Danish Ambassador Jes Brogaard Nielsen: Bulgaria has A Lot of Potential for Growth #AmbassadorTalks
Novinite.com, Bulgaria’s largest English-language news provider, is launching a new series entitled: “Ambassador Talks”. It consists of interviews with Ambassadors or Heads of Missions accredited to Bulgaria in order to see their point of view on current developments - both domestic, bilateral and international. Each interview will have the same 10 questions.
Our first guest was the Ambassador of China, His Excellency Mr. Dong Xiaojun. You can read his interview here.
Today, our second guest is the Ambassador of Denmark, His Excellency Mr. Jes Brogaard Nielsen. We are thankful to the Embassy of Denmark and to Mr.Nielsen for providing us with this opportunity to share with our readers what His Excellency thinks about Bulgarian-Danish relations. More information about the format of the series and how you can contact us can be found after the interview, below. Enjoy!
1. What is your opinion on the bilateral political and business relations between Bulgaria and your country?
Denmark and Bulgaria are enjoying a very good bilateral relationship. As a matter of fact, our diplomatic relationship has existed for more than 90 years and goes back to 1931. Not only have many Danish companies firmly established themselves in Bulgaria, but close to 70.000 Danish tourists visit Bulgaria annually. And many Bulgarians come to Denmark to study or work. So our relations are good, and they are being strengthened every day through the many people-to-people contact and through the ever-growing business cooperation.
2. What kind of improvement of these relations do you see in the near future and also long term?
Bulgaria is a European country with a European history and culture. Since the end of communism, Bulgaria has worked on placing itself in the middle of the family of European countries. And from the very beginning, Denmark has supported this. Bulgaria is now a member of both EU and NATO, and soon a member of the OECD. So in a way you can say Bulgaria has succeeded.
But it is a continuous struggle. Every day we must work hard to maintain the institutions that underpin democracy: freedom of speech, free elections, rule of law.
The best way to improve even further our bilateral political relations is for Bulgaria and Denmark both individually and together to work for upholding the rule of law nationally and internationally.
I am very happy to see that Bulgaria has joined the other EU members in supporting Ukraine against the illegal Russian war of aggression. By supporting Ukraine, we are supporting the principle of rule of law internationally.
In terms of bilateral business relations, it is also relevant to look at the rule of law. If you want business to thrive, it is necessary to combat corruption and build a legal system you can trust. I think Bulgaria has made progress since the 1990s but more needs to be done.
Bulgaria has a lot of potential for growth.
The continued digitalization of both countries is definitely a factor that furthers the possibilities for business relations between Denmark and Bulgaria. This is a sector where I see great potential for cooperation between our two countries.
3. In your humble opinion, what is the place of Bulgaria in the modern world?
I would say that the place and role of Bulgaria in the modern world are well established as an EU member country. Moreover, the geographical location of Bulgaria also makes it an interesting country for companies to invest in and make business with.
4. If you want to promote Bulgaria to investors from your country, what would be the 5 most important advantages you would mention?
First of all, that Bulgaria is a member of the EU. Second, its geographical location makes it well placed for trade with many important non-EU countries. Thirdly, low taxes are always appreciated. Fourthly, an educated workforce. Finally, the focus on increasing digitalization is also an important advantage, though more needs to be done.
5. Do you think Bulgaria can improve its image or branding and if yes - do you have an idea or advice you could share with us?
The Danes, who know Bulgaria, mainly have their knowledge from having visited Bulgaria as tourists. Some business people are also familiar with Bulgaria due to having done business with Bulgarian companies. However, I believe that Bulgaria can be branded more both in terms of tourism and in terms of business.
In terms of tourism, Bulgaria is so much more than the Black Sea coast: you have beautiful nature, wine production, and fascinating history.
In terms of business, Bulgaria could, in its branding, highlight some of the abovementioned advantages.
