H.E. Jose Jorrin: Bulgaria's PM Visit to Madrid Timely

Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | September 27, 2004, Monday // 00:00
H.E. Jose Jorrin: Bulgaria's PM Visit to Madrid Timely Photo by Yuliana Nikolova (novinite.com)

H.E. Jose Angel Lopez Jorrin has been Spain's Ambassador to Bulgaria since 2001. He was Spain's Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1997 to 2001. Before that he worked as deputy director of Western Europe at the Foreign Office. He also worked as a diplomat in Caracas, Venezuela, Peru and the Netherlands. H.E. Jorrin is a law graduate who started his diplomatic career in 1974. He will mark the end of his diplomatic career in Bulgaria with a farewell party on October 12, Spain's national holiday.

H.E. Jorrin spoke to Novinite.com Editor-in-Chief Milena Hristova

Q: How did your stay in Bulgaria influence you as a person and diplomat?

A: My stay in Bulgaria has been very enlightening in both aspects. I knew very little about Bulgaria and what I discovered here were European people with qualities very similar to us, the Spanish - openness, friendliness, and spontaneity.

I had often heard or read about the transition period in East European countries before my arrival in Bulgaria, but its one thing to read about it and another thing to live it. These influences have been positive, I feel enriched and believe that there is a stronger place for optimism.

Q: What are your plans after you bid Sofia good-bye? Can you tell us something more about your successor here?

A: After having been ambassador two times - in Bosnia and Bulgaria - I am obliged to go back to Madrid headquarters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I expect to spend there two or three years before going on a new mission.

My successor Fernando Arias is a professional diplomat and a good friend of mine. He has been Spain's Ambassador to Mauritania and Head of the Protocol of the State in Madrid. He is very enthusiastic person who will do a fantastic job in Sofia.

Q: You will accompany Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg during his visit to Madrid, starting September 29. How do you assess the visit?

A: It is an important step in our relations. Spain has been supporting Bulgaria very consistently in its bid for NATO and the EU over the last few years. Last year the King and Queen of Spain came on an official visit to Bulgaria. Now, the Prime Minister, who is very well known in Spain, will visit Madrid with three very important ministers - Minister of Defense, Economy and Foreign Affairs. This gives an idea of the will to maintain privileged relations between the two countries and the importance that we attach to relations with Bulgaria.

I would highlight the economic dimension of the visit. A meeting with the Cconfederation of entrepreneurs has been scheduled that will present the case of Bulgaria directly to Spanish companies, which are starting to be very interested in Bulgaria.

There will also be an important exchange of views through the Minister of Defense on our role in NATO and our co-operation in the field of defense.

Co-operation between the Foreign Ministries will also be on the agenda. There will be an exchange of views on the main problems of Europe, now that Bulgaria holds the presidency of the OSCE, which Spain might seek. All of these are the basis of very solid bilateral relations.

Q: The first official visit of Bulgaria's prime minister to Madrid comes four years after he came into office. Don't you think it should have taken place earlier?

A: It is a matter of opportunity. It is beyond doubt that the relations between both governments have been and are very good, but we have been concentrating on other issues so far. In 2002 Spain had the presidency of the European Union, which allowed the visit of the then president of government to Sofia. The next year came the visit of our head of state. Now it is only normal that we will welcome Prime Minister Saxe-Coburg to certify the splendid moment and give it an extra impulse particularly on the economic field.

Q: Simeon Saxe-Coburg will be pronounced "adopted son" of Madrid during his Spain visit. What is the significance of the title? Whom has it been conferred on so far?

A: It has been conferred on few persons who have had particular significance for Madrid, but were not born in the town. Simeon Saxe-Coburg has lived in Madrid for fifty years, his life and that of his children has a close bond with the town. It is a distinction to tell him that Madrid is proud of that such a personality has lived for so many years with us, that we do not consider him a guest any more. It is a very personal and emotional gesture.

Q: How did the relations between Spain and Bulgaria change during the years you spent here?

A: During the 20th century economic relations between the two countries were very low, almost non-existent. Bulgaria was more diverted to a certain part of the Eastern European or third world market, while Spain - to Latin America and Northern Africa.

We are discovering each other now because we are going to belong to the same very powerful club of the European Union. In the last years there has been a constant flow of Spanish businessmen, coming here to learn about possibilities for investments, which will have to materialize in the near future. The trends in trade are also strong - last year it increased by 30%, this year the trend is also upward.

Q: How well does Bulgaria qualify as EU member?

A: Bulgaria has all the necessary qualities is a European country in all aspects. Bulgaria is finishing a long and difficult transition and therefore there are things still to adjust. I would like to emphasize once again that the reform of justice is a crucial prerequisite for Bulgaria's accession to the European Union and you must not underestimate the importance of the subject. Ways to handle criminality and enhance co-operation with other European countries must also be tackled.

Bulgaria has a solid market economy basis and the people are aware and well inclined to do the efforts needed. The administration slowly but steadily is streamlining its procedures and with the help of other European countries, Spain included, you will have a complete success. The EU will benefit from a very capable country and well-educated population. The accession of Bulgaria and Romania will put the end to the Cold War.

Q: What Bulgaria and Spain do not know about each other yet?

A: Bulgarians know Spain better than Spain knows about Bulgaria. Spanish relate the name of Bulgaria with famous sportsmen, the Mystery of the Bulgarian voices choir and the beautiful orthodox monasteries. Modern, dynamic Bulgaria, cuisine, habits, traditions remain largely unknown for the bigger part of Spaniards. Bulgarians will have to take their suitcases and present their case

Q: Can you describe Bulgaria in three words?

A: Gentle, good-willing, lovable.

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