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Brazil, officially the Federative Republic of Brazil, is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. With 8.5 million square kilometers and over 211 million people, Brazil is the world's fifth-largest country by area and the sixth-most populous. Its capital is Brasília, and its most populous city is São Paulo. The federation is composed of the union of the 26 states and the Federal District. It is the largest country to have Portuguese as an official language and the only one in the Americas; it is also one of the most multicultural and ethnically diverse nations, due to over a century of mass immigration from around the world; as well as being the most populous Roman Catholic-majority country. Tourism in Brazil is a growing sector and key to the economy of several regions of the country. The country had 6.36 million visitors in 2015, ranking in terms of international tourist arrivals as the main destination in South America and second in Latin America after Mexico.

H.E. Mr. Eduardo Botelho Barbosa, Ambassador of Brazil to Serbia

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

This is my first time in Serbia. I can, without any hesitation, say that my overall experience, both professional and personal, has been overwhelmingly positive, to an extent I had not foreseen.

It helps that Brazil enjoys a positive and friendly image in Serbia and that our presence in the impressive cultural scene of Belgrade is much appreciated.

On the personal side, my wife, Monique, and I have enjoyed visiting all corners of Serbia, which is truly a beautiful land with many and varied landscapes. We have found Serbians to be friendly, and have made many friends, often enjoying their company around a tasty Serbian meal accompanied by a superb local wine.

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?

In the first years of my career, I dealt extensively with all aspects of trade promotion, helping Brazilian companies in overseas markets and promoting foreign investment in Brazil. In some assignments, I was also responsible for economic and political matters, and pertaining negotiations.

At one point, at the beginning of its existence, I was the Diplomatic Advisor to the Brazilian Cooperation Agency, which is responsible for providing and receiving technical cooperation from other countries.

More recently, for five years I directed the International Advisory to the Ministry of Health, an organization that delivers free health services to the 210 million Brazilian citizens. This enormous administration intersects with the international area on bilateral as well as multilateral issues, mainly in PAHO (Pan-American Health Organization) and WHO, besides offering South-South cooperation.

I was the Brazilian Ambassador in Algeria, our second most important trading partner in the whole African continent, and a country with which Brazil enjoys excellent ties.

I have served on four continents, having lived in New York, La Paz, Washington, Toronto, London, Moscow, Algiers, and presently Belgrade, since the beginning of 2019, besides, of course, working several years in Brasília.

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?

In 2019, the year I arrived in Belgrade, we celebrated 80 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries. Be it Monarchy or Republic, the relations between Brasil and Serbia have always been at a very high level and friendly, based on mutual respect, non-interference, respect for international law, and shared views on several and important issues of the international agenda.

The political dialog, a major component of the relationship, has become denser over the last years, thanks to regular meetings between high-level government officials.

My official contacts confirmed that there is widespread interest in Serbia, be it in the public or in the private sector, for greater cooperation between both our countries. At the present stage, government involvement, on both sides, as a facilitator and promoter of opportunities, is still very important, to help bridge the knowledge gap that still exists between our two countries.

4. What is the current situation regarding the pandemic in Brazil?

The COVID-19 pandemic in my country is still very worrisome. The public health system is being stretched to its limits but has managed to cope so far. The exception is Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas, where a new, more virulent mutation of the virus appeared and the hospital system was, at certain moments, overwhelmed. Even so, in relative terms, Brazil has so far experienced fewer deaths per million than most European countries [1] .

Unfortunately, several weeks ago, the authorities had to impose travel restrictions on incoming international travelers. Internally, given that we are a decentralized federation, states and cities have imposed restrictions on daily life adapted to local health circumstances. These measures included canceling the New Year’s festivities in Rio de Janeiro, when two million people go to Copacabana beach to watch the fireworks and celebrate, and postponing our world-famous Carnival, not a small deal in Brazil!

The vaccination campaign started on last January 18th. As of the 11th of February 2021, we had already administered 4,12 million shots. [2] . We were not among the first countries to vaccinate, but we have experience with mass vaccination campaigns, so we will catch up fast. How quickly we can immunize the population will depend on the availability of vaccines. We are buying abroad as well as producing in Brazil. Vaccine development is also being undertaken in several centers in Brazil.

5. Today, Serbia is a candidate country for EU membership - negotiations started in January 2014. In your view, where is Serbia on its way to EU membership, and what will be crucial for Serbia to reach membership status?

