In recent years a movement in the relations between Bulgaria and Morocco is noted.

This applies to the political dialogue, the economy, the culture and other sectors. What is the future of our bilateral relations; how the Bulgarian experts in Morocco eventuate; the tourism and the role of Princess Kalina for our community in Rabat - we talked about those topics with Her Excellency Mrs. Boryana Simeonova, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of our country there.

- Your Excellency, there is a visible up lift in the relations between Bulgaria and Morocco. What specifically is it?

- The fact is that there is an uplift and it is across a wide spectrum of our bilateral relations - political dialogue, economy, culture, education, sports, and in the NGO sector. Bulgaria is recognizable in Morocco, but Morocco is becoming increasingly known for Bulgarians as a country and as a tourist destination.

Moroccan crafts were presented in Bulgaria, there were concerts of world-famous Moroccan artists and famous Moroccan movies were shown. Athletes from Morocco took part in international tournaments in our country and they have chosen it as a place to prepare their volleyball, wrestling, cycling, and boxing national teams. There has been an increase of Moroccan students in Bulgarian universities.

In 2015, there was a Bulgarian participation in the festivals of puppet art, university theatre groups, children's folklore groups,Bulgarian evenings at the prestigious "Jazz in Shelah", the Week of European cinema and other events in Morocco. Bulgarian athletes also surprised us with their participation and success in Morocco. In October in the World Cup of Sambo in Casablanca our athletes won six medals, including two gold ones.

- What is the tourist exchange between the two countries?

- The bilateral tourist flow is relatively low because of the poor knowledge of destinations, and because there is no direct flights, but for two years now more Bulgarian tourists visit Morocco as a standalone destination or part of a package with Spain. Moreover,many individual travelers choose the country for a holiday.

- In the recent past Bulgaria and Morocco traded intensively. What is the situation now?

- The trade turnover is growing, but the potential is huge, so there is much more to be desired. We rely on the growing interest of Bulgarian and Moroccan business in taking part in exhibitions and fairs of companies, organizing business meetings and forums on both sides, as well as in the activity of the Bulgarian-Moroccan Business Council, created in 2011. A very good example of an authoritative Bulgarian presence in Morocco are the activities of the Bulgarian School of Politics "Dimitar Panitza" - partner of the Moroccan Civil School of Political Science and one of the foreign NGOs that have earned the high trust of the official institutions in the country. For a second year now dozens of Moroccan political and community leaders receive summer training at the Academy of BSP in Sofia for the development of democracy in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

- What can we expect in the bilateral relations by the end of 2016, when will we celebrate the 55 years of diplomatic relations between our countries?

- Many of the initiatives underway will have a positive development. We expect visits of Bulgarian and Moroccan ministers. Bilateral agreements will be signed in the field of culture, regional development, social policy and others. We expect the visits of the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the Minister of Employment and Social Affairs and the group for friendship with Bulgaria in the Moroccan parliament. Recently, Deputy Prime Minister Ivaylo Kalfin took part in the Third International Forum on Employment in the city of Marrakech. In practice, we expect diverse activity, which is a proof of the mutual trust and a guarantee of the best prospects in our bilateral ties.

- I would like to ask you what the main conclusion from the cooperation over the last half century is?

- The main conclusion I can identify with one word - trust. We have not had and do not have unresolved or contentious political issues and we have the chance of the good example and legacy left by the many Bulgarian specialists working in different fields in Morocco during the 80's and 90's of the last century.

- What is the assessment of the Moroccans on this issue?

- For me as a Bulgarian ambassador it is an extraordinary pride to hear from almost every Moroccan minister, public person, from various professional backgrounds that they have had Bulgarian teachers, whose names they still remember, as well as, what they have learned from them. A small part of our specialists currently work successfully here. The kingdom of Morocco is an example of economic progress in the region. The environment here is conducive and competitive, so it's a good place for anyone who meets the professional, linguistic and legal requirements of the state. There are many examples of Bulgarians who have a career in Morocco during recent years. We appreciate the special treatment by the Moroccan political and social elite of Simeon Sakskoburggotski and his family whose close ties and friendship with the Moroccan royal family are known.

- Princess Kalina and her family are also in Rabat. Do they communicate with the embassy and with the other Bulgarians?

- The family of Princess Kalina and Kitin Munoz are an integral part of the Bulgarian community in Morocco. Their young son - Prince Simeon-Hasan, is one of the students who attend the weekly Bulgarian School "Patriotism" at the embassy in Rabat. They are present on the 24th of May and on all holidays when our community comes together. On the Christmas party in December 2015 we were also together, and Prince Simeon-Hasan along with his classmates was performing as a koledar in the festive program. Princess Kalina is an equestrian competitor and she has been participating under the Bulgarian flag in many tournaments in Morocco, where horse-riding is a very prestigious and popular sport. On the stands,there are always Bulgarians who support her. Kitin Munoz, who is also the Honorary Consul of Spain in Morocco and Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO, is accepted unconditionally as part of the community. I very much appreciate this family and we gladly communicate with them. Princess Kalina is a very good person; she is capable of being moved by a situation, a child or an animal. I admire her attitude towards our local traditions, the way that she combines the traditional Bulgarian costume in her style. Her family adds to all the qualities the Bulgarian community in Morocco an air of delicacy and aristocracy.

- The Bulgarians who worked in the Kingdom in the past expect the issue of their pension provision to be solved. What is being done about this problem?

- There still has not been signed an agreement on social security between Bulgaria and Morocco, but the process of reconciliation between the ministries of the two countries is highly advanced. In 2014 and 2015 two rounds of expert talks were held, in Sofia and Rabat. There is a strong political will on both sides of the agreement to be signed in 2016.

- Morocco is an important partner of the European Union. What opportunities does this fact reveal for Bulgaria?

- Morocco is a key and loyal partner of the European Union / EU / in Africa. The advanced status of the country in its relations with the EU is a recognition of its strategic role and a prerequisite for the deepening of the bilateral cooperation with the EU countries, including Bulgaria. Under the wise leadership of King Mohammed VI, Morocco has achieved tangible progress in the reform and democratization of the country and is recognized as a model of stability in the region. It is the only country in Africa that has taken the responsibility of solving migration issues, preparing a broad package of laws and regulations. The policy of Morocco in this area is crucial for Europe as a strong partner in managing the migration pressure from countries south of the Sahara because it is also a target country, a transit country and starting point country for emigration to Europe.

- In your opinion, what new forms of cooperation between Bulgaria and Morocco are promising for the future?

- The active and pragmatic policy of the African kingdom opens great opportunities for trilateral cooperation, of which Bulgaria could benefit by using the excellent position of Morocco in Africa as a platform for economic and political cooperation with third African countries. Morocco is a predictable, reliable and strategic partner for Bulgaria and we must do everything possible for this partnership to acquire more tangible forms in the very near future. It is our desire and we have directed our common efforts towards that with the Ambassador of Morocco in Bulgaria - H.E. Mrs. Latifa Akharbach. Our advantage is, I dare to say it on her behalf as well, that we are, not only formally but personally very attached to the countries that we are accredited to. We like their traditions, culture, nature, we are trying to get to know them more and find out what we have in common. This is what we need to develop - to know and understand each other better.

The material is provided by "Standard" newspaper-
Photo: Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in the Kingdom of Morocco.
H.E. Mrs Boryana Simeonova, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of our country, presenting her credentials.