Ambassador Brandusa Predescu: Romania and Bulgaria, True Friends and Close Neighbours in Europe #AmbassadorTalks
Today is Great Union Day – a national holiday in Romania marking the unification of Transylvania, Bessarabia, and Bukovina with the Romanian Kingdom in 1918.
On such a special occasion, we have invited Her Excellency Mrs. Brandusa Predescu in our series of interviews Ambassador Talks. Romania is Bulgaria’s closest neighbor and friend. We have shared many hardships and successes in the past two decades. It was an honor to interview the ambassador about relations between our two countries. Vă dorim o lectură plăcută!
1. What is your opinion on the bilateral political and business relations between Bulgaria and your country?
To Romania, Bulgaria is a close neighbor, a trusted partner and a friend. Our countries share very good bilateral relations and a deepened partnership, underpinned by our common interests as EU Member States and NATO Allies. Economic and trade ties, mutual investments are expanding year by year with geographical proximity and a similar sense of entrepreneurship constituting an advantage.
The dynamics of Romanian-Bulgarian cooperation at the highest level, as well as between ministries, agencies, local authorities in recent years, stands as testimony for the quality of our bilateral relations, especially relevant within the current context of regional security. Furthermore, the two governments meet regularly in the frame of a High-Level Cooperation Council. We are looking forward to the next joint meeting of the Council to be organized as soon as conditions will permit it.
2. What kind of improvement of these relations do you see in the near future and also long term?
My team and I are working on a daily basis to facilitate and further expand the dialogue between the authorities of our countries in all fields of mutual interest and to identify new vistas of cooperation.
Increased connectivity throughout the entire region can be best served by increased connectivity between our two countries, from making the Danube navigable full-time all year round, to multiplying crossing possibilities, to cooperating in the field of energy transition to increasing even more cultural and touristic exchange.
In the short term, we are looking forward to a positive decision concerning the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen Area. Both countries are fully prepared, as has been clearly confirmed by the recent expert fact-finding missions led by the Commission. Especially in the current context, characterized by the ongoing security crisis generated by the Russian aggression in Ukraine the enlargement of the Schengen area needs to be put in a new perspective. It is clear, now more than ever, that a secure, strong and resilient EU relies on unity and solidarity. It is therefore important to strengthen the Union’s internal security and eliminate all fragmentation within the free movement area.
3. In your opinion, what is the place of Bulgaria in the modern world?
What I find impressive when one looks at Bulgaria’s past is its ability to flourish in the face of adversity and hardship. Throughout even the toughest periods of crisis, Bulgarian character and culture prevailed.
Famously, Bulgaria was and is home to some of the most innovative, creative and talented individuals that gifted the world with their creations. The Saints Cyril and Methodius certainly stand out. But in all fields of culture, arts, science, sports one finds great Bulgarians who are known throughout the world, to name but a very few Vasil Levski, Hristo Botev, Ivan Vazov, Pancho Vladigerov, or more in the present Assen Jordanoff or Christo, John Atanasoff, Raina Kabaivanska or Hristo Stoichkov.
Although much of the character of the country has been prevented from developing during the communist times, I feel that the efforts to restore it have been incredibly successful. Especially throughout the last decades, Bulgaria, as well as my country, Romania have evolved facing similar problems with our citizens sharing similar expectations and aspirations.
The complex journey from totalitarianism to democracy on which both Bulgaria and Romania embarked culminated with the accession of our two countries to NATO and the European Union.
These were years of deep transformations, which incrementally gave an upward dynamic to our bilateral relationship and made us come closer, understand and support each other.
4. If you want to promote Bulgaria to investors from your country, what would be the 5 most important advantages you would mention?
Bulgaria is well known for its strategic location in our direct vicinity, with good connections towards Asia and the Middle East, highly qualified specialists in all sectors of the economy, competitive prices for doing business and, very importantly, a fixed rate to the euro with prospects of joining the single currency. Bulgaria ranks, as does my country, amongst the most dynamic economies in the EU. From the perspective of Romanian businesses, it is closest to home in all senses of the word, friendliness and openness towards their neighbors north of the Danube, that is us, being clearly an asset when deciding where to place your money abroad.
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?
Bulgaria is a country of striking beauty. A country with a hugely diverse landscape, Bulgaria has it all and then some. Energetic cities such as Sofia, Plovdiv, Ruse, Varna contrast with rolling green countryside whilst deep river valleys wind their way to majestic mountains. It’s also a great place for the traveler looking for a great deal to enjoy the bright, sunny weather, stunning views and elegant, ancient cities that gild the shoreline of the Black Sea, with its abundance of inexpensive lodging, fantastic seafood and gorgeous beaches.
In terms of tourism in particular, but not only, Bulgaria is nothing short of a success story. I feel that there is a huge potential within the country to use its greatest asset: the people – dynamic, intelligent, innovative, competitive. Given that Romanians have now been for several years providing the largest of tourists coming to Bulgaria all year round I could hardly think of ways to improve the branding of your country in mine. You are doing a great job.
6. What would be the 3 most important events for your Embassy until the end of this year?
Romania and Bulgaria are getting even closer in this special year that marks both 15th anniversary of the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the European Union and the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighbourliness between Romania and Bulgaria. This generated new energy for the bilateral relationship that was reflected not only at the political level, but also economically, socially and culturally.
