H.E. Donika Hoxha: Together Albania and Bulgaria can create a Bigger Market in the Region #AmbassadorTalks
After a brief pause Ambassador Talks is back! We have the pleasure to welcome Her Excellency Mrs. Donika Hoxha on Albania's Flag Day. Find out more about this special day and an event that will be held in Sofia.
1. What is your opinion on the bilateral political and business relations between Bulgaria and your country?
Relations between Albania and Bulgaria have long traditions and the contacts between our peoples are good and intensive. The bilateral Treaty for Friendship and Cooperation provides the legal basis for the contemporary development of our relations. Bilateral relations have evolved substantially in recent years and high-level contacts are regularly maintained.
2. What kind of improvement of these relations do you see in the near future and also long term?
Albania and Bulgaria are two friendly countries, which are getting to know each other more. We share understanding and values in the context of EU, NATO, UN, as well as other regional and international stages. Building human bridges is not a simple mission, but my team and I have somehow succeeded in making Albania more known to our Bulgarian friends and also Bulgaria has become more familiar to Albanians in recent years. Still, more is needed to be done and we are here for that.
Our relations are characterized by a strong will for further development in all areas such as economy, tourism, innovation, trade, digitalization, culture, etc. The political dialogue, built on the traditional friendship as well as on historical, cultural, and human bonds between our two peoples and countries, is excellent and witnessed by the steady increase of exchange of visits, which has shown the unwavering support of Bulgaria towards Albanian`s Euro-Atlantic path. There are no open or pending issues between our countries.
Relations and exchanges in the economic and infrastructure sectors are further developing building up efforts to carry out the geostrategic Project of Corridor VIII, showing readiness to increase collaboration on energy matters and explore possibilities of cooperation in the field of oil and natural gas sector, promoting cooperation between the two state agencies on foreign investment development, exchanging experiences on start-ups and innovations, cooperating in the field of tourism, textile, and garments industry.
3. In your humble opinion, what is the place of Bulgaria in the modern world?
Personally, I think that NATO and EU membership marked Bulgaria’s place in the modern world and moreover, the geographical location itself as well as its natural beauty and its culture makes it an interesting offer to foreigners to visit the country.
4. If you want to promote Bulgaria to investors from your country, what would be the 5 most important advantages you would mention?
There is still untapped potential. Both Albanian and Bulgarian companies need to refocus their activity and address the regional market more. I have been able to explore and discover the needs of the Bulgarian market which continues to be seen by foreign investors as an attractive low-cost investment destination with government incentives for new investment opportunities. Bulgaria offers some of the least expensive labor in the European Union as well as low and flat corporate and income taxes. There are no legal limits on foreign ownership or control of firms. With some exceptions, foreign entities are given the same treatment as national firms and their investments are not screened or otherwise restricted.
There is strong growth in software development, technical support, and business process outsourcing. The Information Technology (IT) and back office outsourcing sectors have attracted a number of US and European companies to Bulgaria and many have established global and regional service centers in the country. The automotive sector has also attracted foreign investors in recent years. In this regard, I would greatly suggest that Albanian companies and economic entities choose Bulgaria as e potential business partner and market to expand their activity and offer opportunities to expand in Albania. At the same time, I beleve that Bulgaria itself is a small market and sometimes it may not have the capacities that big companies require. It can also see Albania as a potential partner to create a bigger market, including the labor one.
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?
My suggestion would stand to focus the country's branding on two important pillars, consisting of tourism and business; Rebranding Bulgaria firstly into the regional market and later on into expanding it more to the international audience.
6. What would be the 3 most important events for your Embassy until the end of this year?
November is a special month for Albanians all around the world because it marks the Independence Day of Albania. On the 28th of November 1912, the Albanian flag was raised by Ismail Qemali in Vlora which proclaimed the starting of a new era in Albania. This year, Albania will celebrate the 110th anniversary of Independence Day, which coincides with the 100th anniversary of the opening of diplomatic representations in Sofia and Tirana, following the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1913.
In this regard, by our Embassy’s initiative, a concert is planned to be held at the Sofia Opera Theatre, on the 28th of November 2022, at 19.00 hours, where we invite all the Bulgarian public to join us and enjoy the magic sounds performed by 3 internationally known Albanian artist: the diva Inva Mula-soprano, Olenc Cezari- violinist and Genc Tukici-pianist.
Furthermore, 14th of November, another important event was held in close cooperation with Kosovo’s Embassy in Sofia. On a special day, which marked the beginning of the Congress of the Albanian Language that sanctioned the written Albanian language, was opened a photo exhibition entitled “Colors of Albanians”, presented our countries through the eyes of ordinary people, natives and foreigners.
Last but not the least, we had the first Albanain Art Festival, in Sofia on the 21st and 22nd of November, at the Bulgaria Concert Complex. Albanian Art Festival brought in Sofia, for the Bulgarian audience some of Albania's most prominent musicians that performed classical pieces by Bulgarian and Albanian composers, young musicians and renowned painters.
