Poorest EU State Faces Quarter-Century Wait to Close Wealth Gap

(Bloomberg) -- More than a decade after joining the European Union, Bulgaria may still have another quarter-century to wait until it’s as wealthy as the rest of the bloc.

The Balkan nation’s gross domestic product per capita has reached 49 percent of the EU average, up from 40 percent when it joined in 2007. But a report Wednesday by the Open Society Institute in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, said hitting 90 percent of average EU income will take until 2042, longer than any of the other members. And that assumes economic expansion will continue to exceed 4 percent a year.

“Bulgaria will overcome the big income differences with the EU average in 24 years if it keeps the current growth levels,” the institute said. “But these deadlines are neither guaranteed nor certain.”

The economy could get a boost from euro adoption, a goal the government is seeking to lock in this summer. While that would help attract more investment into the poorest EU state, the prospects for approval are uncertain.

But for Bulgaria, the news could be worse. Western Balkan neighbors hopeful of joining the EU around 2025 have a much more daunting task to bridge the huge affluence gap. Serbia and Albania will have to wait until beyond 2100 before they manage it, according to the Open Society Institute.

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