I would like to recall that the magnificent concert of the Romanian Youth Orchestra with maestro Cristian Mandeal, in Sofia mirrored by a similar concert in Bucharest, reuniting famous opera singers from our countries.
Let me also mention other relevant moments: the cooperation agreement between the Romanian and Bulgarian press agencies, AGERPRES and BTA, the official launch of the website in Romanian language of the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR), the contemporary art exhibitions with artists from the two countries, both in Bucharest and Sofia, the other numerous joint projects that brought Romanians and Bulgarians closer.
Of course, for us, the crowning event of the year is the celebration of our National Day, on December 1 - the day we celebrate the Great Union of 1918, when all Romanian provinces were united under the same flag.
7. How deep has the COVID pandemic affected the bilateral relations between Bulgaria and your country?
The SARS-Cov 2 pandemic has affected the entire world trade system. However, the effects on Romanian-Bulgarian bilateral trade were not that serious given the quick reaction of the authorities in our countries. Due to excellent cooperation and coordination with regard to sanitary measures taken, the spread of the virus from one country to the other was kept in check and business was not gravely affected.
Nevertheless, the business environment was forced to a rethinking of the way to do business in crisis situations. This generated an impressive increase in our trade volume so that total exchanges per 8 months according to Romanian statistical data reached a proud 7,76 billion euros, which is a surge by almost 90% compared to Covid period.
8. What advice can you give to Bulgarians who want to do business with people from your country?
Bulgarian investors and businessmen are quite present in Romania and know very well about the benefits of working there and of feeling welcomed. The biggest points of attraction for Bulgarian businesses to come to Romania are the vicinity, the dimension of the market, a threefold of the Bulgarian one and a sense of familiarity with the country and its people. I listed only some of the factors that led to the performance of Romania being Bulgaria's second trading partner among the EU states.
The concrete advice is to look out for investment opportunities especially in rapidly developing sectors in Romania such as, but not exclusively renewables, IT&C, digitalization.
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?
Having joined the foreign service of Romania almost 3 decades ago, I had the privilege to serve in various diplomatic capacities and in places which, I dare say, were all on the forefront of my country’s Euro-Atlantic integration efforts. Postings abroad comprised Vienna, Berlin, Munich as consul general and The Hague as ambassador. At home, I was entrusted with leading different teams of colleagues dealing with topics as diverse as human rights in the multilateral organizations, Western Balkans and regional cooperation, bilateral affairs with North America and, last but not least, communication and press affairs.
And now I am privileged and happy to serve as ambassador to Bulgaria, a country of greatest importance to my own. Symbolically, I arrived in Sofia the 1st of March last year, a day celebrating a common beautiful tradition, namely the Martenitsa for Bulgarians or Mărțișor for us, Romanians.
Fascinating places in Bulgaria are many - the Black Sea coast that we share, your shore having to me an extra charm, the archeological treasures of Thracian, Greek and Roman construct, the ancient monasteries, sanctuaries for Slavonic learning and preservation of age-old crafts. I am particularly fond of Plovdiv - one of Europe's oldest cities, the European Capital of Culture in 2019. But my favorite spot is, so far, the wonderful village of Koprivshtitsa where I have learned so much about the period of the Bulgarian Revival when the most remarkable Bulgarian intellectuals and fighters for national identity and freedom found refuge and protection from Ottoman persecution North of the Danube, in my country.
10. If you must describe Bulgaria in just three words, what would they be?
From the point of view of a Romanian, I would certainly describe Bulgaria as “our close neighbor and friend” and, in my capacity of ambassador to your country, I would call it my ”home near home”.
H.E. Ms. Brândușa Ioana Predescu (born 1967) has been Ambassador of Romania to Bulgaria since March 2021. Previously she served as Ambassador to the Netherlands and as Permanent Representative to the OPCW/ Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (2016 – 2020). Other positions held abroad were Consul General to Munich, Germany, deputy head of mission to the Embassies in Berlin and Vienna and lead diplomat on human rights and minority issues with the Permanent Mission to the OSCE/Vienna. She has also acted as Ambassador-at-Large, Special Representative of the Romanian Chairmanship – in- Office of the BSEC/Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, based in Istanbul, Turkey. During her diplomatic career spanning almost 30 years she has been leading various directorates and departments in the Foreign Ministry in Bucharest, such as human rights and international organizations, bilateral relations with US and Canada, Western Balkans and regional organizations. She was also National Coordinator for the EU Strategy for the Danube Region. Another important position held was that of spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry and director general for communication and press affairs. She started her career as a junior member of the Office of the Prime Minister. She was asked to join the government a decade later to head, as junior minister, the National Agency for Child Protection. Ambassador Predescu is a graduate of the German Highschool in Bucharest. She studied at the University of Bucharest majoring in Germanic and Anglo-Saxon philology. She is also a graduate of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna and holds a degree equivalent to an M.A. in defense and security studies from the National Defence College of the Romanian MoD. She speaks English, German, French and Dutch.
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.
Ambassador of Albania, Her Excellency Mrs. Donika Hoxha. You can read her interview here.
Representatives of Embassies based in Bulgaria can contact Novinite for more information at Office@novinitegroup.com
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