Diplomacy&Trade 2024-01

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FOCUS country

Politically, Hungarian-Spanish bilateral relations are not very intense, according to the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to Hungary, Alfonso Dastis, but he believes there are no contentious issues and both sides are working on resolving matters they disagree on. He also discusses with Diplomacy&Trade the priorities of the recent Spanish EU Presidency and important investments by Spanish companies in Hungary.

A Hotel with History

The luxury hotel scene in Budapest has recently been expanded with the Dorothea Hotel, Autograph Collection. The new downtown hotel is named after Maria Dorothea, the Archduchess of Württemberg, an influential public figure of the 1800s, who, together with her husband, Joseph Habsburg, brought significant cultural and economic development to the Hungarian capital.

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see article on page 17 see articles on pages 08-14 2024, A YEAR WITH IMPORTANT ELECTIONS AS WELL AS WAGING AND LURKING CONFLICTS SEE ARTICLE ON page 06

letter from the publisher

In a world brimming with challenges, our international analyst voices a sentiment that resonates deeply: the hope for more sensible leadership across the globe. As we witness the unfolding of numerous elections in 2024, we hold onto the belief that the choices made by the people will pave the way for solutions to the challenges that lie ahead.

Our Spanish Focus shines a spotlight on the enduring economic relations between Spain and Hungary, showcasing the presence of Spanish companies across diverse sectors. From automotive to hospitality sectors, Spanish companies have made significant contributions to Hungary's economic landscape, enriching both nations in the process. Through insightful conversations with the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to Hungary, Alfonso Dastis, we uncover the vibrant tapestry of collaboration between our nations.

Moreover, we delve into the personal passions of ambassadors such as Marjan Cencen, whose love for trail running not only reveals the beauty of Hungary's countryside but also serves as a metaphor for the spirit of exploration and discovery.

Our exploration extends beyond our borders as we journey to Northwest Africa, uncovering the excitement of the Africa Eco Race, a ‘successor’ to the ‘Paris-Dakar Rally’. The difference between the two races is explained by László Bunkoczi who – after taking part 20 times in the original competition – participated this past December and January in the Africa Eco Race with his 15-year-old son.

And, of course, we cannot overlook the culinary delights that grace our pages, celebrating the talents and achievements of women in an industry traditionally dominated by men.

As we wrap up this issue, we invite you to savor the stories, insights, and experiences shared within these pages. May they inspire you, inform you, and spark a renewed sense of curiosity about the world around us.

Thank you for your continued support and readership. Together, let us navigate the challenges and triumphs of 2024 with optimism, and a commitment to fostering understanding and cooperation across borders.

cont en ts


In its upcoming issue, Diplomacy&Trade is to present a special Focus section on relations between Hungary and Japan in cooperation with the Japanese Embassy in Budapest. About 180 Japanese companies – many of them to be featured in the compilation – employ over 30,000 people and form the 7th largest investor community in this country. Bilateral economic, scientific and technological relations have continued to develop in the two years since the previous Japan Focus. The leading article of the compilation is an interview with the new Japanese ambassador to Hungary, Ms. Hikariko Ono. The compilation also includes the presentation of the foreign trade organization JETRO and the Japanese-Hungarian Business Club while cultural relations are discussed – in addition to the ambassadorial interview –with the help of the Budapest office of the Japan Foundation.

PUBLISHER PUBLISHER: Peter Freed PHOTO EDITOR: Dávid Harangozó SALES & MARKETING DIRECTOR: Tamás Varga ADMINISTRATION: Blanka Szalontai CONTRIBUTORS: Sándor Laczkó, Tamás Magyarics, Marjan Cencen PHOTO CONTRIBUTORS: sandorpalota.hu, wolterke/depositphotos.com, KarSol/depositphotos.com, Péter Lakatos/MTI, MOL Group, sanofi.com, Burrows/Wikipedia, Audi Hungaria, Jakub "flyz1" Maciejewski/Wikipedia, depositphotos.com, CAF, Embassy of Slovenia, Róbert Nemes, Content Production, ODPictures, Károly Horváth, Live Nation, HNM, Hungarian Money Museum and Visitor Centre, Deja Vu Festival, Christián Farkas, MBH Bank Gourmet Festival
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& Stylish Rural Business Community page 18
A prominent player on the Hungarian folkdance scene page
Hungarian experiences at the latest ‘Dakar’ race page 20


As of 00.00 hours March 5 this year, Tamás Sulyok is the new President of the Republic in Hungary. He was elected President by the governing majority of Hungarian Parliament on February 26. He is the seventh President of the Republic since the change of regime in 1990.

As his first activity as the new head of state, Tamás Sulyok signed the parliamentary decision on Sweden's accession to NATO. He was inaugurated March 10 in a ceremony held in front of the Sándor Palace, the residence of the President in the Buda Castle. "To serve the country and the nation is the greatest honor," the new President declared in his inaugural speech. "Law is my support, the compass of my whole life, and I wish to work in accordance and faithfully with it," he said.

He added that Hungary is a country with more than a thousand years of statehood, based on the principle of popular sovereignty, and the President of the Republic has the duty to represent this state in the powers defined by the Basic Law.

In his view, mutual respect is the yardstick between nations, as it is between humans, adding that everyone is equal before the law. He stressed that he and his wife would always be at the side of those who need them most, the needy, the fallen and the distressed.


The 25th anniversary of Hungary's accession to NATO was commemorated on March 12 in the U.S. city of Independence, Missouri, where Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic officially joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on this day of 1999.

It was then that Foreign Minister János Martonyi presented the instrument of Hungary's accession to US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The protocol was signed by the two foreign ministers at the Truman Presidential Library in Independence City, and Hungary's full membership – and likewise the Polish and Czech entries – took effect.

The anniversary commemoration was marked by a roundtable discussion at the site of the ceremony a quarter of a century ago, featuring Brigadier General László Szegő, who helped to manage

on the record

the accession process. On the occasion of the anniversary, Tamás Kovács, Hungary's Consul General in Chicago, said, among other things, that in today's conflict-ridden times, during the war in Ukraine, it is clear that the launch of the Hungarian military industrial development program was a good decision.

The Consul General of Poland and the Consul General of the Czech Republic also participate in the celebration in Independence, and the Commander of the Nebraska State National Guard has been invited to the roundtable discussion.


The Hungarian capital has won the European Commission's award for the programs and developments implemented in the framework of last year's European Mobility Week.

The annual Mobility Week, organized by the European Commission, aims to promote sustainable transport and make it more accessible. Last year, the Brussels-based body evaluated events in 64 cities in 21 European countries between September 16 and 22.

According to information by the Mayor's Office of the Municipality of the City of Budapest, the city’s recognized initiatives under the program included a car-free weekend organized in cooperation with the Budapest Transport Center (BKK) and a European Car Free Day on a weekday, during which Mayor Gergely Karácsony presented plans for a people-friendly and green renewal of the lower quay of Pest. The program also included events for public and professional audiences, organized jointly with the City of Vienna, showcasing good practices in pedestrian and cyclistfriendly developments.

On the occasion of Mobility Week, an exhibition was on display in the City Hall Park, showing the transformation of Budapest's public spaces from their original pedestrian-friendly face to the results of their car-centric redevelopments, and then back to their human-friendly form.


Trondheim, Norway, hosted on March 19-20 the European qualification round of the Bocuse d'Or international cooking competition, where the Hungarian team secured its place in the final, which will take place in Lyon in January 2025, and won the special prize for the best plate.

As usual, the compulsory ingredients for the competition were selected from among the emblematic products of the host country. This year, the theme of the plate was meat-based: reindeer and the iconic Scandinavian spirit Aquavit were the mandatory ingredients. And the spectacular plate theme was based on the treasures of the sea, with the equally emblematic Lofoten skrei – a cod native to Norway – and Fröya scallops as the must-have ingredients.

The Hungarian team was headed by Roland Kelemen, deputy chef at the hotel Hunguest Sóstó in Nyíregyháza, while the commis was Noel Fodor from Siófok. The latter joined the team from his family restaurant. The coach was László Szabó from Hungast, while the head of team (being the tasting jury at the same time) was Bence Dalnoki, sous chef of the two Michelin-starred Stand Restaurant, who brought home the bronze statuette from Lyon with his team in the previous edition of the competition.


Hungarian production designer Zsuzsa Mihalek won an Academy Award, jointly with Shona Heath and James Price, for her work in the American movie ‘Poor Things’ the principal filming of which took place in the Hungarian capital. Zsuzsa Mihalek was not present at the Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles, but her co-recipients accepted the 'Best Production Design' award on her behalf.

"I've been doing this since 1986, so I don't have to look for furniture on the Internet anymore, because I know immediately where I can find the furniture and textiles I need for the film. I'm grateful that Pioneer Production Ltd., the Hungarian production company of ‘Poor Things’, gave us the opportunity and had confidence that we would do this job well. It is common for foreign films to bring the set designer with them, and we Hungarians act as a support team. But here, fortunately, we were given the whole task," she told the portal Kultura.hu earlier about here role in the production.

Zsuzsa Mihalek is the second Hungarian to win an Academy Award in this category as Zsuzsanna Sipos was recognized with the same award for her work as set designer in the movie 'Dune'.


