byzantine empire. A mere century later the fate is reversed, and Bulgaria ceases to exist on the map. A few centuries later the Bulgarians rebel led by three brothers and reestablish their state. A century later, Bulgaria is restored to its former glory. At the expense of its Greek Byzantine neighbor of course. None of this would matter since Osman the conqueror and his successors would occupy the whole of the Balkans. Putting both Bulgarians and Greeks under the same empire. Over time, the High Gates (the Ottoman government) would develop a liking for the less rebellious better tax paying Greeks. In the 19th century it got to the point where Bulgarian language was banned from church services in Bulgarian churches, and Bulgarians ceased to be recognized by the High Gates as a minority in the empire, but were treated as Greeks. This unfairness led to the Bulgarian Revival, during which the Bulgarian History was rediscovered and Bulgarian Nationalism emerged. Securing a Bulgarian identity much different from the Greek one. Sadly over the years somehow, what is today northern Greece has lost its Bulgarian heritage.According to some sources it is through forceful acculturation of Bulgarian occupied territory. Up until the 1930's and even later according to some sources, Bulgarian was the largest Minority in the Northern part of Greece.The other two smaller minorities being Turkish and Greek. Through political machinations and bloody occupations Britain and Greece, ensure the Russian and later Axis allied Bulgaria does not have access to the Aegean sea, even it means erasing the cultural traditions of a region. It is with great sadness that Bulgarians still remember old Thesalian songs , or old songs from Belo-morska Trakia. In fact one of Bulgaria's greatest national heroes - Kapitan Petko Voivoda is from modern day North Greece. One of Bulgaria's holiest places is also located within Greek borders. Only a few Bulgarians travel today to visit the Zograf monastery.

Since the Second World War, relations between Greece and Bulgaria have been flourishing, and as the Greek President Konstantinos Tsatsos said during the Bulgarian leader Todor Zhivkov's visit to Athens in April 1976, "the old controversies have been forgotten and the hatchet buried forever".[1] Greece became a firm supporter of Bulgaria’s EU membership and was the fifth EU member state and the first old member state to ratify the Accession Treaty.[2] Since Bulgaria joined NATO in May 2004, Greek-Bulgarian relations have been developing on all fronts, and the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs describes relations between Greece and Bulgaria as "excellent".[2]


In the Greek language, Bulgaria is called Βουλγαρία (Vulgharia) and the Bulgarians are called Βούλγαροι (Vulghari). In the Bulgarian language, Greece is called Гърция (Gartsiya) and the Greeks are called Гърци (Gartsi).


Official visits

Greece and Bulgaria regularly exchange visits of senior dignitaries and officials. Notable official visits include:

  • The President of Bulgaria Georgi Parvanov to Greece (05-07/11/2003)
  • Working visit by Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Sakskoburggotski to Athens (31/10-01/11/2002) and attendance at the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony (13-17/08/2004).
  • The President of the Hellenic Republic, Kostis Stephanopoulos to Bulgaria (11-13/10/2004)
  • Meeting between the two Presidents in Thessaloniki (11/04/05)
  • Working visits by Foreign Minister, Petros Molyviatis, accompanied by Deputy Foreign Ministers Valinakis and Stylianidis to Sofia (16/11/2004) confirm the excellent level of bilateral relations.
  • The Greek President, Karolos Papoulias, met with his Bulgarian counterpart, Georgi Purvanov, in Thessaloniki (11/4/2005), immediately upon taking office, and visited Bulgaria within the framework of the Regional Forum on Cultural Corridors in Southeast Europe, which took place in Varna (20-21/5/2005).
  • Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis paid a two-day visit to the country (19-20/5/2005) at the invitation of Bulgarias Minister of the Interior at the time, G. Petkanov.


The main Inter-State Agreements signed over the past 15 years are as follows:

  • Avoidance of Double Taxation on Income and Capital (Athens, 15/2/1991)
  • Police Cooperation (covering clandestine immigration, terrorism, organised crime, and police training) (Athens, 8/7/1991)
  • Cooperation between Ministries of Defence and Armed Forces (Athens, 28/11/1991)
  • Agreement on Seasonal Workers (Athens, 15/12/1995)
  • Agreement on the Waters of the River Nestos (Sofia 22/12/1995)
  • Agreement on the Opening of Three New Border Posts and Arterial Road Links between the two countries (Sofia 22/12/1995)
  • Military and Technical Cooperation (March 1998)
  • Scientific, Educational and Cultural Agreement (Sofia 12/6/2002) (in application of Article 13 of the Bilateral Cultural Agreement (Athens, 31/05/1973)
  • Five-Year Development Cooperation Agreement within the framework of the HIBERB (development Aid to Bulgaria of 54,29 million euros) (28/08/2002)
  • Bilateral Environmental Protection Agreement (Athens, 01/11/2002)
  • Aviation Agreement (Athens, 01/11/2002)
  • Scientific and Technological Cooperation Protocol (Athens, December 2002)


Historically, there have been sizable Greek and Bulgarian communities in the territories which form present day Bulgaria and Greece respectively. These communities today are mostly non-existent due to the population exchanges between Greece and Bulgaria which were directed under the Treaty of Neuilly in 1919.

According to the 2001 census, there were 35,104 Bulgarian citizens in Greece,[3] constituting 4,7% of all foreigners in Greece. However, that number has risen since then, as in 2003-2004, Bulgarians accounted for 9,8% of residence permit holders in Greece, out of which 473 were students and 2,059 were married to EU nationals.[4] In the academic year 2002-2003, there were 2,873 non-ethnic Greek citizens of Bulgaria in Greek state schools.[4] There are numerous publications in Greece for the Bulgarian community, including the bilingual newspaper България днес/Βουλγαρία σήμερα (Bulgaria today).

According to the 2001 census, there were 3,408 Greeks in Bulgaria.[5] This figure most likely includes, former political refugees, remnants of the population exchanges, students, and businessmen and their families. In addition, there were 4,108 Sarakatsani[6]

See also


  1. ^ Bulgaria and its neighbours: a hundred years after independence
  2. ^ a b Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Bilateral relations between Greece and Bulgaria
  3. ^ Πληθυσμός κατά υπηκοότητα και φύλο Σύνολο Ελλάδος, αστικές και αγροτικές περιοχές: Απογραφή πληθυσμού της 18ης Μαρτίου 2001
  4. ^ a b Hellenic Migration Policy Institute (ΙΜΕΠΟ): statistical data on immigrants in Greece
  5. ^ Republic of Bulgaria: National Statistical Institute: 2001 census
  6. ^


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