The flame of friendship between our people should be maintained and passed on to new generations

H.E. Ms. Latifa Benazza is Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Algeria in the Republic of Bulgaria from the 26th of March, 2015 However, now all the diplomatic, political and cultural elite in our country knows her. Because she stands out not only for her high erudition, bright intelligence and broad culture, but also with her strong desire to boost the relations between our two countries.
A graduate of Master of Law and International Relations, H.E. Ms. Latifa Benazza held several responsible positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Algeria. The last of them is the Director for environment and sustainable development. A diplomat, she has worked at several embassies of Algeria abroad. From 2004 to 2008 H.E. Ms. Latifa Benazza was an ambassador of her country in the Kingdom of Denmark.

- Your Excellency, you are only a few months in Bulgaria, how do you feel here? What are your priority goals as ambassador in our country?

- I feel good in your hands; moreover Algeria and Bulgaria are linked by long-standing friendship, which has its roots in the liberation struggle of the Algerian people. This is the time when the Algiers-Bulgarian relations begin, based on the assistance provided by Bulgaria to the Algerian revolutionaries during the struggle for independence.

Although I've only been here a few months now, I had the opportunity to appreciate the nature, the culture and the history of your beautiful country. I would like to share the good impressions of the kind attitude and helpfulness of the people I met while performing my professional duties and on a personal level. One of the priorities of my mission as ambassador of Algeria in Bulgaria is precisely to work for strengthening this friendship. And I say this very sincerely, not as a protocol.

My main task here is to create favourable conditions for the revitalization of political, economic and cultural ties between Algeria and Bulgaria. This requires continuing the dialogue at different levels of government and private organizations through which to discover new possibilities for using the potential in trade, investment and others.

- Have you already had meetings with ministers and are you expecting the signing of agreements concerning the relations between the two countries?

- Like any newly accredited ambassador in a country, it is my duty to meet with members of the government of the host country and to discuss with them ways and means to strengthen and reinforce cooperation between the two countries. I met with the Minister of Agriculture and Food, Environment and Water, Energy, Economy and Tourism.

Currently a new agreement is being finalized and prepared for signing in the field of public health. There are others that are updated to bring them in line with the new requirements arising from the fundamental changes occurring internationally, namely the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union and the association of my country to this community of nations. These new instruments will give new impetus to bilateral cooperation.

 - How do the Algerian-Bulgarian relations develop in the past recent years? Has the cooperation deepened after the last session of the Joint Bulgarian-Algerian committee for economic, scientific and technical cooperation?

- As I mentioned earlier, the world scene changes that occurred, and in particular in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, had an impact on Algeria-Bulgarian relations, which went through a long period of stagnation. This was the result of a number of objective factors, economic conditions both in Algeria and in Bulgaria.

However, I'm glad that in the last few years, given the reorientation of Bulgarian policy towards the Arab and African world, Algeria-Bulgarian relations have entered a qualitatively new phase,influencing important future events in the direction of establishing fruitful cooperation for both parties.

In this context, held in February 2014 in Algeria, the 20th session of the Bulgarian-Algerian Joint Committee for Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation gave an opportunity to discuss a number of projects in different sectors. The session ended with the signing of four cooperation agreements - in agriculture, sport, tourism and information and communication technologies.

- After the high-level business forums in both countries are there any joint projects implemented?

- Indeed, the results that took place in the business forums of both countries, allowed in 2013 to create a Business Council aiming at giving fresh impetus to the economic relations between the two countries. In such a way they will be raised to a level which firstly, will match in line with the potential of the two economies, and secondly, will allow a deeper understanding of the business opportunities for mutually beneficial partnership.

I think the Business Council is a first step in this new direction, which plays the central role of entrepreneurship, with regard to the demand and implementation of policies to create economic partnerships for the promotion and development of trade.

- Which are the areas in which the two countries have mutual economic interest?

- I urge the Bulgarian business to make more effort to get acquainted with the rich and broad market of Algeria. My country, the largest in Africa, with an area of ​​2.382 million square kilometres and population of 40 million people, is an important market and I do not see why Bulgarian companies cannot do business there and not invest, as do many other foreign companies.

I'll tell you something - many foreign companies that get contracts in Algeria use Bulgarian companies as sub-contractors or experts. You can make your own conclusions.

In our opinion exchange of experience and know-how is a key factor in establishing business relations. We have a skilled workforce and do not suffer from a shortage of energy resources, on the contrary - we export energy. There are enormous opportunities for the development of cooperation between the two countries for energy as a strategic industry, construction, tourism, agriculture and the pharmaceutical industry.