During Earth Hour, on the last Saturday of March every year, all lights are switched off for one hour and electrical appliances are disconnected. In Hungary, many municipalities took part in the worldwide action.

The aim of the 60 minutes dedicated to Earth is not only to symbolically turn off the lights in our homes and cities, but also to make people aware that creating a sustainable future and protecting our planet is the responsibility of all of us.

The pace of climate change has been threatening humanity for more than 15 years, and Earth Hour was originally launched in 2007 by WWF Australia to raise awareness of climate change and its negative impacts on the planet. However, the national movement has quickly grown into the world's largest global action, with over 190 countries taking part last year.

"Although the message is still relevant today, as the problem of climate change has not been solved – and is still hitting us in our country with massive droughts, heat waves, huge storms and flash floods – the message is more complex. Our natural resources are being destroyed by human activity at a severe and accelerating rate, and it is not only individuals who must act to reverse this negative trend, but also companies and governments that have a much greater responsibility. If, on this day, many of us do something, even a small thing, for the health of our planet, it is first and foremost a symbolic message. The more we send out a message, the more we can put pressure on political and business decisionmakers to make systemic changes," Head of Conservation at WWF Hungary, Dr. Zoltán Fehér said.

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company briefs


OTP Bank's consolidated adjusted profit after tax for the last quarter of last year was HUF 229.987 billion, exceeding the average expectations, closing the year at HUF 1,008.583 billion. Based on a summary of unaudited individual and consolidated financial statements prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), the consolidated adjusted profit after tax for the last three months of 2023 represents an increase of 50% compared to 2022, and 70% on an annual basis. Analysts had forecast a slightly lower average profit consensus of HUF 221.33 billion for the last three months of last year, according to OTP's summary of results.

Consolidated profit after tax for the last quarter of 2023 was 15% higher year-on-year at HUF 132.581 billion. On an annual basis, the result was HUF 990.459 billion, almost three times as much as in 2022. On a quarterly basis, however, both adjusted and unadjusted profit after tax fell, partly because of the negative impact on profit of almost HUF 60 billion related to the sale of the Romanian subsidiary. At the same time, risk costs fell by 78% year-on-year compared to 2022, and the items that still had a significant impact on profit before


The Danish household goods store chain JYSK's distribution center in Ecser, just southeast of Budapest, inaugurated in 2022, serves JYSK stores in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, in addition to Hungarian, Croatian, Slovakian and Slovenian stores. The facility, built with an investment of EUR 200 million, is the largest of its kind in the country, with two fully automated high-bay warehouses over 40 meters high and employs 300 people.

The 143,000-square-meter logistics center – the size of almost 20 soccer fields – has 400 trucks rolling out of the facility every week, with roughly 130,000 cubic meters of goods stored, which still only represents 50% capacity utilization. It includes high-bay warehouses, freight transfer and loading ramps, and an office building on

last year almost disappeared or were of a smaller magnitude, so the adjustment balance reduced profit by only HUF 18 billion in 2023, instead of HUF 245 billion minus before last year. The statement also highlighted the 45% improvement in the operating result, which reached HUF 1,260 billion. The total revenue of more than HUF 2,224 billion represents a 34% year-on-year increase, with all revenue lines contributing to this. Operating expenditure increased by only 22%, exceeding HUF 963 billion by the end of the year. The balance sheet total increased from HUF 32,804 billion to HUF 39,609 billion in one year.


The Mol Group has updated its long-term strategy, 'Shape Tomorrow', with the aim of making the region greener, more self-sufficient and competitive.

The main objective of the updated strategy is to enable a green energy transition while guaranteeing security of energy supply. To this end, the company will continue to strengthen its conventional businesses, spending more than USD four billion on green investments by 2030 and reaching carbon neutral operations by 2050.

A statement by the Group underlined that its investments will further strengthen the region's security of supply, create value from waste and shape the future of mobility through innovative technologies. The updated strategy places greater emphasis on renewable fuels, green hydrogen, biomethane and geothermal energy.

Downstream (refining and trading) will further strengthen its refining position in Europe while dynamically adapting to the changing needs of mobility and the economy. The rise of renewable

fuels opens up new dimensions in sustainable mobility: the updated strategy focuses on biomethane and green hydrogen production, and the inclusion of the circular economy will increase the contribution of bio- and waste streams to production. The Mol Group is investing USD 1 billion in waste management, recycling and medium-scale chemical investments until 2030.

Upstream (research generation) will play a key role in financing the transformation at group level, and slowing the natural generation decline will remain a top priority. Maintain production at least at the current average daily level of 90,000 barrels of oil equivalent for the next five years. In addition to conventional hydrocarbon production, the business is strengthening its carbon neutral projects: the company is embarking on geothermal exploration, launching a pilot lithium project and focusing on building storage capacity in the carbon capture and storage sector.

a 560,000-square-meter site. This makes the Ecseri unit the largest single-space distribution center in the country.

The center also contributes to JYSK's sustainability goals: with the launch of the Ecser facility, JYSK saves 4.5 million kilometers of road freight transport per year, which means roughly 3,600 tons of carbon dioxide per year. In addition, solar panels have been installed on 6,000 square meters of the roof of the center itself, the hot water supply is supported by solar collectors, and heating needs are reduced by a heat pump. The distribution center is equipped only with electric forklifts, and electric car chargers are available in the parking lot for JYSK employees. There are also ongoing technological innovations, such as the recent replacement of hand-held barcode readers with glove readers.


The pharmaceutical company Sanofi has launched its international program "Cancer & Work: Acting Together". It provides support to employees affected by cancer.

The company says in a statement that it is providing social, mental and financial support, with up to twelve months of supplementary pay through a health fund, regardless of job title or geographical location. The initiative also aims to encourage workers with illnesses to seek help more often.

In addition to the financial support, workers will also have maximum flexibility in their working hours to allow them to combine their health condition with their work. In addition to financial support, the program also provides mental support for the workers concerned. Specially trained volunteer colleagues are available to help their colleagues from diagnosis through treatment to return to work.

"I'm proud that we have launched an initiative where we can ensure that affected colleagues can concentrate fully on their recovery, stop worrying about their jobs and return to work as soon as possible. We strive to ensure that people living with cancer have the widest possible support and know that they are not alone at work. I'm delighted that, although the program has only just started, more and more people are already volunteering in Hungary, which shows that our staff are committed to supporting people affected by the disease," HR Director at Sanofi, Rita Rajkovics said.

Many of the volunteers in the network have personal experience of cancer; this link creates a safe space to share experiences, learn about available resources and build supportive relationships. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) also provides affected workers in all countries with access to psychological support from external experts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The program also aims to equip managers to support their team members who are affected by cancer. It provides them with the knowledge to inform their colleagues about local benefits and support options.

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company briefs


Audi Hungaria Plc.'s sales revenue increased by 7.9% last year compared to 2022. Last year, the car manufacturing company, based in Győr, NW Hungary, achieved sales revenue of EUR 9.102 billion (HUF 3,602.4 billion), which is EUR 666 million (HUF 263.6 billion) more than in the previous year. Its aftertax profit was EUR 354 million (HUF 140.1 billion), EUR 11 million (HUF 4.4 billion) more than in 2022. in 2023, 1,660,425 engines were produced in Győr, of which 114,058 were electric. In 2022, 1,677,545 engines were produced, of which 108,097 were electric. Last year, 177,775 vehicles were produced, 6,641 more than in 2022. In 2023, the company invested EUR 343 million (HUF 135.8 billion), and since its foundation in 1993, a total of EUR 12.5 billion (HUF 4,947.3 billion). At the end of last year, the company employed 11,663 people. Michael Breme, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Audi Hungaria Plc., said that last year had been a challenging year, but that they had been able to secure jobs and production stability. Production volumes were at a high level, he said. He added that their Next level strategy was essential to maintain Audi Hungaria's competitiveness in the region. Touching on this year's plans, Michael Breme said that external distractions make the challenges complex, so it is important to rely on their own strengths. The company will continue series production of PPE drives, start production of the Cupra Terramar model this year, and continue preparations for the next generation of electric motors, MEBeco drives.


CIB Group closed the 2023 financial year with record profits, with profit after tax reaching HUF 63.9 billion, up nearly 80% yearon-year. CIB Group's net operating income amounted to HUF 169.6 billion, up from HUF 135.6 billion in the previous year, while profit


Stadler Trains Hungary Plc. and the regional railway company Győr-SopronEbenfurti Vasút (GYSEV) Plc. have signed a contract for the supply of nine plus optionally four FLIRT Intercity electric multiple units. The vehicles will be operated by the railway company on the Sopron-Budapest and Szombathely-Budapest routes from 2027. The dual-current vehicles will be able to operate not only in Hungary but also in Austria. The carriages of the five-carriage, state-of-the-art

before tax increased to HUF 71 billion, up from HUF 40.7 billion in 2022.

According to the financial institution, the more profitable operation is due to loan and deposit growth several times above the market average, customer- and growth-focused strategic architecture, digitalization and cost control.

Last year, CIB Group's consolidated gross customer lending grew by 9% to HUF 1,597.6 billion at the end of December, while customer deposits increased by 12.3% to HUF 2,395.6

trainsets are manufactured at Stadler's plant in Szolnok, E Hungary. The entry into force of the supply contract is subject to the conclusion of a financing contract. GYSEV will finance the purchase with an EIB loan. GYSEV Plc. will have to decide within three months from the entry into force of the contract how many

billion. The latter growth was mainly driven by corporate segments, they said. CIB Group's equity at the end of the period was HUF 319.469 billion, up 16.1% from the end of 2022.

