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Foreign minister holds meetings in Canada, visits Bulgarian migrants

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Foreign minister holds meetings in Canada, visits Bulgarian migrants

Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, who was in the Canadian city of Montreal for the first formal Women Foreign Ministers' Meeting, talked with Canada's Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie, Melanie Joly, on September 22.

The top Bulgarian diplomat recalled that her country joined the International Organization of La Francophonie shortly after the fall of communism in 1989 and became a full member in 1993, which was important for Bulgaria's return to Europe and its accession to the European Union in 2007.

Joly said she expects more Bulgarian tourists to visit Canada, especially since the short-stay visa restrictions for all categories of Bulgarian travellers were lifted on December 1, 2017. Since the visa waiver, there have been very few immigration law violations and unfounded asylum applications by Bulgarians travelling to Canada, she said, adding that their number is far below critical.

For her part, Zaharieva pointed out Bulgaria's advantages as a travel destination, noting that the country boasts the third-richest cultural heritage in Europe and the second-largest number of mineral springs, and offers opportunities for both winter and summer tourism. She repeated an earlier invitation to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to visit Bulgaria.

Addressing the world's women foreign ministers, Zaharieva said Bulgaria has the EU's highest share of women working in the information technology sector, at 30 per cent, compared with an EU average of 16 per cent. She also noted that politicians like the Parliament speaker, the mayor of the capital Sofia, the Bulgarian member of the European Commission and the country's vice president are all women, and the people are satisfied with their performance, "although 55 per cent of my fellow Bulgarians still want their president to be a man."

Also on September 22, Zaharieva met with members of the Bulgarian community in Canada, who joined her at the Bulgarian Church of St John of Rila in Montreal to celebrate Bulgaria's Independence Day. Zaharieva told the expatriates: "The biggest loss during the transition [to democracy in Bulgaria] was the loss of people. On the one hand, I am sorry that you are not in Bulgaria, but on the other hand, you are our best ambassadors."

The Church of St John of Rila was bought by Bulgarian immigrants in 2009, and the government in Sofia provided 20,500 dollars to support the church's repair and the establishment of a Bulgarian school in it.

Zaharieva also told the expatriates that Bulgaria can provide a good future for their children. Last year, for the first time ever, the number of Bulgarians who emigrated from their country was equal to the number of those who returned, she recalled.

The meeting was attended by members of the Canada-Bulgaria Business Council. This is a Canadian non-profit association established in 1996 to promote the two-way exchange of goods, services, information and expertise and to boost economic cooperation between Bulgaria and Canada.

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