Our country is experiencing a turning point in which it opens to the world and is in the process of reintegration into the international framework, seeking friendly and mutually beneficial relations with all countries

He was born on 24 December 1958 in Buenos Aires. Graduated from the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina in 1984 and a little later, in 1986, he joined the Diplomatic Service of the Argentine Republic. After a training course at the Institute of Diplomatic Service (ISEN) at the Ministry of Foreign and Religious Affairs, in 1990 he was appointed to the Argentinean embassy in India /accredited to Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka/, where he was responsible for the consular, political and cultural affairs. Since 1993, he has worked at the Embassy in the Czech Republic, followed by a mandate in the Holy See and The Sovereign Order of Malta (1997-2004).

Between 2004 and 2016 he was in the National Directorate of State Protocol at the Ministry of Foreign and Religious Affairs of the Republic of Argentina. There he consistently was the Head of Department of Protocol and Deputy Director of the State Protocol Directorate.

Since 2016 he has been accredited as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Argentina to the Republic of Bulgaria and since 2017 for the Republic of Macedonia.

- Your Excellency, what is the meaning of the May Revolution Day - your national holiday, for the Argentine people?

- The date of May 25, 1810 is deeply meaningful for every Argentine. This year marks the 207th anniversary of the establishment of the first government on the territory of Rio de la Plata Viceroy by the Buenos Aires population which rejected the dependence on the Spanish crown. This act marks the beginning of a historic process that ended with the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence on July 9, 1816.

- Argentina is the first Latin American country that Bulgaria establishes diplomatic relations with on July 8, 1931 - just over 86 years ago. What were the prerequisites? What has been the development of our diplomatic relations ever since?

- Undoubtedly, one of the reasons that motivated the decision to establish diplomatic relations was the numerous waves of Bulgarian emigrants arriving in Argentina at the beginning of the 20th century. Since then the relations between the two peoples have been friendly and gradually strengthened and developed on the basis of shared values ​​such as peacekeeping, international security, democracy, protection of human rights, of the achievements and the potential in different spheres of life. All these common goals have led and still lead us to unite our efforts and to fill them up with even more content and strength.

- And the opening of a Bulgarian mission in Buenos Aires in 1935 is logical. Between 1920 and 1936 many Bulgarians moved to your country ...

- Yes, today, we can talk for at about 50 000 Argentinians with Bulgarian roots. They are part of the diversity of communities in our country. Through their labor, effort and honesty, they contribute to building our national identity, integrating fully into all spheres and levels of Argentine society, preserving their pride in the traditions and culture of their ancestors.

- How and in what spheres of life do they find realization? Along with them, many of our countrymen have visited Argentina and are strongly attached to it. What is the reason for the attraction between our nations according to you?  

- The Argentineans with Bulgarian roots are in a variety of spheres, they are scientists, professionals, writers, artists, public figures, MPs, there is even a governor. They undoubtedly contribute greatly to the mutual sympathy, warmth and attraction between our two countries

I very much like to emphasize that despite the geographical distance, Bulgaria is not an unknown country in Argentina. And on the other hand, we, the Argentinians here, are filled with the constant feeling of open doors to us everywhere in this beautiful and hearty country.

- In February 2016, President Rosen Plevneliev was on an official visit to your country. Are there any concrete results from it?

- The visit of President Rosen Plevneliev was extremely important as it coincided with the beginning of a new stage in Argentina's development: the country is experiencing a turning point of opening to the world and is in a process of reintegration into the international framework, seeking friendly and mutually beneficial relationships with all countries. It is clear that the official visit of the Bulgarian President gave impetus to the development of our bilateral relations, which obliges us to renew our commitments and to further strengthen and deepen our contacts. In this context, I would like to mention a very important aspect of these relations - the cooperation between Argentina and Bulgaria on the matter of Antarctica.

- Your economy is the third largest in Latin America and offers many opportunities for cooperation. What are our links in the economic and commercial field at the moment?