CIB's operating costs increased by 12.1% yearon-year, mainly due to rising inflation and wage increases, and amounted to HUF 65.4 billion in 2023, excluding bank tax. The financial institution contributed HUF 20.215 billion to the Hungarian state budget through the payment of bank tax (including extra profit tax).

option trains it will order. According to the delivery schedule, the first vehicle will be delivered by Stadler in the 36th month after the entry into force of the contract, while the last unit of the basic order will be placed in service within 44 months. Stadler will then have a further two years to obtain the necessary licenses to operate the trains in Austria. It was noted that the new Intercity vehicles will be different from the previously acquired fleet. In addition to a maintenance-friendly design, the manufacturer will equip the vehicles with state-of-the-art electric traction motors that will allow the trains to operate at lower energy consumption levels, which will also reduce the costs over the lifetime of the vehicle.


A major development has been introduced at the Michelin plant in Nyíregyháza, NE Hungary. The sports car tire factory is modernizing its curing equipment by replacing the existing steam presses with electric ones, and thereby reducing its energy consumption.

Curing (or vulcanization) is the final stage in the tire manufacturing process, during which the tires are getting their final geometric form. The chemical reaction that creates cross-linkages between the polymer chains of the rubber compound takes place in curing presses holding the tire molds, under the influence of heat, a statement by the company explains.

Michelin developed its first electric curing press in Germany in the early 2010s. This

technology is considered unique as it is not typically used by other suppliers in the production of tires for passenger cars. In Germany, this first electric curing press was equipped with Siemens technology,

and Michelin is implementing this control technology as company standard for all its factories for the installation of new presses.

Michelin installed the prototype of the electric curing press in Nyíregyháza in 2021, and in the following year, 6 new electric presses were commissioned in addition to the first one. Based on the positive experiences, the replacement of all 40 presses in the plant has begun in 2023, and all curing presses are scheduled to become electric by the end of 2024.

By replacing steam presses with electric production technology, the Nyíregyháza factory is expected to increase its energy efficiency by seven times, and moves closer to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 by reducing its environmental footprint and CO₂ emissions.

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In the Chinese horoscope, 2024, the Year of the Dragon, is forecasted to bring about, among much else, opportunities, changes and challenges. At least in these respects, we can be reassured that the predictions are bound to be fulfilled. Opportunities will be provided by a large number of elections around the world, from Africa through Asia and Europe to the Americas, and we may hope that more sensible presidents, legislative bodies and governments will be chosen by the people. With due respect to the various state and municipal elections in, for instance, Africa, two elections stand out as potential game-changers.

EU citizens go to the polls…

First, in June, the European parliamentary elections offer some hope that ‘Brussels’ will grow up and seriously address such strategic issues as the responsible handling of immigration, EU–Russian relations and EU-US relations without prejudices and pre-cooked ideas produced elsewhere. To be a bit more specific, the European Union should, at least, start to acquire a strategic autonomy long advocated by, among others, French President Emmanuel Macron. It should not mean strategic decoupling from the U.S., but the point is that the interests of the EU and the U.S. do not automatically overlap, witness the almost vital interest of the EU to maintain close economic relations with China.

Russia has also played a different role in the economy of the EU and the U.S.: while it was one of the pillars of the prosperity of the former by supplying energy, raw materials and minerals for Europe’s economic well-being, the U.S.-Russia trade relations were rather insignificant – one of the reasons why Washington is spearheading the sanctions policies. Finally, still belonging to the broad picture, the EU institutions should cease spending energy and time on minor issues, such as overregulation in fields from agriculture through trade to culture.

…as do people in the United States… The other one, of course, is the US presidential election, where the ‘informed’ electorate is likely to face a genuine Hobson’s choice. Given the likely candidates, one can only despair of the state of American democracy: if that is the best it can offer to its own people and the world, both are in deep trouble. It seems that one of the candidates is the hostage of the far right, while the other one is that of the far left, the self-styled progressives, woke ideologues, and the like. It is next to impossible to predict which America the world will be seeing at the end of the year or, better to say, from next year’s first days: a more inward-looking, protectionist, pragmatist and transactionalist U.S., or a more ideological, more assertive U.S. which “goes abroad, in search of monsters to destroy,” a reverse of what John Quincy Adams recommended 200

years ago. However, it is almost certain that the election will further divide US society, and the world will not really benefit from ”a house divided against itself.” One country that may be benefiting from the internal divide of the U.S., though, will be China, as America’s foreign and security policies are bound to be affected adversely by a strong domestic discord.

…as well as in Russia and the United Kingdom

While it is premature to predict who will take the oath of office in the U.S. at noon on January 20, 2025, the outcome of the presidential election in Russia is at least easier to foresee: the guess is that bookies around the world will take no bets on the winner in this ‘democracy’. The upcoming British parliamentary election sometime in the next eleven months also seems to be a foregone conclusion: the Labour Party may repeat the landslide victory of 1997 against the tired and divided Conservatives. The positions of the Labour Party on such outstanding questions as the independence referendum in Scotland, or one of the unification of Ireland, or on sticking to Brexit are not that much different from those of the Conservative Party: they oppose the first two, and do not want to take any steps reversing the referendum on membership in the EU despite the fact that the majority of the British electorate is having second thoughts about the wisdom of leaving the EU.

Conflicts waging and lurking

There are challenges galore. First among them finding a solution of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the war in the Middle East. As things stand, most people will put up with a ceasefire and the transfer of the battlefields to the negotiating tables; in reality, though, no end is in sight in the fights in either of them. President Vladimir Putin is supposed to prolong the war until the US presidential election with the hope that he may get a better deal from a President Trump than from a President Biden. As for the war in the Middle East, Israel’s official war aim of completely destroying Hamas is obviously beyond the means of the Jewish state, likewise is that of Hamas and other radical Palestinian and Arab groups of ‘pushing the Jews into the sea’. It is a good bet there is no single individual anywhere in the world with a practicable answer to these problems. The best we can hope for is sweeping parts of these problems under a very thick rug. Then there is the potential Chinese-Taiwanese conflict lurking in the background, the ‘powder kegs’ in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, and the unsolved (unsolvable?) migration issue, with all the political, social, economic, and cultural impacts on the societies in which the millions of migrants end up, especially the US and Europe. It may well be that, looking back from a year now, a paraphrase of another Chinese saying (in fact a curse) will come to our minds when reflecting on 2024: We have been ‘living in interesting times’.

Tamás Magyarics is a foreign policy analyst

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Politically, Hungarian-Spanish bilateral relations are not very intense, according to the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to Hungary, Alfonso Dastis, but he believes there are no contentious issues and both sides are working on resolving matters they disagree on. He also discusses with Diplomacy&Trade the priorities of the recent Spanish EU Presidency and important investments by Spanish companies in Hungary.

Ambassador Dastis, who handed over his credentials to the Hungarian President in November 2022, has vast experience in the field of foreign relations and diplomacy. He has held several positions within the Spanish Diplomatic Corps and he also served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain between 2016 and 2018.

He emphasizes to Diplomacy&Trade that the main challenge in his current position in Budapest is to “try and strengthen our bilateral relations and foster the friendship between our two nations, the Hungarian and Spanish peoples.” He also admits with a smile that another big challenge for him – “I will call it, perhaps, a handicap” – is the language. “The fact that Hungarian is a difficult language and that in a way impairs or hinders the communication. So, it's another obstacle to adapt,” he notes.

Aiming at resolving issues

In terms of Hungarian-Spanish bilateral relations, he is of the view that “politically, they are not very intense, but I don't think there are contentious issues because there may be matters where we disagree, but we don't do that publicly, we don't openly criticize each other. We deal with them with the aim of trying to resolve them. But I would say that there are not so many issues of that nature despite the obvious fact that the two governments come from different sides of the political spectrum. In fact, I think they go along rather well.” One area where we the two governments have very similar interests and objectives is that of migration. “We are both frontline countries and we are interested in dealing with strengthening, for example, the external border of the European Union. So, yes, political relations can be improved, and I think we are doing quite a good job especially in terms of working together in the current EU presidency trio

2024/ I |DIPLOMACY & TRADE| www.dteurope.com 8

spanish focus

together with Belgium to ensure continuity in the running of the European Union,” he adds. As for economic relations, the picture is clearer with a good number of Spanish companies present in Hungary in different sectors – as is in the cultural sphere. “Hungary is a remarkable country in terms of cultural interests of its people and we try to contribute by our means like bringing Spanish artists here and we are also very happy to contribute to the cultural atmosphere of Hungary,” the Ambassador highlights.

Meetings at EU levels

Regarding high level meetings between Spanish and Hungarian officials, Ambassador Dastis mentions encounters that took place in preparation for the rotating EU presidency held in the second half of the past year by Spain and in preparation of the trio program of the consecutive Spanish, Belgian and Hungarian presidencies. “Of course, Spain was very busy running the Council of the European Union. So, most meetings are multilateral ones in the sense that they take place within the organs of the EU. However, on the margins of those meetings, there are talks between our respective ministers, to deal with any issues that may arise. For example, in the second half of last year, there was a meeting of the Hungarian minister in charge of European affairs, János Bóka, with our foreign minister, José Manuel Albares. So, there are ongoing meetings and this year, when Hungary will have the presidency of the EU, I anticipate that there will be lots of visits from Spanish ministers to Hungary. I'm looking forward to it.”

