He is one of the most erudite ambassadors in Bulgaria; graduated Law at Lisbon University and European Studies at the Catholic University in Lisbon; a lawyer.

His development in diplomacy began in 1987 when he started working at the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He climbed the entire professional ladder: attaché (1989), First Secretary (1999), councilor (2006), Minister Plenipotentiary,  Ambassador ... Among the important positions that he has held are: Adviser at the Portuguese Permanent Representation to the European Union in Brussels (1993-1998), diplomatic adviser of the Portuguese Commissioner in support of the transition in East Timor (2000-2002), Head of the International Political Organizations department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2003-2004), head of  the Consular Network department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2006), Consul General in London (2006), Deputy Director of Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2008-2009), Consul General in Paris with the rank of a Mission Manager (2009-2012).

In Bulgaria he arrived as a manager and from this year H.Е. Mr. Luis Almeida Ferraz is accredited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Portuguese Republic in Bulgaria.

- Your Excellency, there is a forthcoming visit of the President of the Portuguese Republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa in our country in September? What is the reason?

- The reason is the 12th informal meeting of the heads of state of the ARRAIOLOS group, which will be held in Bulgaria – in Plovdiv and Sofia, on the 14th and 15th of September. This is not an official state visit, but a meeting of the presidents.

- In June 2015 the former Portuguese President - Prof. Dr. Aníbal Cavaco Silva was on an official visit to Bulgaria at the invitation of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev ...

- Yes, it was an official state visit of our president and he arrived here with a large delegation. In it there were Portuguese journalists who made Bulgaria more familiar to the Portuguese people. Later, in November, the Bulgarian President Plevneliev returned the visit.

There were two main moments in the visit in June, beyond the political meetings between the first ministers, the presidents, etc., which led to results. The first – the economic one , was connected with the organization of the Bulgarian-Portuguese business forum, that brought together entrepreneurs from both countries, and was organized jointly by the Ministry of Economy,  Minister Bozidar Lukarski and the President of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tsvetan Simeonov. The second one was in the field of education and culture.

- What are the actual results?

- They can not be seen immediately. It takes time and hard work. However, serious bilateral contacts were established, memorandums of cooperation in various fields were signed, a Bulgarian-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce was created, which makes its first steps. It now has its own website and is looking forward to developing activities in the field of tourism. Your Minister of Tourism was in Portugal and following his visit a protocol for cooperation in this field was written down. A direct flight Sofia – Lisbon was opened this year and the tourist exchange increased.

Are the Portuguese interested in tourism in Bulgaria? It is summer and you have beautiful beaches ...

- As you know Portugal is a sea country, a country of sailors. What the Portuguese may seek in Bulgaria and what they do not have is the mountain and winter tourism. Bulgarian mountains are very beautiful. We do not have big mountains, snow and ski slopes. That is why the Portuguese look abroad for what they lack, what they do not have. Bulgaria offers conditions for winter recreation at a very reasonable price. You can not sell sun and beaches to us, but you can sell mountain, winter and skiing tourism. And as many people take their holidays in parts, they look where to spend them both in the summer and in the winter.

But there is something else - the Portuguese are not very familiar with Bulgaria. Unlike the Bulgarians who know Portugal, as there are many Bulgarian families who live and work in our country.

- Do you have specific figures for our tourist exchange at the moment?

- Not really as until April this year there were no direct flights Sofia – Lisbon.  People used connection flights through different capitals and cities – Frankfurt, Vienna, Milan, Munich, etc. That is why the numbers are not very precise as the flights were mixed with a lot of other tourists. But the travel agencies tell us that the number of tourists between our countries is growing.

- The trade exchange between Bulgaria and Portugal is not big. What are the interesting Portuguese products for the Bulgarian market?

- In the commercial centers in Bulgaria one can see a lot of Portuguese products: wines, olive oil ... The Portuguese brand "Parfoa" is well known. The car factory in Lovech works with some parts that are produced in Portugal, Nestlé also receives Portuguese ingredients for its production. Cork is also imported and it is understandable as we are its biggest producers. So there is a wide range of Portuguese products that are present on the Bulgarian market.

- Where do you think the Portuguese can invest in Bulgaria?