6. What would be the three most important events for your Embassy until the end of this year?
First of all, parliamentary elections are coming up in Bulgaria, which are taking place in an extremely turbulent period, not only for Bulgaria but also for the whole of Europe. These elections are important because they will give the direction in which Bulgaria will move in the coming years.
Another important topic for us is the Recovery and Resilience Plan. Bulgaria really needs this plan, which will be like a booster injection for the economy and for the Bulgarian citizens. We will follow the implementation of the plan, to ensure that the money will be spent according to the rules and on projects beneficial to the country.
Last but not least, the war in Ukraine remains on the agenda. Bulgaria was one of the first countries to accept refugees from Ukraine and extend a hand to a friend in need. But it is important that the support to Ukraine continue in spite of the many problems arising from the war. The Embassy closely follows the sentiment in Bulgaria.
Of course, the Embassy of Denmark also plans to be part of several cultural events until the end of this year.
7. How deep has the COVID pandemic affected the bilateral relations between Bulgaria and your country?
The COVID pandemic has in no way affected the relationship between the two countries.
Denmark is one of the countries with the highest vaccination rate in Europe and we are glad that we were able to help minimize the effect of the virus. We believe that vaccination is a very important way to deal with the COVID-19 virus faster. It is evident that the majority of the COVID-19 hospitalized Bulgarian population are unvaccinated. On top of that, Bulgaria has a high COVID-19 death toll. I hope that more Bulgarians decide to get vaccinated and that the pandemic is now behind us.
8. What advice can you give to Bulgarians who want to do business with people from your country?
There is a high level of trust in Denmark. Therefore, it is simple and easy to do business. When expanding to new markets, there are many unknown factors. So, trust has to be built. Therefore, be transparent and work “in good faith”. Be direct and address the problems. You have to be honest about the challenges in order for them to be solved.
9. Tell us about yourself - what was your professional diplomatic career, how long have you been in Bulgaria, and what are the most fascinating places or even dishes for you in Bulgaria?
I have been in Bulgaria for a little over a year. Before being Ambassador of Denmark to Bulgaria, I had various positions in the Danish MFA, but most of them focused on EU-related issues. I was posted at the Danish Permeant Representation in Brussels during the last Danish EU presidency. That was very interesting and a lot of work.
My family and I have already seen many places in Bulgaria, but there are still a lot of fascinating places for us to visit here in your country. Coming from Denmark where we have no mountains, we much appreciate the Bulgarian geography. Hiking up Vitosha, reaching “Cherni Vrah” peak and seeing the stunning view over beautiful Sofia is one of my favorite experiences. Moreover, Bulgaria’s culinary scene is very fascinating and delicious. I have enjoyed tasting the nice Bulgarian wine, and the sun-ripened tomatoes are the best I have tasted. When you sit in the shade on a warm, sunny day and taste the sun-ripened tomatoes in a shopska-salad, it is hard not to fall in love with Bulgaria.
10. If you must describe Bulgaria in just three words, what would they be?
I associate Bulgaria with many good things, not just three. But if I had to narrow it down to just three things, they are: mountains, tomatoes and hospitality.
We wish Ambassador Jes Brogaard Nielsen a pleasant stay at the Danish Embassy in Sofia. And we thank him for the kind words and for agreeing to take part in this interview. Our readers can expect our next interview on October 3. Stay tuned!
Ambassador Jes Brogaard Nielsen’s career began in the Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries in 1995. After that, he started working in the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs until 2001. His first mission was to the Danish Embassy to the UN in Vienna. In subsequent years he was part of the Permanent Representation of Denmark in the EU. Before becoming an Ambassador of Denmark to Bulgaria, between 2012 and 2021, H.E. Jes Brogaard Nielsen headed different divisions in the ministries of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Foreign Affairs, and Business. The ambassador holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles, and M.A. in Economics from the University of Copenhagen. In addition, he speaks fluently English, German and French. He is married and has two children.
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