Priorities of the Spanish EU Presidency

When speaking about the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union held by Spain last year, the Ambassador underlines that they had a sort of umbrella program, that of the trio, which they had negotiated and agreed upon with Belgium and Hungary, and which tries to protect the citizens, promote the interests of the EU and deal with the ecological and technological transition of our era. “For our own program, we selected four main

priorities. The first one is the reindustrialization of the European Union and the fostering of the strategic autonomy so as not to depend too much on other countries – as it happened with Russia in certain areas. If you are too dependent on a country, then it can easily become a problem. The second one is, as I said, environmental adaptation and ecological transition. The third one is promoting an economy, which is competitive but fair at the same time, that is, promoting economic and social justice. And the fourth one is strengthening the European Union both inwards and outwards – inwards by strengthening the internal market and outwards by being a really important player in world affairs in a moment of multiple crises.”


Spanish economic actors have important investments in Hungary in various fields but the Ambassador notes that there is always an opportunity to improve economic relations. “In the balance of bilateral trade, there is a surplus for Hungary. So, we would like to sort of balance it a little bit. In terms of investments, those of significance on the part of Spanish companies in Hungary are mostly in the automotive, agricultural, fashion and hospitality sectors. Important Spanish automotive investors here include Gestamp, Antolin and Segura. In agriculture, there is a big winery, Oremus, in the northeastern Hungarian Tokaj region, owned by a very famous Spanish wine company, Vega Sicilia. As I understand, they are doing rather well. In clothing and fashion, we have Zara and Mango, among others. In the hospitality sector, Spanish investments keep increasing. One good example is that of Hotusa, a Spanish

company which has, I think by now five hotels in the Hungarian capital. But there are also more companies investing here because they are realizing that Budapest is really a top tourist destination. In fact, if you walk around in the city, you can hear a lot of Spanish being spoken, which I think is a testimony to the interest that Spaniards are finding to come to this city. In addition, I can mention the energy industry providing clean energy, mostly solar technology. In the past, there was interest in the exploitation of wind energy but the Hungarian government has somehow decided not to pursue that technology further. Now, there are a couple of investments being prepared in the clean energy sector.”

Spain continues to be popular

While – as the Ambassador has mentioned –Hungary is a popular tourist destination, Spain is even more so, including for Hungarians as well.

Given the recent high inflationary environment in Hungary, one might have believed that it would result in a drop in the number of Hungarians visiting Spain but the situation is not like that all. “For the first semester of last year, the relevant figures tell us that there has been an increase of about 50% of more Hungarians visiting Spain. In fact, in terms of

expenditure, they have spent double what they used to spend – probably because comparatively, Spain has become cheaper with regard to Hungary or to Budapest because our inflation had come down very drastically. So, actually, we are very happy with the number of Hungarians that are visiting Spain, a top tourist destination.

Numbers after the pandemic period have recovered, I think we are already approaching 80 million visitors annually in Spain and it looks like many of them will be Hungarians. I will encourage them to keep visiting. I think there are 12 direct flights from Budapest to different Spanish airports with a new route to Bilbao likely to be added soon.”

Memorable moments in Hungary

Ambassador Dastis has been here in Hungary for close to over a year now – a period that has already produced memorable moments for him. “In terms of visits to places outside Budapest, I remember vividly a trip to Tokaj where I had the opportunity to taste the wonderful wine, but I also appreciate the landscape, it's a very nice, beautiful region.

I remember also very well a visit to Miskolc, further in the northeast of the country, where I attended the annual gathering of bilingual institutes or bilingual sections of Hungarian institutes where Spanish is taught and I really loved it. It was great to realize how mature and how good Hungarian students of Spanish are – it is remarkable, and I am very impressed at the growing interest of Hungarians to learn Spanish. And then, of course, I've been to Pécs in the south and Lake Balaton in Transdanubia. I must say that Hungary is a very diverse and very, very nice country, so, my intention, of course, is to keep visiting places.”

Last but not least, the Ambassador, being a football fan, notes that he also had memorable moments when FC Sevilla from his country won the UEFA Europa League competition final in the Hungarian capital in June this last year.

9 www.dteurope.com |DIPLOMACY & TRADE| 2024/ I HUNGARY SPAIN AREA 93,028 sq km 505,370 sq km country comparison to the world 110 54 POPULATION 9,670,009 (2023 est.) 47,222,613 (2023 est.) country comparison to the world 94 32 POPULATION GROWTH RATE -0.31% (2023 est.) 0.12% (2023 est.) country comparison to the world 216 183 BIRTH RATE 8.58 births/1,000 population (2023 est.) 7.12 births/1,000 population (2023 est.) country comparison to the world 208 222 LIFE EXPECTANCY AT BIRTH 77.44 years 82.78 years (2023 est.) country comparison to the world 92 21 NET MIGRATION RATE 1.21 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2023 est.) 4.23 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2023 est.) country comparison to the world 60 26 REAL GDP PER CAPITA USD 33,600 (2020 est.) USD 37,900 (2021 est.) country comparison to the world 63 54 UNEMPLOYMENT RATE 4.12% (2021 est.) 14.73% (2021 est.) country comparison to the world 58 37 TELEPHONES - MOBILE/CELLULAR 10,248,653 (2021 est.) 56,805,348 (2021 est.) country comparison to the world 92 29 AIRPORTS 41 (2021) 135 (2021) country comparison to the world 103 40 Source: World Factbook

spanish focus



CUPRA officially became an independent brand name in 2018, alongside SEAT on models coming out of Volkswagen Group's Spanish factory. As SEAT I CUPRA Brand Manager at the importer Porsche Hungaria, Ádám Rozgonyi explains to Diplomacy&Trade, the CUPRA models complement the current and previous product portfolio. The latest models will be on display at the showroom that is to open soon in downtown Budapest.

"SEAT has always been looking for a way to find its place within the Volkswagen Group so that it can find a separate brand and an identity that really differentiates it and to avoid competition within the group. The CUPRA, after all, used to be the top-of-the-range, sporty model for SEAT, and then came the decision to create the CUPRA as a separate brand, seeing a niche in the market. The production of SEAT models, has continued and is still continuing in parallel. Both brands are produced by a single manufacturer, SEAT, in Spain,” Ádám Rozgonyi points out.

He adds that the Volkswagen Group, which has four brands (Audi, Skoda, Volkswagen and SEAT), is positioning the CUPRA brand somewhere between Volkswagen and Audi, which is clearly a step-up from SEAT, “which is not to say that SEATs are not of good quality, but the design and the premium construction here certainly give an extra edge to these cars that are running and operating under the CUPRA name.”

CUPRA going electric

Electrically powered cars are the vehicles of the future, and CUPRA does not want to get left behind, either. “In fact, after the CUPRA brand appeared, when the Formentor model was born and launched on the market in 2021, plug-in hybrid drive was the first to appear in that model. The first 100% electric car within the CUPRA brand, the CUPRA Born was launched in Europe (including Hungary) in 2022. This June will see the start of production of CUPRA's second 100% electric car, the CUPRA Tavascan. This is an

all-round larger SUV-crossover class car that carries the brand's unique hallmarks, the DNA that truly characterizes CUPRA. Coming in 2025 is the Raval, a four-meter-long urban cruiser,” the Brand Manager highlights. In order to boost electrification, SEAT S.A. is investing EUR 300 million in partnership with the Volkswagen Group to build a battery production unit and install 11,000 solar panels to harness green energy.

CUPRA models more and more popular

The success of the CUPRA models has contributed significantly to an increase of around one third in deliveries by the SEAT factory last year. In 2020, 27,400 CUPRAs were produced and delivered to customers. This figure rose to 231,000 in 2023 – an eightfold increase in volume. As Ádám Rozgonyi puts it, “obviously, we have grown from a low base, but this 231,000 represents a significant part of the total production capacity of 519,200 units. In Hungary, the situation is that at the moment, SEAT still has a predominance of the two brands in the SEAT factory, with SEAT accounting for about 55% of our sales and CUPRA models accounting for 45%. I think this is also a nice result because SEAT has a long history, partly with private customers, but it has also been very popular with fleet customers recently, while the CUPRA brand is just starting to be built. It is now that the latter is coming up with its own models, which are not the premium-looking ones that have been taken over from SEAT and given sporty look,

but it is also presenting cars like the Tavascan, which has no equal on the SEAT side. CUPRA is also to feature the Terramar, which will be manufactured in Győr in north-west Hungary from September 2024.”