Brazil sees Serbia as relatively integrated into the EU, on an economic level, thanks to the successful implementation of the 2000 “Interim Agreement“. Not only is the EU by far Serbia’s major trading partner and investor, but both markets are increasingly interconnected through infrastructural investments, especially in the transport sector. Other extra-regional partners, and trading blocks, are also important, but the EU holds a predominant, strategic and, in my view, increasing role in this economy.

The declarations of the Serbian Government concerning its commitment to European membership are clear and consistent. Important reforms are being made or planned for, including the law, which demonstrate the Government’s commitment to “European principles and values”, as determined by the Constitution. On Brussels side, I also believe that there is a desire to complete the integration of the whole Balkans into the European Union, to guarantee prosperity and long-lasting peace in this region, which is in the best interests not only of Europe but of the whole world.

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

Brazilian investments abroad totaled USD 529 billion (2019). We are active international investors.

The embassy here routinely updates Brasília on the economic developments in Serbia, always stressing the business potential of one of the best performing economies in Europe, with ties to several free trade areas, as well as the European Union.

Regarding Brazilian investment, we have Galenika, the well-known pharmaceutical company that had fallen to fourth place in the local market. After privatization by EMS, the largest pharmaceutical company in Brazil, Galenika has rebounded and now occupies second place. It is being transformed into a modern and flexible company, focused on research and development, and will start exporting again soon. The company employs 800 professionals, the majority of whom are highly qualified.

7. How would you describe your cooperation with the Serbian Government and business associations for the purpose of entrepreneurship development?

Brazil is a thriving place for startups. By the end of 2020, we had ten ‘unicorns’ (ie, reached a valuation in excess of one billion dollars – there are about 500 of them worldwide). They operate in all sorts of areas, like real estate, urban mobility, education, food delivery, financial services, etc. Given the priority attributed by the Serbian Government to the IT sector, which some sources say is composed of more than 2,500 companies, and its strong performance over recent years, including exporting services, I believe that it is a good area for collaboration between our countries.

8. 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, and what does import from Brazil?

The bilateral trade is relatively modest. In 2019, Brazil exported USD 103.3 million to Serbia and bought USD 16.7 million from this economy. That year, we sold mainly agricultural products, like coffee (of course!) and tobacco, orange juice, iron ore, leather hides, and some manufactured items, like bulldozers, footwear, auto parts, and pieces of machinery. From Serbia, we received artificial casings, tires (especially motorcycle tires), pet food and animal rations, and machinery.

Brazil is one of the world’s largest food producers and exporters. Our companies are present in several foreign markets. I believe that the next step would be to get the Brazilian companies to come and explore the investment possibilities in Serbia.

9. Can you tell us about the relationship between Serbia and Brazil in the fields of science, culture, and education?

Brazil and Serbia have very important agricultural research institutes, a fundamental part of any modern agricultural sector, ever more dependent on technology. We encourage the participation of specialists from both countries in each other’s events, in order to reinforce and expand the existing links.

Brazilian artists and companies have a regular presence in the Belgrade cultural scene, especially within the framework of the major festivals, such as the Guitar Art Festival, the Jazz Festival, and the Dance Festival. In commemoration of the 130th Anniversary of the birth of Heitor Villa-Lobos, the great Brazilian classical composer, the Embassy sponsored the reissue of a publication with scores of some of his compositions, transcribed from guitar to piano by Julija Bal, in addition to concerts in Belgrade, Novi Sad and Kragujevac.

To keep up with demand, the Embassy is expanding its cultural center, where we teach Portuguese and aspects of Brazilian society to mainly young Serbian students who want to learn more about our culture. We are also in conversation with Belgrade’s library to make the Embassy’s library of books by Brazilian authors in Portuguese, and books by Serbian authors translated to Portuguese, more widely available to the public. On Facebook, the Embassy periodically publishes a series, in Portuguese and in Serbian, named “Aspects of Brazil”. Each publication consists of a short text dedicated to a place, person, or cultural manifestation in my country.

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

I like the optimism of the question! Yes, there will be a time when the pandemic will be behind us and we will be able to travel freely again.

The entry requirements on both sides facilitate tourism since no visa is required for a short stay (less than 90 days). On the other hand, the absence of direct flights is challenging.

But I am glad to say that Brazilian tourists have started to discover Serbia. Some 4,000 visitors entered the country in 2019. The number is small, but there is a noticeable upward trend over the last few years. Obviously, the pandemic has imposed a pause on this movement, but it should come back once life has normalized.