- Yes, indeed, Argentina is the third economy in Latin America and we hope that it will soon become a more appropriate place in the world, given its active work in a multilateral plan - this year Argentina will host the Meeting at the top of the World Trade Organization, and in 2018 the summit of G20. In addition, Argentina is progressing in the process of integration into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. As I noted above, our country is in a state of opening, looking for the right partners, following two fundamental principles - attracting foreign investment and promotion - encouraging Argentine exports, creating quality jobs and raising the standard of living of the nation. We believe in the importance of the integration projects and we work for strengthening the regional structures we are part of – MERCOSUR, the Pacific Alliance and others. The process of negotiating the agreement between MERCOSUR and the EU continues and we hope it will be finalised in the near future.

In the last ten years, the trade turnover between Bulgaria and Argentina has reached significant levels - about $ 160 million in 2013, and currently $ 110-120 million. This situation has traditionally favored Argentina - Argentine exports to Bulgaria are about $ 90 million and could still grow. However, we could do more to enhance the direct contacts between the two countries in order to increase and diversify the bilateral trade in both directions. An important document for achieving this goal is the Agreement between the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and The Chamber of Commerce of Buenos Aires, signed last year during the official visit of President Plevneliev to Argentina.

The most important element of Argentina's exports to Bulgaria, almost 80%, is copper ore and copper concentrates, which are very important due their use in various production processes in Bulgaria. There are also Argentine products that are quite widespread in the local market, mainly food and agricultural products such as meat, hake fillets, biscuits, peanuts, wool, leather, citrus fruit, and so on. We should not forget the way Bulgaria receives the Argentine wines, a fact even more significant when it happens in a highly competitive environment, saturated with quality Bulgarian products. As I like to say, Bulgarians have a wine culture and can therefore appreciate the wines coming from abroad.

It is important to clarify that the real figures of the bilateral trade are certainly higher than those in the official statistics, as there are large numbers of Argentinean products purchased by Bulgarian companies on the territory of other European Union countries.

I would like to emphasize that we are working to identify new sectors with opportunities for cooperation, such as agro-industry. Argentina aims to attract investment in this sector to continue its progress not only as an exporter of raw materials but also of value-added products. I would also like to point out that we have technology and expertise in agriculture and food production and we believe that they can be of interest and benefit to Bulgaria.

I would also like not to leave out the energy sector and, in this connection, draw the attention to the strong emphasis we place on the development of renewable energy production and on the consequent policy of attracting investments in this area. Our motives are not only economic but also ecological. Another important topic is the production and distribution of gas. Here is the place to highlight the successful implementation of the project for transportation and delivery of compressed natural gas using Argentine technology and equipment in Bulgaria - the so-called "Virtual Pipeline System".

As for imports from Bulgaria, it can be noted that 50% of it consists of anti-hail missiles and cartridges for them, a significant percentage of other products such as circuit breakers, bearings, plants, seeds and fruits for perfumery and medicine, fungicides, fertilizers, etc.

- For us, the Bulgarians, Argentina is tango, Eva Peron, Jorge Luis Borges, Colon Theater... Will we touch the Argentine culture and how during your mandate?

- Undoubtedly, culture is one of the areas in which the results are most obvious and impressive because it is a matter of personal and spiritual dimension of the contacts.

The exceptional impact of tango, which could be described as universal, is no exception in Bulgaria. There are many enthusiastic connoisseurs of our city music, dance academies for tango and milonga, that we constantly support and assist and to whom we show our gratitude for their passion and dedication. Moreover, the Bulgarian music society, which has deep traditions, high education and incredible quality, honors and performs the highest achievements of our music. Such as that of Astor Piazzolla, we mark 25 years since his death today.