When it comes to the currently most popular CUPRA model, the Brand Manager's answer is clear: the CUPRA Formentor. "It was the first car of this brand to arrive on the Hungarian market in 2021, and it is the car that has a completely independent character. It was born a CUPRA, not a SEAT version that was converted into a CUPRA. It has a very wide range of engines, from the 1.5-liter one with 150hp through plug-in hybrid and diesel-powered ones to the 2.5-liter 390hp top-end model for which the engine is produced in Győr. We can see that it's attracting a lot of attention, so it's a car that's being looked at because it has a unique look, a design that simply attracts the eye. CUPRA is a new brand. A lot of people ask what it is, but now, we are seeing that more and more people know what brand it is. You have to reach out and find those customers who can be somewhat bolder and like to stand out a little bit from the crowd. For them, the CUPRA Formentor is a very good option. In fact, all the models that the CUPRA offers have a very unique look, without being over-designed, they are not provocative, they are not too aggressive, but they still have all the characteristics of sportiness.

First CUPRA showroom in the region

The new showroom in downtown Budapest will be an important milestone in the history of the CUPRA brand in Hungary. As Ádám Rozgonyi explains, “the CUPRA headquarters has a strategic goal to open a showroom in certain metropolises, in the city center, to bring their products closer to the people. This way, people can meet the brand not necessarily only in the more secluded or suburban showrooms but also in areas where they move around and live in their everyday lives. Last year, when there were plenty of difficulties in the Hungarian market, we regarded it as a great success that our owner, Porsche Holding Salzburg, and the SEAT factory approved our idea of creating such a showroom in downtown Budapest. This will be the first showroom of its kind in the region, so, we are quite ahead of the game.”

This development makes the CUPRA representation in Hungary very proud, “because once again, we have taken a step towards what the brand and our team in Hungary have set out to do which is to do something new in everything. The objective is to provide information to the guests who come here, to the people who are interested, and to pass on their data to the dealer partners who are chosen by the customer, obviously according to their place of residence or whatever their interest is, and from then on, every step of the sale process is taken forward by our dealer partners. That's one of the main directions. The other is that we see this as a venue where we will be holding a lot of events. Now, we have a line-up of new models, including the CUPRA Leon and the Formentor, as well as the Tavascan. The Terramar, which will be produced in Győr from September, is an SUV model and the best-selling CUPRA model on the market at the moment. So, we are looking forward to a very exciting future and we are confident that this will be a popular and busy showroom,” the SEAT I CUPRA Brand Manager concludes.

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spanish focus



It was ten years ago, in 2014, that the Center for Budapest Transport (BKK), which operates urban transport in the Hungarian capital, signed a contract for the supply of 37 Urbos trams with the Spanish company Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF).

Diplomacy&Trade looks back at the company’s presence in Hungary as well as the current developments with the help of CAF Regional Manager María Pérez de Unzueta Kövesdi.

“Indeed, ten years ago CAF and BKK signed the contract for the supply and posterior maintenance of 37 + 87 optional trams. Those options could be either short trams with five modules or long trams with nine modules. These type of tenders with large amounts of vehicles as options was quite unusual in Central European countries at that time. The decision, broadly criticized then, has very much proven to be advantageous for all parties: the Municipality, the owner (BKK), the operator (BKV) and, of course, for the passengers,” the Regional Manager points out.

As the demand for low-floor and modern tramways in Budapest was clear since the agreement was signed, through additional orders, by the second half of 2021, Budapest had 73 CAF Urbos trams providing passengers with a sustainable, comfortable and reliable solution, and BKK still had the right and the intention to order the 51 additional units. However, a complex economic and social situation worldwide due the new coronavirus pandemic and the related global supply shortages delayed a decision on this issue. Finally, between late 2022 and early 2023, BKK was able to order, under very compelling conditions, the remaining 51 trams according to the framework agreement. Starting in the fall of this year, BKK and BKV will be able to replace old vehicles with the newly manufactured tramways and by 2026, Budapest will profit from the benefits of a homogenic CAF fleet of 124 tramways, María Pérez de Unzueta Kövesdi explains.

The Budapest project will be one of the biggest fleets of CAF Urbos tramways in commercial service, also featuring the world’s longest tram in one of the biggest tramway and public transportation networks in Europe with high expectations and demand from passengers. For CAF, this project has become a great example of a successful collaboration despite cultural disparities.

Life cycle support

CAF’s biggest competitive advantage with its Urbos tramway family has been the personalization factor. Contrary to other manufacturers, where the portfolio of solutions is quite narrow, CAF has adapted its solutions to the customer needs, always keeping in mind the costs and feasibility factors.

CAF also believes in providing support to its clients not only when delivering and maintaining the vehicles during the first years, but its aim is to accompany them for their whole life cycle, which implies long-term commitments with the supply of spare parts and equipment and other services such as engineering support, maintenances, reparations, etc.

“Furthermore, as we did with some of the previously delivered Budapest tramways with great success, CAF is keen on collaborating with local partners who have experience in the railway sector and can add value to its products and services as well as strengthen political, economic and social relationships from within the country,” the Regional Manager highlights.

49 of the 51 trams to be delivered from this fall will be manufactured together with a Hungarian partner in Hungary. CAF understands that the added value of such collaboration appeals to the Hungarian government and to Hungarian people, who, to some extent, relate better to the products and services, and to the company, since these have been manufactured by their compatriots.

Not just in Budapest

In 2011, before the Budapest deal, the eastern Hungarian city of Debrecen signed a contract with CAF for the delivery and maintenance of 18 tramways.

María Pérez de Unzueta Kövesdi stresses that “the project allowed our company to better understand what Hungarian legislation is all about, and I am confident that all activities CAF has undertaken in Hungary since have profited from that previous experience. Working with the

local transport firm DKV and Debrecen’s Municipality was eye opening for CAF’s knowledge of the Hungarian business culture and it could not have happened in a better or more welcoming city.

Since the city of Debrecen has been, and will be, undergoing important developments due to the somewhat new presence of the car manufacturing industry, the expectancy of population growth within the next five years is exponential. We do expect public transportation developments to happen in a short/medium term since those citizens need solutions to be able to use efficient public transport within and outside of Debrecen, so we are really looking forward to the opportunities that may arise with the city’s expansion.”

Going international

It was over three decades ago that CAF also supplied railway passenger cars for MÁV Hungarian State Railways. The Regional Manager finds it important to state that the delivery of these 76 cars for MÁV was CAF’s first project outside Spain; these vehicles have been remodeled since and are still giving commercial service throughout Europe. “It has been a personal pleasure of mine to meet CAF

colleagues that were involved in this project more than 30 years ago; each and every one of them has, still today, a smile on their faces when they remember what their life in Hungary meant to them, some of them still remember Hungarian expressions and traditions; it did mark the beginning of a new internationalization era for CAF in 1992.”

For sustainable transport solutions

CAF is a world leader when it comes to comprehensive systems for sustainable transport. It adhered in 2020 to the United Nations Global Compact, a strategic initiative that supports global companies committed to responsible business practices in the areas of human rights, labor, the environment and fighting corruption. Last year, it redefined CAF's Purpose within its 2026 Strategic Plan, "developing sustainable transport solutions to improve people’s quality of life,” and updated its Mission, Vision and Values, maintaining sustainability as a cross-cutting and backbone element for the success of the company's strategy.

“Even though all departments within our company and all project phases are involved when achieving the ten sustainability principles stated in the initiative, it is the design and manufacturing phases of the vehicles that our clients (governmental institutions, operators and maintainers) are mainly concerned about when purchasing rolling stock, therefore, they are ever more involved in these procedures,” María Pérez de Unzueta Kövesdi points out.

A potentially fruitful market

She adds that “the need for fleet renovations in Hungary is a real challenge nowadays, the railway market demand in Hungary is growing since the population is most aware of the environmental implications that the use of road transportation implies and when it comes to costs, in most cases, railway can be cheaper.”

In some cases, there have not been rolling stock procurements for over 20 years, for example, for the HÉV suburban lines that provide transportation services between Budapest and its agglomeration for more than 63 million people annually. Furthermore, Hungary’s geographical location is essential for railway transportation services in Central and Eastern Europe. With two operators in Hungary, MÁV and GYSEV, the need for new and modern regional and international trains is a reality as well. “We believe the issuance of tenders for procurement of both these types of trains is imminent and it is our plan to compete in them so as to continue our cooperation with local partners and strengthen our presence in Hungary,” she concludes.

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spanish focus



The ultimate goals of the Cervantes Institute, as proclaimed by the law establishing it in 1991, are to promote the education, the study and the use of Spanish universally as a second language; to support the methods and activities that would help the process of Spanish language education, and to contribute to the advancement of the Spanish and Hispanic American cultures throughout non-Spanishspeaking countries. These goals are also promoted in Hungary, where the Institute has been present for two decades now.

As the Director of the Cervantes Institute in Budapest, Javier Valdivielso Odriozola explains to Diplomacy&Trade, they will organize this year a major event to celebrate their twenty years of presence in Hungary. “It will be a public event with music and different arts in order to give importance to these 20 years that we consider really valuable because we have been trying to work for the diffusion of the culture of Spain and other Hispano-American countries during these years. This is our main goal. For this, we have an academic department where we offer Spanish language courses for all ages. We are working online and on-site in person. We have a public library, which is the basis of our work, offering a large number of books in electronic and physical form to show the diversity of literature in Spanish, Catalan, Basque and Galician languages. The third part of our work, the more visible, is the cultural program where our main goal is the diffusion of the culture of Spain and Hispano-America in all kinds of arts. For this, we have a building where we offer some kind of exhibition basically throughout the year.” He stresses that they put a lot of emphasis on photography and they have a very important presence in literature trying to present and support the publication of books of Spanish and HispanoAmerican literature. They also work a lot on cinema where the main event is the annual week of Spanish cinema that took place at the end of last year in the Uránia movie theater in Budapest. In dance, they had a program in the Fuga cultural center also in the capital. “As you can see, we are not focused on one

art in promoting the presence of Spanish and Hispano-American artists and the cultural industry of all the Hispanic world,” the Director adds.

