Harri Salmi: I Encourage Bulgarian Authorities To Take Steps In Implementing Urgent Reforms
Novinite.com is interviewing the ambassadors of EU member states, Bulgaria's main trading partners and neighbouring countries. On the occasion of Finland's Independence Day on December 6, Novinite.com has also interviewed the country's ambassador to Bulgaria, His Excellency Harri Salmi.
What major bilateral projects are currently in the making?
Our current bilateral projects are related to cultural events. In Finland we celebrate this year the 100th anniversary of the famous Finnish artist Tove Jansson. Many people know her as the “Mother of the Moomins” and her Moomin books have been translated into Bulgarian.
However, she was also a talented author, illustrator and painter. The Embassy has organized a rotating exhibition about her life and art. In a close co-operation with Bulgarian partners we have been able to show this exhibition in many Bulgarian cities, in Sofia, Veliko Tarnovo, Varna, Knezha, Plovdiv, Ruse and Pleven. The Embassy has been very pleased with our co-operation with all these wonderful cities.
Furthermore, some other cultural events will take place in December related to the Finnish cinema and literature as a part of Nordic co-operation. These events are organized in close collaboration with Bulgarian partners. For example, two famous Finnish authors will participate in the Sofia International Literary Festival 2014 where the main theme this year is the Nordic literature. Furthermore, Finnish films will be screened at the Northern Lights Film Festival in December. I welcome everybody to these events and I hope the Bulgarian audience will enjoy the Finnish and Nordic cinema and literature.
The year 2015 will mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of the great Finnish composer Jean Sibelius and the Embassy is planning a number of events in relation to this anniversary.
What are, in your opinion, the biggest challenges in bilateral relations?
The bilateral relations between Bulgaria and Finland are very good. They go back more than one hundred and thirty years when the Finnish soldiers fought on the side of the Bulgarians in the Russo-Turkish war for the Bulgaria’s liberation. We still commemorate it together. After Bulgaria joined the European Union, our relations have intensified even further. The EU provides a natural framework for our mutual co-operation. Thus I don’t see any major challenges in our bilateral relations.
One thing I would like to touch upon here, though, is the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism. I very much hope that the benchmarks of the mechanism will be implemented in Bulgaria without any delay. The reforms would benefit the whole society. Hence I encourage the Bulgarian authorities to take the necessary steps in implementing the urgently needed reforms also in this respect.
I am convinced that the business climate in the country would be improved drastically when there is a trust that the judiciary will work properly. The predictability is a key word. I am sure that the improvements in this sector would attract more foreign companies and investors, also from Finland.
Where do you see the greatest potential for cooperation and untapped opportunities?
I think there is much unused potential in our bilateral relations which we could develop in the future. The volume of the trade between Bulgaria and Finland is still rather modest. Especially certain sectors, like education, energy efficiency, clean tech, ICT and digitalization could provide possibilities for further co-operation between our countries.
For example, we would be very interested in co-operation with Bulgarian partners in the sector of education. I have understood that there is a large interest in the Finnish education system in Bulgaria. We would be happy to provide our expertise and share our best practices at the education sector with Bulgarian partners.
One sector for increased co-operation could be tourism. Finns are enthusiastic skiers but they have not found the Bulgarian ski resorts, yet. Bulgaria is also rich in cultural and historic heritage and I encourage Bulgaria to actively promote its beautiful tourist attractions in Finland.
How are Bulgaria and Bulgarians perceived by your compatriots?
Finnish tourists have visited the Black Sea coast for many decades and they know well the sunny beaches of Bulgaria. But I must admit that otherwise Bulgaria is not so known to many Finns. Often the news from Bulgaria is more negative than positive and the image that media provides influences on people’s perceptions.
In this perspective there would be a lot of potential to promote the best sides of Bulgaria to Finns and advertise the opportunities Bulgaria provides, not to forget its beautiful nature and friendly people.
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