Maxim Behar - Honorary Consul General of the Republic of SeychellesOctober, 2023
Mr. Behar, you are the Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Seychelles. What are the duties of the holder of this position?
The Honorary Consul represents his country in his assigned consular district, in this case mine is the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria. I am responsible for relations between the two countries, for Seychellois citizens residing in our country, for political and economic relations.
Who chooses the Honorary Consul and how is this position filled?
The Honorary Consul is appointed by the President or Government of the country he/she represents, following a consultation procedure with the host country. Only then does the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issue a document called an "exukatur", which in effect officially enters the office of Honorary Consul.
How did it work for you?
In 2004 I received an offer from the Seychelles Ministry of Foreign Affairs and an invitation to visit them. I met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, his deputies, the Bulgarian government gave formal preliminary consent for a Seychelles Consulate to be opened in Sofia and for me to be appointed as its head, after which the then President of the Republic of Seychelles, James Michel, signed a decree for my appointment. Months later, the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also issued an excusatur and I then assumed my functions. In 2015, President Michel reappointed me as Honorary Consul General, which is the highest position in this hierarchy, and this was an outstanding recognition of my work.
What privileges does an Honorary Consul receive?
I can't think of any specific privileges, but I can think of a series of responsibilities that every consul must be aware of to be able to raise the profile of the country they represent and to do their job with honesty, integrity, and professionalism. There are responsibilities literally every day and in every action that the consul does.
Do you receive a salary?
Honorary Consuls do not take a salary and receive no income from the countries they represent. They maintain and support the consulates themselves, as well as all expenses associated with them.
What are the difficulties faced by an Honorary Consul?
It depends on the country the consul represents. If there are many citizens of that country, then each of them has demands, and possibly problems, the consul is obliged to intervene promptly and protect their rights. My impression of the Bulgarian authorities, especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is that they have great professionals working for them, who in practice support and do not create any difficulties for the honorary consuls. We have excellent communication and even the smallest problem is solved instantly.
Since 2004 there has been an Association of Honorary Consuls. You are its vice-president and spokesperson. How many times do you meet and what topics do you discuss?
The Association of Honorary Consuls in Bulgaria is a wonderful place to meet colleagues, exchange information and valuable experiences. We have also been members of the World Federation of Consuls, FICAC, for ten years now and this is another window for all of us into the world and the experiences of our colleagues on all continents. In addition to our very active participation in FICAC meetings and activities, every month we hold what we call "meaningful meetings" with ambassadors of important countries, with ministers and senior government officials and other institutions with whom we actively work. In the Board of the Association, we have monthly meetings where we discuss interesting ideas on how to make the lives of our members more valuable and how to exchange good experiences with each other. As vice-president and spokesperson of the association I take care of its image and - of course - I am always available to my fellow journalists.
What do people most often seek you out for?
Especially me, as a representative of the Republic of Seychelles, of course I am most often sought for tourist and visa information. Seychelles does not require visas for tourist stays of up to 90 days and in this respect, tourists are very facilitated. But there are of course hundreds of other questions for me - the best places to stay, food, sights to visit. Two months ago, I published a very interesting book on Seychelles full of original Creole recipes, stories, travelogues, and the aim were just that - for visitors to have first-hand information gathered in one place. I titled it "Seychelles Recipes and more 'for heaven on earth'".
How many times have you visited Seychelles? Tell an interesting story from one of your visits?
I visit Seychelles every year, sometimes two or three times, depending on my commitments and meetings in the country. Naturally, I have hundreds of interesting stories. On several occasions I meet frowning very rich young Bulgarian women who arrive on holiday with big suitcases full of fashionable clothes and jewelry, but there is nowhere to show them off, because in fact in Seychelles everything is clean, pristine and the government is making huge efforts to protect nature. Nearly 60 percent of the territory is untouchable and controlled either by special laws or by UNESCO. This means that no one is allowed to nail even one nail, and so my advice to all tourists is to just bring swimsuit and some light summer clothes to be happy and free.
What is the recipe for being a successful Honorary Consul?
Ah, there are no special recipes. You just must do your job honestly, with integrity and professionally, put your heart into your work and, of course, be aware of the huge responsibilities you have as a representative of the country that has placed its trust in you. It may sound slightly pathetic, but it is proven by concrete work every day.
Published in "Filter"