Regular audience

People attending programs in the building of the Cervantes Institute make up a regular audience but it is equally important for the Institute to be present and visible in festivals and in major events in Budapest as well as in other parts of the country.

“We try to be open to Hungarian society, especially those interested in foreign cultures and foreign languages. Normally, the profile of our audience is young adult people, professionals connected with Spain and/or Hispano-America in some way through music and the literature, etc.,” he notes. Not surprisingly, he says, the most popular program genre offered the is the cinema, especially the Spanish Film Week. “There are people eagerly waiting for this event every year. In music, anything related with Spanish music like Flamenco is very popular with many people learning this kind of dancing while Latin jazz is always very much in

demand. Hungarians are very educated and good readers and they are always waiting for new books coming from Spain and Hispano-America, so we do our best in literature as well.”

A special role in language education

The Spanish language is taught extensively all over Hungary and the Cervantes Institute has a fair share in it. The Director proudly highlights that they offer Spanish courses throughout the year. “During the new coronavirus pandemic, we tried to change the format from on-site to online courses and it worked very well with the students as well as with the teachers. We have students from all over the country: not just from cities like Debrecen, Pécs or Szeged but even from small villages. The number of on-site courses is increasing. We are growing and with limited classroom space and number of teachers, and we are now nearing maximum capacity.”

In terms of certificates, those attending the Institute’s courses are in a favorable situation as they may receive certifications like DELE and CLS.

As Javier Valdivielso notes, Hungary is somewhat different from other countries as there is a very important system of national certification here. “We are working with international schools in Budapest with the bilingual Hungarian-Spanish sections all around the country, explaining to the clients that the international certification we offer is recognized all over the world and gives them the possibility to go to a foreign university. We believe that this is a very interesting investment opportunity for Hungarian students.”

Not just in Budapest

The Director underlines that although it is true that Budapest is the capital with about a fifth of the residents of the country living here and thus, this is the focus when organizing cultural programs, “we know that we need to work in the different regions of the country as well. We have worked a lot in the areas of Debrecen and Miskolc, we believe that there is some sensitive situation there close to the Ukrainian border, and it's a region where economic conditions are a little bit different. We also have a very important presence in Pécs and Szeged because there are very important Spanish departments in the universities there. Thus, working with Spanish-teaching places in the country is a priority. We are supporting, coordinating programs and trying to be always there with them.”

Presenting a Hispano-American vision

The Cervantes Institute is also the cultural center of the Embassy of Spain in the Hungarian capital, thus, it is “absolutely connected with the Embassy,” as the Director puts it. “The Embassy has a cultural office with which we work together in order to present to the Hungarian society a common cultural program of Spanish culture. Also, we are very much connected with all the embassies of Spanish-speaking countries here to have a Hispano-American vision that is a very important part of our work. In addition, we have close ties with the Portuguese and Brazilian embassies as language relatives, presenting, coordinating and co-organizing events with them throughout the year, especially in the field of cinema. As far as literature is concerned, when we find that there is some Latin American book published in this country, we always work with the embassies. It's a very common and very normal relationship.”

Cultural promotion of the EU Presidency

In the second half of last year, Spain held the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union and the Cervantes Institute played its role in implementing programs on the agenda. “In cooperation with the Embassy, we used this occasion to push a little bit more our cultural presence in the country. We had different events that we consider are especially connected with the Spanish Presidency of the European Union. Two events are related to the 50-year anniversary of the death of Pablo Picasso: we had a dance performance in the National Theater and we had a conference and lecture here in December last year about the life of Picasso. This was a main goal for us. In terms of other events related to the Presidency, we had a Flamenco concert in the House of Hungarian Music and we had a tasting of Spanish wines as well as a Christmas concert also last December. At these events, we were trying to create a little bit more than the normal cultural program, always presenting the logo of the Presidency,” the Director concludes.

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witty leaks




Considering that one of my hobbies is running, I found a great opportunity here to explore Hungary. There are a number of these events around the country, but I was lucky to meet a group of running enthusiasts in the first month of my stay in Budapest called ‘Expat trails’, who trained in the hills around Budapest and then took part in various trail runs. Trail running is something special, as it is more varied, often the track is not particularly friendly, as it is muddy or slippery, rocky and often covered with obstacles. In addition, the directions are not always completely clear and you have to follow the signs but one may still get lost along the way. On the other hand, trail runs are an opportunity to get to know the Hungarian countryside and some of the most attractive landscapes.

Throughout the year, throughout the country

One of my first trail runs in Hungary took place in Cserépfalu, where there were no particularly challenging climbs, but after an hour, my 10-km course felt very long and when I asked one of the runners on the course for directions, I realized that I was already more than halfway through the 21-kilometer track, because I had apparently missed a sign somewhere. Otherwise, the trail running events in Hungary are mostly very pleasant experiences, where I meet interesting people, and above all, just finishing the entire course sometimes feels better than standing on the podium. Organizers of larger trail events allow participation in different distances, starting somewhere from 12 kilometers to more than 100 kilometers. Accordingly, the altitude differences of the tracks also differ, and every decent track reaches at least 1,000 meters of altitude difference, and some even a few thousand. Soon, I also met many organizers of trail competitions and realized that participation in trail runs can also be a promotion for Slovenia, which

I represent in Hungary. Several times my participation in trail runs was announced and Slovenia as well. So far, I have participated in many trail runs in different parts of the country, some even several times. Thus, I have already completed two 30-kilometer runs from Visegrád to Szentendre as part of Ultra Trail Hungary. I participated in three Happy New Trails, which take place every year on January 1st, which is a special challenge if you have an intense New Year's celebration behind you. Most slightly longer trail runs have some particularly beautiful viewpoints on the way, where, despite the fact that you are trying to achieve best possible time, you can stop and look around a bit and take a photo or a selfie. One of the most beautiful trail runs organized by Tihany Sport és Szabadidő has beautiful views of Lake Balaton and on my first run there I lost the podium due to a stops on the way, but I had some great photos.

Challenging climbs and descends

Climbing the highest peaks has been one of my passions since I was a student, likely due to Slovenia being an Alpine country, and I already travelled to the Himalayas, the Andes

and a few mountains in Africa during my student years. So it was kind of obvious to take part in running to the top of 1,014-meter high Kékestető, the highest peak in Hungary, at the Tour de Mátra event organized by the Mátra Biker Sport Club. The experience with a small group of trail lovers was wonderful both because of the company, the people I met at the top and, of course, the beautiful view. Trail running is something special in itself, but the organizers give it an extra exclusivity with the choice of routes. In Hungary, according to my experience, there are quite a few organizers who, despite the responsibilities that the organization of large events requires, are also a little humorous, especially if you follow their posts on social media. The organizer of Ultra Trail Hungary, László "Csanya" Csányi with his ‘Terepfutás’ trademark is one of the most respected personalities in trail running, and his routes, at least for me, are characterized by the fact that they do not only have challenging climbs but sometimes even more challenging descents, where it is necessary to focus on safety as much as possible. But still, he always finds some humorous explanation

for runs that are otherwise full of challenges. Máté Karlovitz and his spouse, Zsófia Karlovitz-Thurnherr do not only organize trail runs but also road runs and his brand ‘Runaway’ is legendary, adding the suffix WTF to running events, e.g. WTF Cold, WTF Night, and some time ago, a lively debate developed on Facebook about what this acronym means. If someone wants to explore the hills around Budapest, participating in his runs is definitely a good opportunity to do so.

Making it to the podium

Among the trail runs in other parts of Hungary, I took part in a few in Paks and the surrounding area – organized by Péter Nagy and Dunamentifutók –, which often include shorter distances for children. At Feldwar trail, my daughter was on the podium and received a large basket of autumn goodies from nature as a prize, and considering that her father is an ambassador, he obviously deserved a basket of goodies as well. Given my age, I can't compete with the best trail runners in their 30s or 40s, so it's not so common for me to be on the podium unless it's age group rankings. So, I was very happy when I managed to be on the podium in one of the runs in Tihany and earned, among other things, a bottle of wine and a voucher for lavender products. With the fact that the run also leads through colorful fields of lavender, this is definitely a special memory. Last year, I had another unexpected surprise at Ultra trail Hungary, when I was invited to the awards ceremony as the oldest participant of the competition. My comment on Facebook about the podium situation was a little cynical because it was due to the age and not the result, which was also quite decent in my opinion, but I was definitely happy with the award.

