After five and a half years in Canada, Peru’s ambassador expects to be on a plane back to Lima at the end of the month. Expect to see José Antonio Bellina in Ottawa again, however. Chances are his next visit will coincide with that of a classic rock band.
Mr. Bellina elaborated on his Canadian concert-going experiences in an interview. How the lawn chairs were left in the same spot while he went to get a hot dog with his son at an outdoor Doobie Brothers show. His favourite venue, the National Arts Centre. He saw The Eagles. The Who. Fleetwood Mac. Former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters. Neil Young.
Did he attend the AC/DC concert in September? “No, no, AC/DC is too hard for me,” he laughed.
“Here, it’s so comfortable to go for a concert. The people are nice. It’s all order,” he said. It wasn’t like that at any of his other postings. Not even in the United States. Maybe in Switzerland, he conceded.
Mr. Bellina has been here long enough to mistakenly say “Scotiabank Place” before correcting himself—it’s the Canadian Tire Centre now.
Just as he raves about rock bands, he raves about the Canadian cities he has visited, from Victoria to St. John’s. A tour of the northern territories organized for foreign ambassadors in September 2013 was “maybe one of the best experiences in my life.” About 25 or 30 ambassadors went on the trip. “It’s a different Canada.”
Over his longer-than-average posting, the diplomat said he’s accomplished a lot. He arrived at “the right place in the right moment,” just after a Canada-Peru free trade agreement was fixed.
He spoke to Embassy Oct. 5, the same day that Trans-Pacific Partnership countries announced they had reached a deal. “I’m happy for that, because it’s been a long long-term negotiation,” he said, adding Peru was one of the countries that supported Canada joining the trade talks.
“I believe a lot in free trade. This is one of the most important matters that we have in Canada. I think everything changed after the free trade agreement between Peru and Canada. And I think with the TPP, everything is going to change with the countries involved,” he said.
Mr. Bellina has extended Peru’s ties to Canadian business, including mining companies.
“We received some critics—even from Embassy!—regarding that, but for us, it’s very important. Because the Canadian mining companies in Peru have a very good record, we have to say that…They are very carefully regarding the relations with the communities around the mining field."
He has also developed links in security and defence, science and technology and education. When he started his post, there were about 20 or 25 Peruvian students studying in Canada under government support. Now, there are 300 or 400.
During Mr. Bellina’s tenure, Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Peru, and the Peruvian president, Ollanta Humala Tasso, came to Ottawa.
Peru’s next ambassador—Marcela Lopez, a trade expert who once worked as first secretary in Ottawa—will have a lot of work to do when she arrives, especially with the TPP on the horizon, Mr. Bellina says.
Meanwhile, he will be starting a “very good job” in the ministry of foreign affairs starting Nov. 1, though he can’t say what his title will be. (“It’s better to wait until the paper is signed,” he said, smiling.)
He and his wife will reunite with two of their kids, one of whom studied at Algonquin College in Ottawa, in Peru. Another, who studied at McGill University, is in Chicago. A fourth is in Spain doing an MBA.
Likening the instinct to move around every few years to a kind of diplomatic brain microchip, Mr. Bellina said it won’t be long before he’s itching to go out on another posting. “Two, three years—the chip starts. You have to move!”
Macedonia looking for Canadian support on Euro-Atlantic integration
Though he is no stranger to diplomacy, this is a first official foreign post for the ambassador of Macedonia to Canada—and it’s a bit of a dream come true.
“Now it is realized, I am really satisfied. Because this is Canada. I really love this country,” he told Embassy.
It’s been about six months since Toni Dimovski arrived in Ottawa with his wife, Katerina, who is a pediatrician, and their two daughters, aged 11 and 15, who are attending public school in Ottawa.
Previously, Mr. Dimovski was the director of the Agency for Financial Support of Agriculture and Rural Development within the government of Macedonia, known also as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. He headed the country’s budget within the ministry of finance before that and earlier in his career acted as an adviser to ministers of trade and economy.
One of Mr. Dimovski’s priorities in Canada is to accelerate business ties, including with the mining and automotive sectors. The two countries are currently finalizing a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement. According to Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, two-way merchandise trade totalled $26 million in 2013.
No stranger to international co-operation, Mr. Dimovski was involved in preparing Macedonia’s finances for European Union accession. He also advised Macedonia’s trade minister during its accession to the World Trade Organization.
The country is still waiting for the European Union to initiate official accession negotiations. Its status with NATO is at an impasse too.
Macedonian NATO membership has consistently been blocked because of a longtime dispute with Greece over Macedonia’s name.
Much of the dispute stems from the fact that there is a region called Macedonia within Greek borders. Canada officially recognized Macedonia under the name it wants to be called in 2007.
News reports from this summer indicated Macedonia is again applying to join NATO as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a name that Greece recognizes.
“It is a really complicated situation, but I hope that very soon there will be some reasonable solution,” Mr. Dimovski said. “Macedonia is a small country, but can contribute a lot in these Euro-Atlantic integrations.” He said he is confident Canada will continue to support Macedonia in its integration efforts.
Co-operation with Europe is crucial in dealing with the current migrant crisis. Mr. Dimovski said that about 5,000 people are passing through Macedonia every day. That’s a huge number for a country of only two million people.
“You can imagine how big the pressure is on our administration, and also security issues that really need to be managed every day. We are managing this crisis on a level that is possible to be managed in a country like ours, but also we are giving our best by contributing and co-operating with the European Union,” he said.
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