7. How deep has the COVID pandemic affected the bilateral relations between Bulgaria and your country?
The pandemic forced to limit ourselves and find new ways of cooperation and focus our priorities in the region. In this regard, I would say the pandemic helped to rediscover new old economic partners.
In these 3 years, the economic contacts have shown positive feedback, Albanian companies have shown interest on partnering and investing to expand their market. Strengthening the regional market should be our main priority and we must work closely and harder to achieve results and build long-lasting partnerships.
Recently, ministers of transport of Albania, Bulgaria and North Macedonia signed a Memorandum to engage themselves for stable transport along Corridor VIII, creating a common agenda to promote this Corridor, which serves not only these 3 countries, but the entire Western Balkans.
In this short period, I believe both countries have enhanced the cooperation and we have achieved the signing of some agreements in the field of tourism, of environment and water management, of security and are on the conclusion more agreements and programmes of cooperation in the field of social protection and education, science and culture.
8. What advice can you give to Bulgarians who want to do business with people from your country?
Actually, Bulgaria is a traditional economic partner of Albania and Bulgarian businesses operate mainly in Tirana and Durrës, with activities in the field of electricity, gas, steam and air-conditioning supply, wholesale and retail trade, repair of vehicles and motorcycles, professional, scientific and technical activities, etc. Answering your question I would advise interested Bulgarians to refer to the success stories that Bulgarian investments have achieved with economic interlocutors from my country, such as One Communication, Fibank and would strongly suggest they have a look at https://www.aida.gov.al/sq/te-reja-publikime/publikime/1237-albania-calls-2022 , to get to know more the Albanian market and to have a direct connection to the Albanian business interlocutors. Nevertheless, the Albanian Embassy in Sofia remains open to any proposal or request of support for all those who would like to do business in Albania or with Albanians.
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 working in diplomacy since I graduated from Tirana University. Also, I have spent most of the time during the first two decades of my career, working and studying at the same time until I earned a PhD in History of International Relations from the University of Rome “Sapienza”, Italy. Before being appointed to Bulgaria and non-resident ambassador to Moldova, which is my first ambassadorial posting, I was Director of the Department for Economic and Public Diplomacy and Diaspora at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania during 2015- 2018. Before that, I have studied and lived in Malta, Japan and Italy and visited a lot of other countries on duty, from which I can point out my posting in Rome as one most improtant ones.
Actually October marked my fourth year in Bulgaria, and I can firmly say that during this period I have enjoyed serving in your country and exploring it at its most. Plovdiv though seems to have stolen my heart, I have visited it quite a lot than other places like the mountains and the Black Sea.
As for my favorite dish, I like banitsa and mekitsi since it is quite similar to my mother's byrek in the Albanian version.
10. If you must describe Bulgaria in just three words, what would they be?
Culture, nature and hospitality
Donika Hoxha is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Albania to the Republic of Bulgaria (October 2018) and to the Republic of Moldova, nonresident (October 2019) PhD in History of International Relations Previously Director of the Department for Economic and Public Diplomacy and Diaspora at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania (2015-2018). Counsellor and First Secretary at the Embassy of the Republic of Albania to Italy during the term 2002 – 2006 and 2008 – 2015. Head of Protocol and Advisor to the Prime Minister of Albania in 2002. From 1999 to 2002, Dr. Hoxha has served as Desk-Officer and Head of Information and Translation Office, Press and Information Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. September 1998 – December 1999, she has served at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports as spokes-person and desk-officer of the Information and Communication Office. She has been lecturer of Business English at Tirana University from 1998 to 2001. PhD in History of International Relations, University of Rome “Sapienza”, Italy (2010). She also earned Master Degree in Euro-American Languages and Literatures at University of Rome “Sapienza”, Italy (2005). She earned a Postgraduate Diploma in “Diplomacy” at the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies at the University of Malta (2000). She earned a Bachelor degree in English Language at Tirana University (1998). Dr. Hoxha speaks fluently English and Italian and has a good knowledge of French.
Novinite.com presents its new series titled: “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 Honorable guests so far:
Ambassador of China, His Excellency Mr. Dong Xiaojun. You can read his interview here.
Ambassador of Denmark, His Excellency Mr. Jes Brogaard Nielsen. You can read his interview here.
Chargée d'Affaires ad interim of Germany Irene Maria Plank. You can read her interview here.
Ambassador of Spain, His Excellency Mr. Alejandro Polanco Mata. You can read his interview here.
Ambassador of Italy, Her Excellency Mrs. Giuseppina Zarra. You can read her interview here.
Ambassador of Brazil, Her Excellency Mrs. Maria Edileuza Fontenele Reis. You can read her interview here.
Ambassador of the Czech Republic, His Excellency Mr. Lukas Kaucky. You can read his interview here.
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