homepage_name! > Editions > Number 130 > Ambassador - Argentina

H.E. G. Estanislao Angel Zawels, Ambassador of the Argentine Republic


Argentina is a country located mostly in the southern half of South America. Sharing the bulk of the Southern Cone with Chile to the west, the country is also bordered by Bolivia and Paraguay to the north, Brazil to the northeast, Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Drake Passage to the south. With a mainland area of 2,780,400 km2. Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world, the fourth largest in the Americas, the second largest in South America after Brazil, and the largest Spanish-speaking nation. The sovereign state is subdivided into twenty-three provinces and one autonomous city, Buenos Aires, which is the federal capital of the nation as decided by Congress.The provinces and the capital have their own constitutions, but exist under a federal system. Argentina claims sovereignty over part of Antarctica, the Malvinas Island and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

1. Your Excellency, how do you feel about being in Belgrade? Can you tell us about your impressions of Serbia?

I am delighted to be serving as the Ambassador of Argentina in Belgrade. I arrived in Serbia in October 2018. I found a very warm country and socially, very much like Argentina. We share many tastes and habits with a strong drive to culture in all its forms. Also, I must say there is a diplomatic circle, very much distinguished and interesting.

2. How long have you held the position of Ambassador in Serbia, and what was the course of your career in diplomacy before you came to Serbia?

I am a career diplomat and I was posted in the Argentine Permanent Mission to the United Nations, in New York, from 1987 to 1996, and at our Embassy in London, from 2000 to 2007. My last post in Buenos Aires was as Director General for International Organizations, and before I was Director for Asia and the Pacific. Between 2009 and 2013, I headed the European Economic Negotiations Department.

3. What is the current diplomatic and economic cooperation of our two countries like, and what was it like in the past? What should be changed in order to improve that cooperation?

I believe that our diplomatic relations are excellent. One of the reasons is that we share confidence in international law, and in particular, in the Principle of Territorial Integrity. Also, our delegations cooperate intensively in the international fora where we participate. We established diplomatic relations 92 years ago. This is not the case in our trade and investment relations, as I believe that there is a lot of room for improvement. Part of my mission here is to put Argentina in the minds of Serbian businessmen.

4. When it comes to investments, how do investors from Argentina regard the Serbian market? How many Argentine companies are operating in Serbia at the moment and which are the most important companies investing in us?

Regarding trade and investments let me say that Argentina is a natural food producing country, and we are able to feed more than 400 million persons. The 2019 crop was 150 million tons and 30 years before, our bumper crops were about 30 million tons. How have we managed to increase this production? By using a package of state-of-the-art technology.

Regarding the possibility of investments, I am not aware that something noticeable is happening for the time being. Argentina is in a recurrent economic crisis. But this is paradoxically the best time to go abroad to invest or to go to Argentina to profit in relation to the possibilities given the circumstances. There are several economic sectors were we can work together, some of them I have mentioned above, like agriculture. I believe that this is also a good moment to think about joint ventures. The timing is right to change this state of things.

The MERCOSUR, which is the regional organization where Argentina is inserted, has recently finished the negotiation with the EU for an association agreement, which is about to start its ratification process. This gives us another good reason to reciprocally increase investments.

Argentina is ready to share this technology and know-how through bilateral cooperation. Also, our agribusiness is ready to deal with Serbian businessmen.

5. What is the nature of the foreign trade cooperation between our countries and which industries in Serbia have the most potential? What does Serbia export to Argentina, and what does it import from Argentina?

Even so, Argentina is also an industrial country, and aside from the heavy base industries like petrochemical, steel, aluminum, cement, etc., we excel in many high tech areas. Let me give you examples of some technological and industrial sectors where Argentina is at the edge of technology:

Biotechnology: Argentina was one of the first countries to fully embrace this technology and in different fields, like agriculture, and for veterinary and medical use. Several of our private companies are very active worldwide.

Software: this is an important sector in Argentina which has been developing for more than 20 years. Some of our companies have become unicorn businesses.

Nuclear technology: Argentina has been active in this field since 1950. Today we specialize in the design, building and export of experimental nuclear reactors. Peru, Algeria, Egypt, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and very recently the Netherlands, are some of our customers. We also have a lot of experience in nuclear medical equipment.

Satellite technology: Since 1990 when Argentina started with its space program, it has developed, built and successfully launched several satellites for scientific use, like its series of four SACs, two geostationary satellites for communications and a third one in development. Also, several Micro and Nano satellites. With Italy, we are participating in a joint space program, with two Argentine scientific satellites, known as SAOC.

Energy: Argentina, which has one of the largest known reserves of shale oil and gas in the world, one private and leading business specialized in equipment for LPG, NGV and CNG has develop technology for the exploitation of vented gas in new pits.

Pharmaceutical and veterinary developments: This is a very important sector in Argentina, and 60% of its firms are private and nationally owned.

The agricultural cluster, which includes machinery, know-how and software, is very much advanced and adapted to the different characteristics of our different types of agriculture.

Having said that, the reality is that our bilateral trade is very low and investments almost non-existent. States can abolish barriers or give facilities to private sectors but in the end is up to our businessmen to find their way.

