2008.05.23 - 0014The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Belgium, His Excellency Mr. Philippe BEKE was born on 8 June 1954.
He gained Master degrees in Contemporary History and International and European Laws.
He had worked in the Belgium Embassies in Bangkok and Cairo. He also was Consul-General in Milano. For four years he worked as Belgian chief negotiator for EU enlargement. He had been chief of cabinet for Foreign Trade and Food Safety.
Since 2003 he is Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium to Bulgaria and Macedonia, and since this year – to Kosovo and Albania.
He is married with two children: a son and a daughter.
His Excellency Mr. BEKE was very kind to answer some of our questions just a few days before the national holiday of the Kingdom of Belgium – 21 July.
Here is what he shared for our readers especially:

Excellence, after about five year stay in the country which are the things you are going to remember Bulgaria with?

I link Bulgaria definitely to its rich cultural heritage and its beautiful nature. Bulgaria harbours in each village and town a wide variety of traditions. Bulgarians are proud of their origins. People are warm at heart. The contact is very open, and can easily grow into friendship. Bulgarians want to live a good life. They are proud of the typical Bulgarian food including yoghurt, white cheese, Bulgarian wines, pasterma, fruits and vegetables with their superb taste. Me personally, I am a great lover of the wonderful pink tomatoes, the yoghurt “Of My Grandmother” which is my favorite since it doesn’t need any sweeteners, lamb and pork meat with their specific taste, fish especially turbot and sea wolf.

In this relation, would you like briefly to tell us about the famous Belgium concern Puratos and its presence in Bulgaria?

Recently, under the patronage of our Embassy, a journalist’s tour had been organized in Pernik, where the Puratos Bulgaria enterprise is located. Puratus is an important Belgian Group with plants and enterprises in several parts of the world. Bulgarian journalists could get acquainted with the activity of the enterprise (producer, importer and distributor of raw materials for baking industry, confectionary and chocolate industries). Puratos Bulgaria is developing fast which is an indication that Bulgarians are ready for more quality bread. A special attention was paid at this event to the chocolate “Belcolade” which marks its 20 year anniversary in 2008. The evening ended with a distinguished cocktail at the Belgian Residency where the guests could be present at a live production show of pralines and watch chocolate sculptures.

Excellence, could you tell us something about your homeland. What does make it different, which is the most typical about Belgium?

Belgium is situated in the heart of Europe on a territory which is 1/3d from the territory of Bulgaria. It is densely populated with almost 11 million people. Belgium has always had an open economy which means both export and import play a significant role. Through this trade vocations along the centuries, Belgium has today a heritage of beautiful towns and localities which each year attract thousands of tourists. The town of Brugge with its ancient architecture, cultural centers, monuments and churches is as you may know also called “Venice of the North”. When I take holiday in Belgium, I always discover new wonderful aspects myself. Maybe here it’s appropriate to recommend three interesting places which are not always well known. The first one is the GAASBEEK castle, in proximity of Brussels where historical testimonials related to the 16th century cavalry could be observed. The garden is also impressive. In the neighborhood one can taste kriek beer, which is fruit beer, combined with bread covered with white cheese and radishes. Another place to discover is the town of IEPER. During the First World War, in four years the town had been a scene of military operations where hundreds of thousands of soldiers perished. Nowadays, a Live Museum has been erected on the spot in which the visitors can revive the difficult moments of these battles in a unique way: each visitor receives the identity of a soldier who fought in these trenches. DURBUY is the third place which I recommend to be visited. This is a little town in which only 800 inhabitants live but in return, it is a Kingdom of Books. Here you can find any books: small and big, new and old, art and science. In all kind of languages you can find these books outside and inside, in shops and book-cafés!

Do Bulgarians and Belgians look alike and which are the things bringing us together?

Firstly, I would like to say that even before Bulgaria joined the EU, both Bulgarians and Belgians shared the same values. Now, after we are together in the European family, our goals and tasks are common and we also share the same institutions. Both Bulgarians and Belgians also care for nice aspects of life like music and sports; they like easy life, pleasant moments, humour and good food. Maybe Belgians are a little less show-off but both want to achieve the best possible comfort in life.

2008.05.23 - 0017Few words about your work in Bulgaria?

The basic aspect in my work is to follow and put into practice previously set goals and tasks. For this it is important to coordinate well. I remember, before my coming to Bulgaria, I met with the then Bulgarian Ambassador in Belgium Mr. Emil Valev /now he is adviser to the cabinet of President Parvanov/ and discussed with him cooperation which could reinforce to our common benefit our work. Cooperation is essential especially since both countries are member countries of EU and NATO. It is important at the national level but also at the local level where cooperation between municipalities can strengthen the society tissue. For this reason it was important for me to visit the country, to meet people, to visit companies and to discover beautiful places which I could promote in my home country.

How is your day passing? Do you have any hobbies?

Usually I get up in six o’clock in the morning and I start to prepare my day programme. I read a lot in the morning. During the day I have meetings, write about different aspects and in general try to find answers for sometimes difficult issues. I do not have much time for hobbies. Still I like to listen to live music, watch sport events and sometimes take part in such events. I collect in a modest way items from all countries where I have lived. My larged collection however concerns old shares and bonds; it is called scriptophilia. Even here, in my office /A Note of the Author: The interview was taken in the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium in Sofia/ you may see one of my collection items. This is a share of the first tramway of Sofia on which you can discover the present “Vitosha” boulevard, where by the way today the Belgian poetry wall is situated. Another interesting collection concerns beautiful textile cloths from Laos, with their specific ornaments and colors. In former days the tradition required each woman, before the wedding to work out a masterpiece. Some of them are now with me.

On the 21st of July you are going to celebrate your national holiday. How is it celebrated in Belgium? Are you going to have a special festivity here, in Bulgaria?

The national day is a day off. Since it is in the middle of the summer many people will go to the seaside and eat mussels and drink a good beer. At the end of the day in many places you can watch in the evening beautiful fireworks. In Brussels also a military parade is organized as well as a music concert. In Sofia the yearly tradition is to organize a reception at the Belgian Residence. Beside selected traditionally Belgian food, the guests this year will enjoy a selection of 12 different kinds of beer. There will be music, flower arrangements and this year for the first time chocolate sculptures. I hope we will with this like the previous years a pleasant atmosphere.

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