Ana Maria Ribeiro da Silva: Bulgarians show Great Interest in Portuguese Language and Culture #AmbassadorTalks
Until the end of the year, we have a few more guests in the series Ambassador Talks. As Christmas is approaching and the weather is getting colder, our readers can transport briefly into sunny Portugal via our interview with Her Excellency Mrs. Ana Maria Ribeiro da Silva.
1. What is your opinion on the bilateral political and business relations between Bulgaria and your country?
The relations between Portugal and Bulgaria are at an excellent level, having been steadily increasing over the last years.
A significant level of diplomatic exchanges has been achieved, namely at a state level, denoted by the visits made in the last couple of years at Presidential level. The President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, visited Bulgaria during the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU, in June 2022, which was followed by the official visit of President of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev, to Portugal in April this year.
On the other hand, there is an excellent record of mutual support for candidacies for international posts, either individual or at the level of countries in international organizations. This reflects the trust that exists between the two countries and the sharing of strategic interests.
Portugal and Bulgaria, although geographically relatively distant, have many things in common and share many policy concerns in the EU, NATO and in the international arena. This explains why Portuguese and Bulgarian people easily find mutual points of interests and create long-lasting friendship.
One of our main areas of cooperation is in the cultural field. I am very pleased with the interest that Bulgarian people has towards the Portuguese language and culture and the cultural productions of Portuguese expression. There are already 14 secondary schools, in five different cities of Bulgaria, that teach Portuguese language and 6 Bulgarian universities that have courses related to Portuguese culture, spanning from literature to linguistics and translation. I am also sure that the Department for Portuguese and Lusophone Studies in Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski, founded last year, can give an important impulse to further promote research of Portuguese culture by Bulgarian scholars in the future to come.
2. What kind of improvement of these relations do you see in the near future and also long term?
We see significant unfulfilled potential in the cooperation in trade and investment. At the moment, the biggest Portuguese investment in Bulgaria is in the glass industry, which employs hundreds of Bulgarian workers. We would like to have more of such projects, but we know that the current macroeconomic environment is not very favorable for such endeavors, so we can only hope that the fast recovery of the European economy may bring a more beneficial context for the strengthening of the economic exchanges between our two countries.
There is also a potential to explore the tourist sector. Although we see a significant interest for Portugal as a touristic destination among Bulgarians, Bulgaria is still not so much known as a tourist destination for the Portuguese people, even though this country has vast offer of interesting experiences, including in the spheres of culture, sports, historical and archaeological heritage and natural landscapes.
3. In your humble opinion, what is the place of Bulgaria in the modern world?
Bulgaria is an important and reliable partner of Portugal in many platforms, such as the EU, NATO and the United Nations. Through its geostrategic location Bulgaria is a crucial player for the stability of the Balkan region and the strengthening of its Euro-Atlantic perspective.
We hope that soon Bulgaria will complete its path for the adoption of the Euro, as well as joining the Schengen area and the OECD.
4. If you want to promote Bulgaria to investors from your country, what would be the 5 most important advantages you would mention?
I would mention the geographical situation of Bulgaria, meaning that Portuguese companies could have access, not only to the Bulgarian market, but to interesting markets of the neighboring countries as well. The flat tax rate of 10% for enterprises is also attractive for economic agents. I would also mention the qualified labor force present in Bulgaria.
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?
Portugal and its institutions have been investing many efforts in promoting our country brand on many levels. And the results have already become evident in the growing number of foreign visitors that Portugal receives - having now already overcome pre-pandemic levels - as well as international awards we have received as a tourist destination. As an example, Portugal was this year of 2022, for the 5th time in the last six years, considered "Best Tourism Destination in Europe" in the World Travel Awards. We hope that in the coming years, and with similar efforts by Bulgarian institutions, this wonderful country can become more and more visible to the world.
6. What were/would be the 3 most important events for your Embassy until the end of this year?
In 2022, I would say that the most important events organized by the Embassy were the concerts of Fado, namely the concerts by Camané, Carminho and Marisa. I can happily say this is a style of music very much appreciated by the Bulgarian people.
I would also highlight the exhibition celebrating centenary of one of the most important Portuguese writers, the Nobel awarded José Saramago. This exhibition was recently presented in Sofia University. And, as the year of 2022 is coming to a close, I would also like to call the attention to the exhibition we are organizing about the centenary of the First Flight Across the South Atlantic Ocean, from Portugal to Brazil, by Sacadura Cabral and Gago Coutinho, that will be presented in the Portuguese Embassy on December 7th. But there is much more at every level, political and economic.
7. How deep has the COVID pandemic affected the bilateral relations between Bulgaria and your country?
Although the COVID pandemic had a big impact on people’s lives and their mobility in both countries, bilateral relations between Bulgaria and Portugal were not much affected. Portugal held the Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first semester of 2021, and thanks to the current technological possibilities, we were still able to carry out a fruitful dialogue with Bulgarian institutions during that period. We hope we are seeing a fade away of the pandemic which will lead to a full recovery of pre-pandemic level of people-to-people exchanges between our two countries.
8. What advice can you give to Bulgarians who want to do business with people from your country?
The Portuguese people are known for their warmth and empathy, so I am sure Bulgarians who want to do business in Portugal will find it easy to communicate with partners and make the projects go forward. I would also recommend them to contact AICEP Portugal Global - Trade & Investment Agency, which welcomes international investment projects in Portugal that contribute to the competitiveness and sustainable growth of the Portuguese economy. In addition to providing advice and tailored information, AICEP monitors all stages of the investment projects, from analysis and investment incentives to site installation selection and human resources consultancy, redirecting them, if necessary, to other entities according to the project profile.
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 was accredited Ambassador of Portugal to Bulgaria in January 2021, having served before as Ambassador in Slovakia. Previously, I was posted in many places, such as OCDE in Paris, Helsinki, Moscow and Vienna. My experience in Bulgaria has been very satisfying so far and I have enjoyed the opportunities I had to visit the country, being able to testify its historical and archeological significance.
10. If you must describe Bulgaria in just three words, what would they be?
History, pride (well deserved) and the warm nature of Bulgarian people.
Ambassador Ana Maria Ribeiro da Silva is currently the Portuguese Ambassador to Bulgaria, after having served previously as Ambassador to Slovakia. Graduated in Law from the University of Lisbon, her diplomatic career took her to Paris, where she worked in the Permanent Delegation to the OECD, as well as Helsinki, Moscow and Vienna. She was Diplomatic Advisor of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and, subsequently, Diplomatic Advisor of the President of the Parliament and Head of Division in the Directorate of Justice and Internal Affairs Services of the General Directorate of European Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Portugal.
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.
Ambassador of Romania, Her Excellency Mrs. Brandusa Predescu. You can read her interview here.
Representatives of Embassies based in Bulgaria can contact Novinite for more information at Office@novinitegroup.com
Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) is the largest English-language news provider in Bulgaria, with coverage of domestic and international news for more than 20 years. The agency is read in more than 120 countries all over the world. A news archive is kept for years in many governmental and business institutions and the website is quoted globally on a daily basis.
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