Less pleasant moments

Along with beautiful experiences, there are also some less pleasant moments here and there. Like probably many others, I enjoy a nice and dry track

on trails, but in reality, especially in winter, it often happens that the track is muddy and slippery, which can be dangerous, especially on descents. It is also unpleasant if it rains or a cold wind blows during the run, or if it is very hot in the summer. Such circumstances, especially on longer distances, require a strong will, good running tactics and ongoing hydration and food reinforcements. Some people quit on these routes, so it is necessary to find a suitable pace on every trail run. After the successful completion of such demanding trails, you are usually particularly satisfied that you have overcome all the challenges and your fellow runners also appreciate it. But there are also runs when everything shows that the weather will be particularly challenging, like last year's Budai Trail in Telki, when around 40 cm of fresh snow fell, but in the end, at least for me, it turned out to be one of the most beautiful trail running in my career, full of winter romance through snow-covered forests and peaks. Sometimes these beauties or a moment of distraction are the reason for a missing checkpoint on the way and the result is invalid. One such run happened to me last year at the beginning of the summer, when I had already overcome all the challenging hills in Börzsöny and I only had about 3 kilometers of easy terrain left to the finish line, but on one of the bends I was misled by hikers, whom I followed in the wrong direction and eventually arrived at the destination without a valid result. The disappointment was quite big, but I still believe that it was better to have covered most of the course to the finish than to have to quit early for some other reasons. Trail running is always a risk and I don't go into any without the necessary respect, because so many unexpected things can happen on rugged and varied courses that every successful finish is an achievement to be cherished. And where is the diplomacy here? Not to mention the fact that I recommend to many trail runners in Hungary that Slovenia also has beautiful trail routes and that, for example, with Terepfutás, we agreed on the mutual promotion of K24 trail run in Črna na Koreškem during Ultra Trail Hungary and vice versa. The true value of such connection appeared during the last year's devastating floods in Slovenia, when Terepfutás also announced an appeal for help to the town of Črna in Koroškem, which was very badly affected by the floods.

2024/I |DIPLOMACY & TRADE| www.dteurope.com
photo by EMBASSY OF



The luxury hotel scene in Budapest has recently been expanded with the Dorothea Hotel, Budapest, Autograph Collection. The new downtown hotel is named after Maria Dorothea, the Archduchess of Württemberg, an influential public figure of the 1800s, who, together with her husband, Joseph Habsburg, brought significant cultural and economic development to the Hungarian capital.

“Whenever you build a hotel or develop a concept, you've got to ask yourself what differentiates yourself from the competition. Every hotel is the same: you have beds, hot food, cold food, tea, coffee. I think where the differences come in the case of this particular hotel is that it has three unique historical buildings covered by a beautiful 35-meter glass roof. It culminates in the hard work and clear vision of Piero Lissoni, the designer, to bring in modern interior but utilizing the history behind the hotel as well,” General Manager Cameron McNeillie explains to Diplomacy&Trade.

Modern with Hungarian touch

He adds that “the uniqueness of this specific property is whilst we have modern elements throughout the hotel, you will always find some sort of small Hungarian touch. Just look at the bar, which replicates the roof tiles, or you have the fantastic artwork created by renowned photographer Zoltán Tombor. So, we're trying to utilize elements within Hungary – historic elements but presenting them in a modern way.”

The General Manager believes that the other main factor for them is service. “I would say

from a luxury point of view, our hotel is probably more modern than some of the current hotels here and we are looking to obviously interact with local markets. That's very important when it comes to food and beverage as well. So, I think there's certainly a good place for this hotel in many years to come.”

He also mentions the story behind Dorothea being the third wife of Palatine Joseph. “They were both very instrumental in their day in terms of what I guess we would call CSR now. One of the fascinating things about Palatine Joseph is that he loved horticulture, herbs, botanics. So, through our hotel, you'll see lots of live plants and trees in the center of the hotel and we've actually utilized a lot of the herbs in our food and beverage.”

Well-prepared guest journey

The hotel, which opened in November last year, is part of the Marriott Autograph Collection, which means it has to adhere to detailed quality standards. “If you're looking at the design elements, there's a huge manual for that, but then, of course, we have the brand standard audit elements as well. I think for us it's more about this beautiful historical building we

have. There are roughly 295 hotels within the Autograph Collection, which means we must take the story of Dorothea and spread it to make this establishment stand out. We start from the very beginning of the guest journey. If they ordered a car limousine to be picked up from the airport, the scent they smell in the car is exactly the same as they walk into the lobby of the hotel. It's interacting with people's thought process. This hotel is very much, I would say, an Instagrammable hotel nowadays: everywhere you go, there's some sort of picture to be captured, some sort of element where people can take a picture. And, of course, nowadays social media is crucial for marketing emphasis,” the General Manager highlights.

A modern old building

Since it's a historical building, great emphasis has been placed during the creation of the hotel on preserving the historic artistic values. “Piero Lissoni, the architect designer of the hotel worked incredibly hard with the local design teams, but also with the Heritage Committee of Hungary to make sure that anything that could be restored, was restored. In case of the main historical heritage staircase, they

painstakingly put the treads all together again, polished them up, beautifully restored. The balustrades leading up are the original. The heritage authority was very much involved to make sure all the cornerstones still retain the original features. So, guests can feel they're still in an old building, but they can see by the furnishings that it's modern – and finding that balance can be tricky,” Cameron McNeillie notes.

Farm to table

The hotel's gastronomic offer also combines innovation with tradition reflecting the culinary diversity of 19th century – based on the ‘farm to table’ concept. Everything they buy is within 200 kilometers of Budapest and the hotel works with local farmers and suppliers to find the very best that Hungary can offer and is seasonal. The General Manager considers that very important “because people now are very conscious of being vegan, vegetarian, for instance. They want dishes to fit their lifestyle, local dishes.” In addition to traditional soups, he mentions ‘brassói’, the Hungarian pork dish with potatoes prepared in Dorothea Hotel in a slightly more modern way by both Hungarian and international chefs with Hungarian spices. “Whilst we want to make it look great on the plate, we just, more than anything, want to make sure the taste is outstanding and make sure we can honor the local traditions as well,” he adds.

Regarding the Sunday Brunch they offer, Cameron McNeillie proudly says that “we have some great cuts of meat, like that of Mangalitsa, which is just stunning, I love it. Then we also have local dishes that people would have at home, as well as some international dishes. So we try to culminate to make sure there's something for everybody. Because as I mentioned, we really want the food and beverage more for local people and secondary for guests.

Creating positive experience

Speaking of the prospects for the hotel for the next few years, the General Manager stresses that “most importantly, it's an evolving market externally, that is outside of this hotel. With a number of hotels being renovated, developed, it will continue to evolve as a market. I think the main thing is that the domestic market in Hungary will get better and better. If you look at the luxury segment, we need more highend luxury shopping to attract some more overseas visitors. In terms of airport access, the infrastructure would need to be improved in Budapest. I believe that work is being done behind the scenes to prepare a direct rail access. So, for me the future is bright and I think for the Hungarian capital to attract the best flights, direct flights into Hungary would be terrific, those from North America and other destinations would be crucial for the country. We can start to see some of the Indian markets slightly changing, which is quite fascinating while the Chinese market coming back with some more direct flights.”

As a conclusion, Cameron McNeillie is of the view that “we just need to understand how do we, as an industry, create experiences for the different travelers, whether it's a local experience, international and local combined, we've got to make sure that they go away with Hungary in their minds, so they're telling other people. And word of mouth is always the best marketing tool.”

hospitality www.dteurope.com |DIPLOMACY & TRADE| 2024/I 17




A community for business leaders who share a values-based mindset in which traditional values are respected. That is the Modern & Stylish Rural Business Community (MSVK). Its activities are linked to a stylish and modern rural lifestyle, and they also see sustainability as a core value, a platform for valuable business connections, an inclusive, inspiring and supportive environment.

“The community itself was conceived to bring together member businesses across industries and regions,” the founder of MSVK, Ida Petrik explains to Diplomacy&Trade. “In fact, we have members from almost every industry: wineries, restaurants, hotels, manufacturing, construction, interior design, farmers, artisans etc. I could also mention fashion and beauty, because we have a member like ‘matyodesign’ whose artisans embroider modern clothes with traditional Matyó folk motifs, keeping an old tradition alive – a good example of being modern and stylish and rural. By using the word ‘modern’, we wanted to convey the message that on the one hand, traditional values are very important – values ‘built’ into things that are useful and livable for people in our modern era. Such companies are practically building the future on the past,” she adds.

Rural style: an eternal feeling of life

Regarding the traditional values represented by MSVK, the founder of the Community says that “it's a feeling of life, and it's very difficult to express it objectively in words, but I think that

when you go to a hotel or a restaurant in the countryside, you can somehow feel this rural style. There's the Hungarian, the Italian, the French, the English rural style – these elements are present in many countries. There are some characteristics of this style that are tangible. Again, it's really this ‘future based on the past’ idea that we're thinking about. This involves long-term thinking in which quality is really important, and also the approach that creates value in the long term. There are a lot of family businesses that build a company with the idea that their grandchildren will inherit and get to run it many decades later. One characteristic example is that businesses in question don't sell a piece of interior design that will go out of fashion within two years and can be thrown away. This rural style is actually eternal.”