The Embassy of Argentina is also committed to the distribution of Spanish language and Argentine literature in Bulgaria. Here is the place to emphasize our constant support of the 90th Secondary School "Gen. Jose de San Martín" in the "Lyulin" district - a school that bears the name of our national hero and has a bust in his honor. The teachers, managers, the many enthusiastic pupils - children and adolescents - are proof that teaching Spanish in school is an untapped incentive for the spread of our culture and for the growing interest and fondness for Argentina.

I would like to express my appreciation and thanks for the zeal and dedication to all the professors, researchers and translators, and in particular the members of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies at Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski", with whom the embassy has maintained close and fruitful ties for many years. I will note that in 2016 in collaboration with the Department was published the first, and I hope not the last, book of the Argentine Literary Notebook series, dedicated to the work of Jorge Luis Borges and the celebration of the 30th anniversary of his death.

It is very important to mention the exceptional response and dissemination that the SUR program for translation and publication of Argentine literature, subsidized by our state has found in Bulgaria. We are also proud of the enthusiastic reception of Argentine cinema, which is present at the most prestigious and significant cinematographic forums in the country: Sofia Film Fest, Cinomania, Iberoamerican Cinema Week and Funny Film Fest in Gabrovo.

- But Argentina is also Maradona ... What are our relationships in the field of sport?

- Of course, we have a great joy in the echoes and sympathies that our teams and athletes provoke in Bulgaria. The football matches between the two countries during the World Championships are still remembered in Argentina. Stoichkov is a universally recognised personality who enjoys the admiration and enthusiasm of the football fans in the country, and we are a lot. In the context of the growing importance of so-called "sport diplomacy", we intend to establish contacts and explore possibilities for cooperation in the field of sport, using the experience of both sides, which can be useful and positive for the counterpart. I mean not only the experience and capacity of our athletes in the most popular professional sports, but also in various amateur disciplines.

- Argentina attracts tourists as a magnet. It is also a preferred destination for Bulgarians. Do you have any information, however, how many Argentinians come to Bulgaria as tourists?

- We do not know precisely the number of Argentinian tourists visiting Bulgaria, but according to official statistics, their numbers are growing rapidly. Similarly, despite the geographical distance, the number of Bulgarians interested in traveling to Argentina is increasing. I believe that creating conditions for encouraging tourism in both directions is of utmost importance. In this regard, the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministries of Tourism of the two countries was signed in 2016.

- We have twin cities, but is there real exchange between them? How far did the twinning of Pleven and Roque Saenz Pena reach?

- Town twinning is a testimony to the strong ties between Argentina and Bulgaria, created and sustained by the members of the community with Bulgarian origin, especially in the province of Chaco, known in Bulgaria as "The Little Bulgaria", since most of the Bulgarians settled there on their arrival in America. For this reason, the idea of ​​twinning between Sopot and Las Brenas and between Pleven and Presidencia Roque Saenz Pena was born. We also wish to twin Bulgarian cities with Argentine ones from other parts of the country, where Bulgarian emigrants also concentrated on their arrival in the New World. Such is Berriso, which is located near the town of La Plata in the province of Buenos Aires and Comodoro Rivadavia in Patagonia. As soon as I came to Bulgaria as ambassador, we began working with the team to establish contacts and explore the possibilities of twinning between Varna and Mar del Plata.

- You have been an ambassador in Bulgaria for only a year, but it is obvious that Bulgarians love you - with your wife you have been invited to different occasions in different places. How do you accept Bulgaria and the Bulgarians?

- Yes, no doubt the ambassador's activities in Sofia are very tense, but we are still trying to take advantage of our free time to get to know the country and to enjoy the beauty of its nature and its historical and cultural heritage. We appreciate and love music, opera and ballet, in this respect we are benefiting, as the offer is varied and of high quality. Besides, we have an affinity for good food. In short, we feel very happy that we are in Bulgaria, a friendly country in which we are always welcomed with warmth and affection.

The photo is provided by the Embassy of the Argentine Republic. Photographer: Romeo Cholakov