His excellency Dr. Klaus Fabian – The ambassador of Austria to Bulgaria – “The stability of a country is of great importance in view of its strong presence in the EU”
Dr. Klaus Fabian was born on 7th September 1944 in Vienna. He graduated from the University of Vienna, Major “Law”. He is a Doctor of the Science of Law (J.S.D.). He later graduated from the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. For years long he had been working on different responsible positions at the Federal Ministry of External Affairs in Austria. He has held a diplomatic position in the Austrian Embassy in Tokyo, Tripoli and Lisbon. He has held the position of Ambassador of Austria in Kiev. He speaks English, French, Portuguese and Russian languages. He is married and has a daughter.
Mister Ambassador, You have represented Austria in our country for over a year now. Did You get to know Bulgaria for this period of time and what are Your impressions of it?
I have hold the position of Ambassador since November 2007. For that period of time I had many impressions – of the political, economic and cultural development of the country, as well as many personal contacts. The Federal Chancellor of Austria had visited Bulgaria last year, and in March 2008 – the Austrian Minister of Science, and in December 2007 – the then Vice-Chancellor of Austria. These visits themselves are the proof of the intensive relations existing in the different areas between our two countries. Being a part of these visits, I, as well as all other associates from the Embassy. had the opportunity to convince ourselves of the especially strong interest in Austria in particular, which makes my work and the work of my colleagues a true pleasure. Moreover, both our countries being member states of the EU have many common positions with respect to different matters.
The Embassy also develops some independent activities, especially those in the field of culture, for which we have the proofs that are exclusively well accepted by the Bulgarian audience.
To what extent in Your opinion Bulgaria is known and popular among Your fellow-countrymen, and do they often travel to our country?
The encouragement of the travel of the Austrian citizens to Bulgaria is the specific responsibility of our Commercial Agency in Sofia. I do not have the latest relevant statistical data but I think that the visits of Austrian tourists to Bulgaria have marked an increase. I do believe that the tourist flow should not be directed mainly to the Black Sea. It is rather necessary that the other part of the landmarks of Bulgaria are popularized, namely historical places, cultural monuments, etc., for the country really offers a great number of interesting opportunities. As for me personally, when I have my friends visiting me, I do recommend them to see some places that are not necessarily the most popular tourist landmarks, but mostly towns I personally find wonderful. Some of these towns are Rousse, Pleven, Koprivshtitsa, Plovdiv, Bourgas, Varna, Svishtov, Asenovgrad, Bachkovo, Kyustendil, etc. Of course, I have oncoming visitations to other Bulgarian towns, which I hope I will get to know and like.
How do the Bulgarian towns impress You and how are they different compared to the Austrian towns?
In any case there is a big difference regarding the architectural appearance of the towns. With respect to their history, the Bulgarian buildings are very interesting – architectural monuments dating back from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. It is a nice surprise to me and my colleagues to establish that the Town Councils of the Bulgarian towns exert many efforts in preserving the authentic appearance of these buildings, and thus contribute to their popularization among foreign tourists.
I do believe that the originality of a country is of particularly great importance for its strong presence of a country within the EU, including the way it takes care in preserving its historical and cultural legacy.
Is there any program intended towards the so-called twinning between Bulgarian and Austrian towns?
There is a voluntary informal organization working towards the collaboration between average large towns from Central and South-eastern Europe. Representatives of these towns organize meetings once or twice per year, where they discuss issues of mutually advantageous interest. This form differs from the traditional twinning between towns, for it has a more flexible type of organization and provides more opportunities for collaboration. The head office of the organization is in St. Pölten, the capital city of the province of Lower Austria.
What would You personally recommend to the Bulgarian tourists who visit Austria?
It is hard for me to give any specific recommendations for this. Here I would like to compliment to Your wonderful magazine, which presents much useful and interesting information on our country as well. However, there are different opportunities and occasions for traveling to Austria: cultural events, events with a tourist purpose, events for visiting cultural or natural landmarks, visits of sport purpose, including of course travels connected with specific business. The opportunities in this respect are many and various. The transport connections between both countries are also very good and facilitate those willing to travel – there are several flights a day to Austria, and by bus You can get to Vienna for 12 up to 16 hours.
Your Embassy works very actively on the cultural life in our country – by organizing Austrian Music Weeks, a great number of charity events, etc. What should we expect until the end of this year?
Music is the main accent of our Embassy in the field of culture. On the 16th of April we mark the beginning of the Austrian Music Weeks in Bulgaria with an official concert of the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra, as they will continue until the 14th of May. This year’s Austrian Music Weeks will be under the sign of Joseph Haydn, for in 2009 we mark 200 years since the composer’s death. As a part of these celebrations, there will be concerts in two Bulgarian cities, which expand the territory of the festival.
In addition, there will be a song contest held for the first time this year, which aims at giving the opportunity to the young talents.
In June we plan another big cultural event – an exhibition dedicated to the Viennese Actionism will be presented for the first time in Bulgaria.This is a tendency in art dating back to the middle 60’s, which originated in Austria and was very popular and famous for its non-traditional forms of creative expression.
Some very big Austrian companies are already operating in Bulgaria. How are the Austrian business investments encouraged in our country?
As EU member states, both Bulgaria and Austria are subject to the common regulations of the Community. There are about 400 Austrian companies presented in Bulgaria, 30 of which have permanent production here. There is really huge interest in the cooperation between both countries. Despite the world economic crisis the Bulgarian market is very attractive and interesting for the Austrian business, as this interest covers all its entire palette. A considerable increase in the import and export from and to both countries was marked last year.
Would You tell us a few words about Your private life – who are You here with? How do You spend Your day, and do You have a hobby?
I am here with my wife. Our daughter lives in Austria, as she is independent and she already has some considerable achievements in her career.
My wife and I travel a lot in Bulgaria, and that is something we do with great pleasure. We go on long mountain marches, we visit different historical landmarks in the country. We have already visited “Starosel”, the “Trayanovi Vrata” (Trajan’s Gate) Fortress, the “Hissar” Resort, etc. The nature phenomena and the landscape along the Iskar River defile are of great interest. We are also enchanted by the Rhodope Mountains, “Tchudnite Mostove” (The Wondrous Bridges), the town of Chepelare and the entire region. In my spare time I love reading Bulgarian literature, in particular the literature written in the period after the political changes. The writer Dimitar Dinev lives in Austria, whose novel entitled “Tongues of Angels” made quite an impression on me. I‘ve recently read the novel “Decay” by Vladimir Zarev. There are different aspects represented in it that helped me to better understand the mentality of the Bulgarian people.
Does this mean that You already speak Bulgarian language?
Unfortunately I have read the books translated. I make due efforts to learn some Bulgarian language, but I’m still a beginner. When my wife and I are in some restaurant we try to read the menu and to make our order in Bulgarian, and we have already achieved some positive results! I also try to read some articles in the newspapers, and some small Bulgarian books. I do hope to mark some progress until the end of my mandate in Bulgaria.
What is Your attitude towards the young people in Bulgaria? What do You think of them?
The young people here are very clear of purpose. I feel their willingness to accomplish more, to manage their life better than the previous generations and we should support them.
What would You wish our fellow-countrymen, and our readers?
I would like to wish, but however I think that this is the desire of all of us that Bulgaria continues its successful development within the EU, and that the relations between our countries grow deeper and deeper. I’d also wish the Bulgarian people to have active participate in the forthcoming National and European Parliament elections. The Bulgarian citizens have this right and should take advantage of it.
We should not think that our votes can change nothing. Each vote counts.