AN ISSUE OF ASSURANCE

by Ani Ivanova

Until further notice, you still need a "green card" to drive your Bulgarian-registered card abroad

There were hopes at the end of last year that Bulgaria's EU entry would mean motorists could tear up their "Green Card" certificates and freely drive their Bulgaria-registered vehicles abroad without the need for one. These expectations lingered until the very end of 2006, but now it looks as though there is still a while to wait before Bulgaria-registered cars abroad are exempted from requiring a green card.

True, Bulgaria has joined the EU, which means that civil liability policies and Bulgaria-registered vehicle plates are now valid in all EU countries, but border control has not been abolished. The reason for this is that Bulgaria has to sign multilateral agreements with national motor insurance bureaus in all EU member countries (the signing of the UK agreement is still pending) after which the European Commission will adopt the necessary legislation. The process is a lengthy one and will take a few months, possibly until the end of May.

In the meantime, before setting out on your cross country road trip, you need to extend your insurance policy to cover driving abroad: that is - get a green card. This must be shown at the border as proof that you have at least the minimum compulsory Third Party insurance cover required by law in the countries you visit. All of the above means that if you're planning to go to Greece next weekend, first you will need to visit your insurers and get a motor insurance policy if you don't have one already. Ask for the additional green card certificate. Most insurance companies will be prepared for this and will not charge you for it, others may charge an administrative fee of 10 to 20 leva, says Maria Popovyanska of Tetra Ins insurance company. The green certificate has a hologram sticker on the back and is valid for the entire period covered by your policy.

If you have a car insurance policy issued in 2006, as from 1 January 2007 it is automatically valid for EU territories besides Bulgaria. To drive abroad, you need to take your policy to a branch of the insurance company that issued it and obtain a green card certificate. Again, this will either be free of charge or 10-20 leva, and will be effective for the remaining period of validity of the policy.

Bear in mind that until late November 2006 quite a number of insurers offered lower tariffs on car insurance, with discounts of 15-50 percent, if the policy holder explicitly stated he would not be driving abroad. Some insurers still offer these discounts. If you hold one of these policies, but decide that you do want to drive abroad, be prepared to pay the amount of the discount to get a green card certificate, says Maria.

So far, so good, you are ready to drive to Greece or Romania now. If going to Hungary, that is transiting Serbia, where Bulgarian car insurance is not valid, border procedures will not be changing any time soon. As before, you will still require a green card. Insurers offer a separate green card certificate which is valid for non-EU countries and costs 30-40 leva for two weeks, or 120-140 leva for a year. Last year when Bulgaria was not a member of the EU, the same document cost a minimum of 150 leva. So, now you are all set for your international road trip. Unfortunately the one thing we can't do anything about is the legions of traffic cops no doubt waiting to accost you along the way. Keep your eyes peeled.

Motor Geography

EU car insurance provides third-party cover anywhere in the EU for the period of validity of the policy. As from 1 January 2007, Bulgarian motor insurance is valid for member countries of the European Economic Area, Andorra and Croatia.

The green card insurance for countries outside the EU currently covers Belarus, Albania, Moldavia, Andorra, Morocco, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tunisia, Macedonia, Turkey, Iran, Ukraine, Israel, Serbia and Montenegro. Green cards are not available for Kosovo and border car insurance must be purchased.

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