The Belgian embassador: Our interest in Bulgaria is not at all new

22 ноември, 2011 18:04 | English | Няма коментари

The Belgian embassador:  Our interest in Bulgaria is not at all new

Mr.  is the Belgian embassador in Bulgaria. In an interview for Akadmeika BG he shared interesting information about the economic, clutural and educational exchanges between Bulgaria and Belgium.

– How many Belgians are currently living in Bulgaria on a permanent basis?

– Around 250 Belgian citizens are registered with the Belgian Embassy in Bulgaria. As Bulgaria is part of the European Union, it is however perfectly possible to live in Bulgaria for a longer period without being registered. Therefore, the actual number of Belgians living in Bulgaria on a permanent basis is even higher.

– Is there an increased interest towards Bulgaria since the country became a EU member?

– The Belgian interest in Bulgaria is not at all new. Even before its entrance in the European Union, Belgians were very interested in Bulgaria. Large events as the Festival Europalia Bulgaria, which attracted almost 400 000 visitors, took place in 2002, long before Bulgaria’s EU entrance. A variety of joint exhibitions has been organized, and this will continue in the future. Last year we had an exhibition on Belgian modern art (1880-1950). This spring an exhibition on Belgian Contemporary digital art was on display in Sofia. Further on there is an intensive cooperation in the social and the economic domain as well.

– What is the number of Belgian investors in Bulgaria?

– Belgium was among the first ten countries to start diplomatic relations with Bulgaria and has been an important investor in the country from the start. Since 1996 Belgian companies have invested more than 1.6 billion euro in Bulgaria. Belgium (or better BLEU: the Belgian-Luxemburg Economic Union) is the seventh foreign investor.

– In which fields?

– More than 140 Belgian companies out of which 70 investors are active in Bulgaria. After the changes the first large investors came to Bulgaria in the 90’s. They were among others active in the chemical sector and the copper industry, they engaged in mining activities and the brewery sector. More recently, other companies started working with Bulgaria in the sectors of textile, ICT, insurances etc. More recent large investments that came to Bulgaria were KBC group that entered the banking and insurance sector as well as food retailer Delhaize.

– What do foreigners not know about Bulgaria? (something that would attract them)

– There are many reasons why people should visit Bulgaria which are not sufficiently known to the general public. For nature lovers there is a large diversity of landscapes with some breathtaking natural sites and a rich fauna and flora. History buffs have a choice between Thracian tombs, Roman remains, Byzantine and Ottoman architecture, a large variety of monasteries and some interesting socialist style constructions. To top it all off, you have an authentic cuisine with high-quality ingredients, strong-bodied wines, an interesting selection of fruit-based spirits and the option to cure a hangover by enjoying a warm mineral bath in one of the many spa centers.

– What is the relationship between state universities and private universities in Belgium?

– There are almost no differences between private and state universities in Belgium. The awarded degrees have been fine-tuned. For postgraduate studies however, the restrictions are less stringent. The quality of the programs is not dependent on the type of university, but more on the content of the individual classes.

– What is the key to attract foreign students towards (the universities) in Belgium?

– There are different reasons why foreign students are attracted by Belgium. First of all, studying in Belgium means living in the heart of Europe with the European institutions in Brussels close by. Furthermore, Belgians are very proud on their knowledge of different European languages. Master or postgraduate studies can be followed in English or in French. And finally, the relationship between quality and price at Belgian universities is very good. The standards of learning are very high, and the cost is less than in most other surrounding countries.

– In what consists the cultural exchange between Bulgaria and Belgium?

– The cultural, scientific and educational cooperation between Bulgaria and Belgium is based on agreements between the authorities of the Flemish and French Communities of Belgium and the Bulgarian government. These agreements allow cooperation in almost every cultural domain: scholarships for specializations, language teaching, cultural exchanges, scientific cooperation, etc. In 2000 an agreement was signed between the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and the Flemish Foundation for Scientific Research. In total more than 60 scientific projects have been realized. The cultural agreement between the French Community of Belgium and the Bulgarian government includes among others the “Institut de la Francophonie pour l’Administration et la Gestion” based in Sofia.

Diana Trifonova
Photo: Embassy of Belgium in Sofia

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