Diplomat Who Promotes Georgia by Taking Photos and More…
07 February, 2013
Diplomat Who Promotes Georgia by Taking Photos and More…
Interview with Plamen Bonchev, Ambassador of Bulgaria to Georgia

Plamen Bonchev, Ambassador of Bulgaria to Georgia is a comparatively new diplomat who arrived in Tbilisi in last June. He served as Ambassador to Finland and Estonia before and thinks that those countries were also very interesting to work. However, Mr. Ambassador agrees that we, like Bulgarians, are more Southern people - the fact which defines not only our national traits but our political characteristics as well. Mr. Bonchev talks about
our foreign policy and Euro-Atlantic aspiration. He is a great aesthete, fond of classical dance - the sphere, which he found blooming in Georgia.

G.J: Please, tell us briefly about your career.
P. B: I spent almost my entire diplomatic career serving the security policy. When I was a young diplomat, one of my assignments was to OSCE and other issues related to the security. Later on, when Bulgaria established its relations with NATO, I was assigned as a Bulgarian diplomat to work in Brussels in the Bulgarian Embassy as a Liaison officer for NATO and my second post was again at the Bulgarian mission to NATO as a deputy head of the mission, and that was exactly at the time when my country was joining NATO. Frankly speaking, it was one of the reasons why I was chosen as an ambassador to Georgia, as Georgia now is working hard to achieve NATO membership and I think I can give some help.
G.J: I cannot hold back from asking you about our chances of NATO and EU membership. Will they diminish or increase under the new government?
P.B: The strategy of joining NATO was very clear and, consequently, important practical steps were taken by your previous government to get closer to NATO and make the goal of future membership more realistic. Everybody recognizes these achievements. We have seen that all NATO statements and assessments speak of the progress Georgia has made during these last years. We were very happy to hear from the new government that there will be no changes in the foreign policy priorities regarding NATO and EU aspirations. We are already witnessing practical action of the new government to implement these priorities and I personally don’t see any reason to think that these practical efforts are not as strong as of those of the previous government. Two days ago, I observed the session of EU-Georgia negotiations, which went in a very constructive way and good progress was made. It is very important because there is not much time left to finalize these negotiations and to achieve the goal of elaborating EU-Georgia Association Agreement by the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius this autumn. The same day I attended the NATO workshop and there we saw an excellent draft annual national program, which was prepared by the Georgian team. Experts from NATO embassies and capitals were there to give some additional advice, but I think everybody was satisfied by what they saw. The program is very ambitious but doable. The new government has added another priority goal – to normalize relations with Russia, and with the appointment of Ambassador Zurab Abashidze – an excellent and skillful negotiator whom I know personally from the time he was a Georgian ambassador to NATO – things are moving. Of course, we are following the developments. The talks that are going between Georgia and Russia are transparent and NATO and EU integration remains the priority. Of course, it is a little bit early to make final assessments as the government is only 100 days old, but the steady foreign policy vector in general is very good for the long-term strategy of the country.
G.J: What were your first impressions of Georgia?
P.B: First time I arrived in Georgia in 2005, and it was very symbolic because I came here to attend the first ministerial meeting of the New Friends of Georgia group. At that time, Bulgaria had the NATO contact point embassy in Georgia. Therefore, we had very good contact with our Georgian counterparts on NATO integration issues. We had a lot of consultations, workshops, etc. I am happy that I arrived to work in Georgia as an ambassador and I saw a huge potential of cooperation between our countries. To give you an example, the Foreign Minister of Bulgaria visited Georgia three times within the past six months to demonstrate the strong support for Georgia’s aspiration towards the Euro-Atlantic structures and the democratic institutions and reforms before and after the elections. As for my impressions, what I saw here was a dynamic country with a lot of construction going on in the capital. Later I visited Kutaisi, Akhaltsikhe, Sighnaghi; everything was under construction and I was happy for Georgian people.
G.J: Will Georgia cope with cohabitation and what is Bulgaria’s experience in this direction?
P.B: We have also had similar situations. I think it is normal; it can create effective checks and balances. I can say from Bulgaria’s experience that when we had a government with a strong opposition, the government was very successful. Therefore, no matter how good a government is, it should work together with the opposition and other institutions. In addition, strong civil society and independent media are very important. I am moderately optimistic that this new phenomenon will at the end work in Georgia as well. I always want to see some positive signs, and in recent days, I saw the statements coming both from the majority and from minority of the Parliament that hopefully, will lead to a dialogue and agreement on the foreign policy priorities. This is very important and I hope that the dialogue will also touch some other important issues that are now topical in the political and economic life of Georgia, like constitutional changes, judicial reform, developing the economy, agriculture, etc. Dialogue is essential.
G.J: What could you say about Georgian media?
P.B: I think it is the best, most independent and pluralistic media in the Georgian history. They are doing their best. However, the ownership of your TV channels is quite vague and what I miss in all spheres of media is investigative journalism that really helps moving forward.
G.J: Now, a down-to-earth question: what can you say about Georgian cuisine?
P.B: Well, I was actually looking forward to these questions from you. I love it. I don’t have any favorites, because I like everything that I taste here. Everything is so natural- bread, herbs, vegetables, fruit. We, Bulgarians, have lost part of our traditional cuisine, which is a pity and now we are eating some strange things instead. But you have preserved them and that is great. I particularly like your way of using walnuts in your dishes, which is delicious.
G.J: What is your favorite sphere of Georgian culture?
P.B: I was in love with the classical ballet since my early age. I was so happy to discover that Nina Ananiashvili, your prima, is now on stage in Tbilisi and has created an excellent ballet company of talented young dancers. I knew her dance very well, since during my studies in Moscow, when she danced at the Bolshoi Theatre, I attended almost all of her performances and was a great fan of her works. You are lucky to have such a great prima work and dance in Georgia. My other discovery was Sukhishvili National Ballet troupe. They have toured twice in Bulgaria recently and they had a huge success. As for drama theatres, I don’t go there because of the language barrier. I also like your opera singers and look forward to the opening of the opera and ballet theater, which is under reconstruction. As for the writers, I have read verses of Galaktion Tabidze, Titsian Tabidze, Paolo Iashvili and others translated by famous Russian poets such as Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak, Bella Akhmadulina, etc. Of course, translation is not original, but what can we do?
G:J: How does your everyday schedule look like?
P.B: Each day is different, so I never get bored (smiles).
G.J: What do you think about Georgian Journal’s annual event “Ambassador of the Year?”
P.B: Do I stand a chance to win? (Laughs heartily). Of course, it is a positive thing and really helps make closer links between media and the diplomatic corps.
G.J: What is your favorite pastime?
P.B: Here and everywhere my favorite pastime is traveling and taking photos. I take a lot of pictures and I enjoy it. If you enter Internet and search on Google Earth for pictures of Tbilisi and Georgia, I think, many of them will be mine. When I served in Finland, I initiated the photo-exhibition of 10 ambassadors. It was fun.
G.J: Do you intend to do the same here?
P.B: Who knows?
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