H.E. Danai-Magdalini Koumanakou – “Bulgarians should continue changing things for the better”
H.E. Ms. Danai-Magdalini Koumanakou Danai-Magdalini Koumanakou has been Ambassador of Greece to Bulgaria since the spring of 2006. Before coming to Bulgaria she has held different posts at the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Greek Embassy in Nicosia and Bern. She has also been General Consul of Greece in Geneva and later on in Paris. In 1998 she was in charge as a Minister-Counselor at the Greek Embassy in Ankara. Ms. Koumanakou speaks English and French, and has an 18-year old daughter Iris Kerkinos.
Your Excellency, what do find attractive about the work of a diplomat?
The diplomat’s profession is extremely interesting in its development. It gives opportunity to those practicing it to serve their country and in particular to contribute for developing relations with other countries in a variety of fields, like politics, economy and culture. In our times, I mean the process of globalization, cooperation between countries is particularly important. The nature of the problems that individual countries face is such that it requires international cooperation. Seen in this way, the diplomat’s role becomes increasingly bigger. At the same time it is a guarantee and a challenge since the role of a mediator in intergovernmental communications is constantly changing but always in the direction of securing peace, stability and the welfare of nations.
What have you learned about Bulgaria from your stay here?
My appointment as an Ambassador of Greece to Bulgaria came at a time when bilateral relations had already reached an excellent stage of development. The period also coincided with the finalization of the pre-accession talks between your country and the European Union. During my mandate I had the chance to witness how your country joined the EU – a truly historic fact for Bulgarians. Throughout this process Bulgaria demonstrated that it can set aims and achieve them with perseverance and a systematic approach. I am personally very happy about the fact that I can contribute for further developing and strengthening Greece’s relations with your country from now on, at such a crucial moment of history.
Do you find certain similarities between Greeks and Bulgarians?
I find many things in common between our two nations, especially in the field of culture and religion. If we take a deeper look, we’ll find similarities in music traditions, customs, dances, eating habits, art and spiritual quests. These common elements naturally set a favorable environment for mutual cooperation and ease the process of rapprochement between our two countries.
A few words about yourself and your family?
I was born in Athens and graduated in sociology and political science in Paris. My father was an officer in the Greek army and my mother – a lawyer. My daughter is now also studying law. I approach the world in an anthropocentric way and this comes both from my origins and my academic studies. I believe in the lessons from European history and most of all in the ability to overcome hostilities from the past and instead give way to mutual understanding and peace. The so-called “European model” is perhaps not developing with the highest speed possible, the way its citizens would like it to, but it does reflect the experience of all the nations from the region. It is very important that we do not turn out backs to it, neglecting it for some other model that would not necessarily represent us equally well.
Greece is a top tourist destination. Could you tell us something interesting and little known about your country?
Indeed, Greece is the perfect tourist destination for every foreigner for many reasons: its natural beauties, ancient monuments, mild climate, etc. The tourist will have the opportunity to enjoy wonderful views, fast changing sights, rich cultural and historic heritage that gives one the chance to experience the power of history and civilization’s evolution. However, few people know that today there are other more specific types of tourism available, for example eco, rural, religious and SPA tourism. I would like to underline that every visitor to modern Greece can easily become a traveler and nature-lover and visit extremely beautiful places, see rare bird species and find accommodation in traditional rural housing. Rural tourism has been developing really fast in our country. Tourists will have the chance to get acquainted with the local architecture, cultural and culinary traditions, with people’s lifestyle in villages and traditional customs, as well as contemporary traits.
In this way Greece is a preferred tourist destination not only for purely classic type of holidays but also for all those who are looking for alternative vacations, wanting not only to relax but also to experience the joy and pleasure that only beautiful nature can give.
What impressions of Bulgarians will you take home when your mandate here is over?
Since I live and work in Bulgaria I already have certain experience in communicating with many Bulgarians both in professional and private terms. In both cases my impressions are excellent. Bulgarians are a nation that stands out with its politeness, diligence, love for the homeland, realism and determination. This determination can be seen in the collective efforts which you make to develop economically and meet EU membership criteria. I have been following the cultural development of the country, too, and I can say that Bulgarians have a marked artistic taste and love for all arts, not only as mere spectators but also as active and talented participants. These positive qualities helped your country mark a dynamic development in the field of politics, economy and culture and have provided the prerequisites for a good cooperation with European and international partners.
I wish all health, personal happiness and peace. Our Bulgarian friends should be proud of the fact that the country has managed to become both a NATO and EU member only in ten years’ time. I wish them many other reasons to be proud and continue their efforts towards changing things for the better the way they have done so far, without leaving the impression that what they are doing is something extraordinary. I wish them to make their dreams related to EU membership come true. I believe that you have every reason to make these dreams come true.