BULGARIA'S REAL CONVERGENCE IN THE CONTEXT OF POTENTIAL EMU MEMBERSHIP
Keywords:convergence, euro adoption, ERM II mechanism, Bulgaria
Since the entry of Bulgaria into the European Union, the country's full membership in the Economic and Monetary Union has become one of the national economic policy goals. In the recent period Bulgaria fulfils all the nominal convergence criteria, except for the criterion on exchange rate stability as long as the country does not participate in the ERM II mechanism (although Bulgaria has a currency board arrangement in place since 1997 and the Bulgarian currency is pegged to the euro). Despite that, Bulgaria remains the EU member with the lowest level of GDP per capita and lowest productivity and income levels. In June 2018 the Bulgarian authorities submitted a letter of intent to the EU policy makers to join the ERM II mechanism and the banking union. In July 2020 the mutual agreement to include the Bulgarian lev in the ERM II mechanism and Bulgaria to join the banking union was achieved. In the context of the future full EMU membership it is important to assess the evolution and the state of Bulgaria's real convergence. This paper looks at the Bulgaria's real convergence, understood as the convergence of GDP per capita, labour productivity and convergence of price levels. We use the Beta and Sigma convergence methods and explore the convergence in the 1999-2018 period. We also compare Bulgaria's real convergence to the real convergence of other CEE countries that are EU members (Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia), part of which have already accepted the euro and the other part are still outside of the euroarea. We also try to explain the economic reasoning behind the EMU accession path of Bulgaria. The results of the survey show that Bulgaria lags behind in its convergence process from other CEE countries, but at the same time we believe that the benefits of the euroarea membership outweigh the possible negative consequences.
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