- We already have some investments in the textile sector. I think we have opportunities to invest in agriculture. For example, in the wine sector.

I think that the recently formed joint Bulgarian-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce, which I already mentioned, will help to increase the trade exchange and investments. It was set up by 12 enterprises that deal with the formalities. But now there are many companies who seek contact with it, there are also those who want to become its members. However there are still formalities to go through, and that takes time. Once everything is ready, the doors will be open to new members.

- We have a signed Intergovernmental Cooperation Program in the field of language, education and science, culture, sports, youth and public awareness for the period 2015 – 2018.  Would you tell us more about it?

- Our cooperation in the field of culture and education is very good. When speaking about the Portuguese language and literature in the long run especially important was the opening of the Cultural and Linguistic Center Camoes Sofia in 2013. This was possible after the visit of the Vice President Mrs. Margarita Popova in Portugal and the President of Camoes Institute in Sofia. As a result our cultural presence in Bulgaria was reorganized. Now there are four cities where Portuguese is learned. In Sofia – at Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski" and six more schools with Bulgarian teachers. From this year Portuguese will be taught as a first foreign language in 18th School William Gladstone in the capital. We relaunched the learning of Portuguese in Plovdiv – at the University, in the French Lyceum "Antoine Saint-Exupery" and in "Konstantin of Preslav" School, where it will be taught as a first foreign language from next year. In Burgas our language started being studied this year at the Bourgas Free University and two other schools: "Georgi S. Rakovski" for Romance languages and the English Lyceum "Geo Milev". In Varna Portuguese will be offered from next school year at the university and two schools. And you know that Portuguese is already taught in Veliko Tarnovo University and  some schools there for quite a while.

We have very good teachers, among which I can mention names like Snezhina Tomova, a professor at Sofia University and "Miguel de Cervantes" School and translator, Zdravka Naydenova, translator and teacher, president of the Association of the Portuguese Speakers in Bulgaria, Assoc. Prof. Rumen Stoyanov, who teaches at the Sofia University and is one of the greatest translators of Portuguese literature in Bulgaria.

- Last year all three were awarded by your President for exceptional merit in the dissemination of the Portuguese language, culture, history and values with the state order "Infante Don Henrique". What else is going on in the field of culture?

- Since the opening of the Cultural and Linguistic Center Camoes Sofia we expanded the activity in this area in Bulgaria and especially in Sofia a lot. For example, we organized a Festival of Portuguese cinema in the capital, then in Varna, and this August in Burgas. We had a fado concert in the National Palace of Culture. Each year we support the Jazz Festival in Bansko. The famous Sylvia Mitev will be a guest there this year...  But in order not to miss something, all the information about our cultural activities can be found on the website of Camoes Sofia - http://camoes-sofia-bg.weebly.com/.

- The foundations of the Bulgarian-Portuguese diplomatic relations date back to 1925. What is their development today?

- Currently our relations are very good. Both at state level - official visits were held, and at the level of support for international applications; either individual, or at the level of countries in the international institutions. Bulgaria and Portugal are champions in mutual support of candidacies for international posts. The balance there is exceptional. It is the result of both sympathy and trust between the two countries and the sharing and understanding of strategic interests.

As for our relationships, we are countries of the same magnitude, we have the same problems in the EU and have no problems with each other, we do not have common borders, Portuguese and Bulgarians easily create friendships, quickly find common points of interests. The Bulgarians are very well accepted in Portugal.

- What do you think about the EU today? A refugee inflow, a crisis of the euro, of the values, UK brexit, terrorist acts...

- I think that there is a huge gap between the bureaucrats in the European institutions and the population of the European Union; they are in divorce. Serious measures should be taken to overcome it. The development of the European Union should be reconsidered in depth. We need to find resources to solve the euro crisis. Otherwise the problems will not be solved, and the rise of nationalism in different countries will increase.

- What is your favorite hobby,  your favourite leisure activity?

- I love sports. I am back to the sword. I practice fencing at the Academy of your champion Hristo Etropolski. I also love to travel - in Bulgaria and the region.

- Where you spend your summer vacation?

- I will be at home, in Portugal. There I have a house and a vineyard, we make wine.

Photo: "Diplomatic Spectrum" magazine.