Algeria prefers to have a real partnership based on investment in all sectors.

- Are there difficulties with bureaucracy, licensing, work visas and others for Bulgarian entrepreneurs who are willing to operate in Algeria?

- You know, Algeria is an open country with a liberalized market and there are no barriers to business and investment. Our doors are wide open for all members of the international community without any discrimination. Without exaggerating I would definitely determine the Algerian legislation on foreign investments as one of the most flexible in the world.

- Algeria is a Mediterranean country with rich cultural heritage and many sites included in the UNESCO list, but it is not a destination popular enough for Bulgarians. Algerian tourists also do not visit Bulgaria. Why? Do you consider working in this direction?

- I think one of the main reasons for not having developed tourist exchanges between Algeria and Bulgaria is the lack of direct flights between the two countries. There is also lack of advertising, which is the job of tour operators in both countries.

Do not forget that thousands of Bulgarians worked in my country and keep great memories of their stay there. Yet now, only businessmen or members of families of mixed marriages travel to Algeria and vice versa.

Otherwise Algerians travel a lot and it is a pity they do not know Bulgaria. I will mention just one figure: in 2014 more than 3 million Algerians have travelled abroad.

Promoting tourism in Algeria is a priority of the Algerian government, which has set a goal to turn the country into an important tourist destination. By itself this ambitious goal requires a lot of effort and major investments, so its implementation will take time.

Various Algerian institutions and organizations are involved in implementing the new policy in the field of tourism. That is why tourism fairs are organized, and we also participate actively in tourist forums abroad to promote the potential of Algeria in this sphere.

I am convinced that in the near future the Algerian tourism will enjoy a very good reputation, as Algeria is among the countries with a wide variety of natural beauty, with wonderful climate and hospitable and friendly people. In addition to this, as mentioned, the rich cultural heritage of the country, with sites included in the UNESCO list as there arewithin its entire territory, not just in a specific region.

- Two years ago, were held the Days of Algerian culture in Bulgaria. Do you also intend to organize similar events to promote the Algerian culture and traditions?

- Indeed, the Days of Algerian culture, organized in November 2013 in Sofia and Plovdiv, enabled the Bulgarian audience to enjoy the beauty and richness of Algerian culture. I think that the exchange of cultural values ​​and cultural dialogues are the best means of bringing people together.

We do not intend to stop there. 2016 provided many cultural events - exhibitions of Algerian artists’ concert with Algerian music and more.

On the other hand, the Days of Bulgarian Culture in Algeria, which had to be held in 2015, could be organized in 2016, according to the schedule of the Bulgarian side.

My wish as an ambassador is to specify a cultural agreement between the two countries as a legal basis for future cultural exchanges.

- During the short time in which you are in Bulgaria, have you managed to visit interesting places and sights? What are your impressions of our country?

- Yes, how else?! Although I am new to Bulgaria, I had the opportunity to visit many places: on the Black Sea - Varna, Burgas, Sozopol, in the Eastern Rhodopes - Kardzhali and Haskovo, Plovdiv and Sliven also; and of course, Sofia region. I went to the Rila Monastery as well, with its beautiful architecture and beautiful scenery around. You know, in these visits, which are not really many, I learned a lot about Bulgaria, its culture and history.

This is a magnificent country with exceptional beauty and diverse nature! And its people are calm, friendly and hospitable. That is the way I feel them.

- What are the feelings of Algerians towards Bulgaria?

- Bulgaria and the Bulgarians were among the first who responded to the requested help from Algeria after the independence. Engineers, doctors, architects and other professionals came to our country, not only in the capital but across all regions. Many of these people are members of the Society of Friendship between Bulgaria and Algeria established in 1994. Their presence in a very important moment for Algeria, gave birth to a love of the Algerians to Bulgarians. A friendship was created that must be preserved and strengthened through links in all spheres; as well as, through direct contact between young people from both sides. The flame of friendship must be maintained and transmitted to new generations.

Finally I want to address my best wishes to the entire Bulgarian people for the Christmas and New Year holidays!


Photos courtesy of the Embassy of Algeria in the Republic of Bulgaria.

1. Her Excellency Ms. Latifa Benazza Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Algerian Republic in the Republic of Bulgaria on the occasion of the national holiday of the country - November 1st.
2. At the reception on the occasion of the World Day of Africa - May 25th
3. The Ambassador handed to the Captain Vasil Valchanov the Medal of Merit on behalf of the President of Algeria-Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
4. Presentation of the poetry collection "Sublime Algeria" Dr. Vera Kitova in May 2015, "Sredets" Gallery of the Ministry of Culture