6. Today, Serbia is a candidate country – negotiations started in January 2014.In your opinion, how far along is Serbia on the path towards the EU, and what will be crucial for Serbia to become a member state?

About the Serbian negotiations with the EU, let me say that for me the EU is the most advanced political system or organization ever. It cost a lot of human suffering and for many centuries to arrive to that stage, thanks to the conjunction of very clever minds, like Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet, Konrad Adenauer, Altiero Spinelli, and others, who imagined this endeavor.

It is through this lens that I see the possibility of Serbia of becoming a member of the Union. And I understand why it is a strategic goal for Serbia. Besides, and in addition to, that from geopolitical logic Serbia is a European country by geography and history and is surrounded by members of the EU.

7. How would you present your country as a tourist attraction? Which characteristics and sights would you highlight?

One dimension of Argentina which is sometimes forgotten is that it is a touristic country.

One can say that diversity could be the key word or motto for tourism in Argentina. Diversity is founded in climates, eco regions, landscapes, wildlife and culture. Argentina’s geographic dimension goes from the extreme south of the Tropic of Capricorn to the Sub Antarctic region. From the South Atlantic shores to the highest peaks of the Andes range. It is the eighth largest country in the world by surface area. In its territory there are 33 national parks and several provincial parks.

The northeast with its huge rivers, like the Pilcomayo, the Paraguay and the Paraná, the waterfalls of Iguazú and Moconá, the wetlands of Iberá and the Delta of Paraná. In Iberá, with its 12,000 km2, there are 357 species of birds, 103 species of amphibious, several caiman and snake species, mammals including the capybara, anteaters, jaguars, swamp deer, foxes, and wildcats. Also, you can find in the northeast, the remains of Jesuit missions and the first Spanish settlers and the important cities of Rosario, Posadas, Corrientes and Santa Fé.

The northwest, the highest land was part of the Inca empire. High mountains in the west and high altitude plateaus, home of one of the biggest lithium reserves in the world, and also of the famous high altitude wines of Cafayate and Catamarca, and its renowned variety of torrontes white wine. The Quebrada (ravine) of Humahuaca, with its mountains of different colored layers, and its ancient cities established by the Incas. Those are some of the landmarks. Together with the pumas and condors, you will find three of the four species of Camelids in South America, the lamas, the alpacas and the vicuñas, whose hair or wool is used for weaving high quality textiles.

The center, from the mouth of the Plate river to the peak of the Aconcagua in the West. This big area includes the pampas, a huge, flat and fertile plain, the heart of Argentine agriculture and husbandry, home also to the famous grass feed Argentine beef, which will be available in Serbia in a while. At the seaside, there are several beach resorts. In the center of this area there is a lower range of mountains than the Andes, with fertile valleys and old Spanish-like cities and, in the West, the desert and the Andes where the biggest wine production area in South America is settled. Going back to the east, at the bank of the Plate river is the city of Buenos Aires, the main cultural hub in Latin America, with its hundreds of theaters, opera house, and music halls, also many museums and several universities, where four of the five Argentine recipients of the Nobel Prize studied. Also, Buenos Aires is at the encounter of the delta and the estuary of the Parana and Uruguay rivers, a paradise for boating all year round.

Patagonia, with its gigantic lakes, forests and mountains in the west, with its condors, and several families of woodpeckers and guanacos, the fourth species of Camelids. At the seashores, there is amazing wildlife with penguins, sea lions, sea wolf and sea elephants, as well as oceanic birds like petrels, Antarctic gulls, albatrosses, and right whales, dolphins and orcas in the sea. This area was settled by the Welsh in the 19 century, and in its cities you can find tea houses with tasty cakes and scones. In Patagonia, there is also Ushuaia, on the island of Tierra del Fuego, the main southern port, a natural gateway to Antarctica and the South Atlantic islands. The sea is also very rich with commercial fish and squid. In the middle of these two extremes, a huge area of steppes, capable of holding millions of sheep and crossed by rivers with very fertile valleys where apples, peaches, pears and berries are cultivated. In the southwestern part of Patagonia you can find Lake Argentino, with its huge continental glaciers, the Perito Moreno and the Upsala.

In Argentina, tourism is well developed with all kinds of accommodation like hotels or hostels for all budgets, including boutique and farm hotels. You can make most of the sports and recreational activities, like bird watching, hiking, climbing, kayaking, skiing (alpine and cross country) rafting, surfing, kite surfing, whale watching, paragliding, sailing, horse riding, polo, fly and spinning fishing, wine tasting, tango dancing or simply going to a café or for an ice cream in the thousands of cafes and restaurants in the cities and villages of Argentina.

8. What are the things you particularly like in Serbia? How do you spend your free time?

I like traveling to the countryside, particularly along the Danube and its National Parks. I very much like visiting Topola, the place of the first uprising against the Ottomans, and the church of St George, and to taste the good wines produced in this region. I also like to visit the city of Sremski Karlovci and its surroundings. But, I am also glad to know that there is much more to discover in your wonderful country.

Before ending this interview, let me return to Serbia. I would like to say that I am very pleased to be living in Serbia where I very much enjoy life in Belgrade, not only its cultural life, but also its food, which is another demonstration of its culture.