Smell the difference

One might believe there is an incompatibility between the rural and the urban styles but Ida Petrik does not share that idea. “I think that the two are not the opposite of each other, because surprisingly, or not surprisingly, we

can absolutely see that many people who live in an urban environment actually decorate their homes in a rural style, for example, buy from farmers' markets because it is important for them to buy quality, fresh food from producers, or they like to go to the countryside when they travel, where the air is very fresh and you can really relax and unwind. So, I think that a lot of people in the cities are also experiencing the things that the countryside can offer.” She mentions the example of an interview they had with perfumer Zsolt Zólyomi who made mention of an interesting parallel between the smell of the countryside and that of the city. He said that one huge difference between the countryside and the cities, and this can be true in other ways, not just for scent, is that big cities are very uniform. “Almost all smell the same, you smell McDonald’s or the smoke emitted by cars. You go into a mall, the Salamander store, it smells the same all over the world. These are very uniform scents, whereas in the countryside, say, everywhere you go there's a different scent. That's why the countryside can be very unique.”

Sustainable activities

As for the third pillar, sustainability, Ida Petrik stresses that “it is really reflected in the activities of the members. We focus on having members who are mindful of that. I think that a long-term vision alone is a huge brownie point in terms of sustainability. Most of the producers, the farmers that are joining us, and even the wineries, are organic, they are very careful even about packaging, so it is not only in the production itself, but also in the other complementary activities. Those involved in interior design, architecture have quality products, for example, very longlasting solid wood furniture, or home textiles. One of our members, La Meridiana has been running its store almost for 30 years and offers

more than 10,000 different products for country style homes. Another example is Toscaneria Ltd., a wonderful family business. They import from Tuscany rustic textiles that contain only natural fibers, they are dyed only with natural materials, they do not print the pattern but weave it in.”

Business through connectivity

As its name suggests, this organization is a business community. As the founder puts it, there is a lot of connectivity through which members can help each other's businesses. “We have several members who are doing some kind of tourism development. They're turning an old mill building into a hotel ('Malom és Kacsa'), and they can cooperate with members who have interior design things, or say tiling. We have a handmade tile company BA Ceramics, for instance. The only Hungarian-owned handicraft carpet factory, Csabaszőnyeg is also our member, they work with wool and cotton, supplying hotels and homes, etc. By the way, we also have a partner program, which tries to facilitate cooperation by providing members with discounts on products and services. Another example that comes to mind is that in the gift shop of the Royal Palace of Gödöllő, you can buy very good quality children's toys, e.g. mice made of natural textile materials, thanks to one of our members, Skanditrend, who also represents Danish brands in Hungary, in connection with the fact that the symbol of the castle to the children is a mouse.”

Events all over the country

Regarding events organized by MSVK, Ida Petrik highlights that every month, they have an event where members can meet each other in person. “We think this is very important and the members are very, very demanding to have this opportunity. In fact, no two events are the same – which gives us a little bit of a difficulty in organizing them – in that we can't formalize things so much, but we usually go to a different venue each time. Here, we also try to make sure that, following the principle of fairness, we can reach out to all four corners of Hungary because we have members from all over the country. We always try to have a theme for the event and invite guest speakers. We also always choose the venue to be stylishly rural. Often there is also an afternoon program when we visit a place nearby the event we happen to have. For example, we visited the Károlyi Castle when we were in Székesfehérvár on a factory visit to the Otti Manufactura. These are what I would call colorful programs. Each member can decide whether they can join us for the whole day or just for the morning –we try to offer a variety of programs.”

2024/I |DIPLOMACY & TRADE| www.dteurope.com

africa eco race



In the sprawling dunes and the vast wilderness of Africa, the continent's heartbeat resonates with the roar of engines and the spirit of adventure. Among those drawn to its call was Hungarian veteran rally race competitor László Bunkoczi, who returned to the African desert this past December and January, steering not towards the infamous Paris-Dakar Rally, but its successor with a conscientious twist – the Africa Eco Race.

With origins steeped in the legacy of the world-renowned rally, this race embarks from Monte Carlo and concludes in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, threading through the classic rally countries like Morocco, Mauritania, and Senegal, offering a nod to the golden days of rally racing from the 1970s through the early '90s. Now reaching its 15th edition, The Africa Eco Race is defined by the unique toughness of the African routes and the spirit of the original event. Bunkoczi, a seasoned navigator who accompanied driver Balázs Szalay as a navigator for nearly two decades, took the steering wheel this time around and embarked on this remarkable journey not alone, but with his 15-year-old son, Soma, by his side. The father-son duo ventured into the heart of Africa, not just for the thrill of the race but for an experience that transcends the conventional. "I wanted to give my kid a culture shock," Bunkoczi tells Diplomacy&Trade, emphasizing the value of exposing his son to realities far removed from the comfort of their home. “He goes to an international school and his problems do not necessarily go beyond the likes of not having access to the internet occasionally or conflicts he may have had at school. I wanted to put him in a context where he has a very different perspective.”

Rite of passage

From braving the early morning cold in pitchdark tents to enduring long hours on challenging terrains, this adventure was a rite of passage for Soma, teaching him resilience, patience, and a deeper appreciation for the comforts of home. "My generation does things quite slowly and we're not in a hurry, but on this occasion, I had to develop a basic pace that allowed me to do things quickly. Of course, it wasn't easy at all, I even wanted to come home days

before the end of the race,” Soma shares. His take on Africa was one of surprise and revelation. The continent unveiled itself not as the often-stereotyped expanse featured in documentaries but as a land of profound lessons and unexpected challenges. For a young man accustomed to the conveniences of modern life, the rigorous demands of the race fostered a newfound understanding of endurance and the value of simplicity. "It's taught me patience," he remarked, highlighting the personal growth he experienced amidst the unforgiving landscapes of Africa. “All in all, it was worth the trip, but now, some time has to pass before I want to go back to Africa,” the young adventurer notes. Fresh spin on a time-honored adventure

The Africa Eco Race, through its blend of competition, sustainability, and charity, offers a more human-scale adventure, inviting participants and observers alike to reconsider the essence of rally racing and the impact it can have

on both the competitors and the places it touches. László Bunkoczi's reflections on the Africa Eco Race delve into the evolution of rally racing and the unique allure of this event that seeks to recapture the essence of the original Paris-Dakar Rally. “I think if organizers took the ‘Dakar’ to Neptune and ran the race there, it would still be called ‘the Dakar’. At the same time, the reason why more and more people like this Africa Eco Race is because it brings back a little bit of the heyday between the 1970s and early '90s. You really go through the classic Dakar countries such as Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal.” This time, Bunkoczi competed in the 'Raid' category, which sticks to the traditional route while offering the flexibility to skip certain stages. “Over the last two decades, I've traversed this part of Africa about fifteen times. As a navigator, my focus was always forward, yet I realized I'd hardly seen anything. This time was different. We bunked in the same camps as our fellow racers, crossed the same finish lines, but my aim was to truly experience the journey, to immerse myself in the surroundings rather than just pass through."

Focus on sustainability

The Africa Eco Race stands out not only for its challenging route but also for its commitment to sustainability and charity within the African context. The race encourages participants to engage with local communities, offering survival food packages to those in need, particularly focusing on the vulnerable children encountered along the way. "The real drive towards sustainability comes from the increasing numbers of classic car owners realizing that they can actively participate in the race. They're dusting off their vintage vehicles, and enter the race. Instead of immediately logging onto Facebook upon reaching the camp, they're getting hands-on with sustainable practices like

generating their own electricity." As for charitable efforts, participants focused on distributing their emergency food supplies directly to local children, particularly those who were on their own. “We did this because we knew that a solitary, smaller child might lose their share to larger kids if they weren't alone. … We often found them in remote spots, handed them what we could, and watched as they joyfully scampered home with their gifts," Bunkoczi explains.

A reliable four-wheeled companion

The vehicle that carried father and son through this expedition – an Isuzu, modestly modified to tackle the diverse African terrain – proved to be a reliable companion. Enhanced for durability and equipped with necessities like a professional fridge for emergency food reserves, the car withstood the rigorous demands of the race, illustrating the balance between performance and sustainability the Africa Eco Race strives for. “It's a car that can go on any terrain in the hands of someone who has self-awareness and self-control,” Bunkoczi says appreciatively. The duo covered just over 8,000 kilometers from Budapest to Dakar via Monte Carlo with a net journey time of 166 hours and an average speed of 69 kilometers per hour. “According to the onboard computer, our average fuel consumption was 12 liters per 100 kilometers with the vehicle loaded and weighing almost three tons. I think that's a pretty brilliant achievement,” László says. The journey was a testament to human endurance, mechanical reliability, and the indomitable spirit of adventure. For László Bunkoczi, the race was not just about the competition but about creating lasting memories, imparting invaluable lessons to his son, and forging a deeper connection with the continent's rugged beauty and resilient communities. The adventure was not just about the thrill of the race but about making a difference, leaving a positive footprint on the landscapes and lives they encountered. The story of father and son, rich in challenges, learning, and heart, is more than just a race narrative; it's a journey of discovery, resilience, and, above all, profound connections.

2024/I |DIPLOMACY & TRADE| www.dteurope.com

The organizers have chosen three ‘special envoys’ who tell Diplomacy&Trade about their own particular view on – and experience in – the world of gourmet cuisine.

Harking back to Hungarian classics

Zsuzsanna Ötvös has typically worked in fine dining restaurants. She notes that “maybe, there are more women in the bistro type restaurants but there are some gastronomy jobs where female professionals are more common. This is a very topical issue these days so, I'm glad that it's now also in the spotlight at this year’s gourmet festival.” She believes she was asked to be a special envoy for the festival because “the aim was to cover as many areas of gastronomy as possible. I cover the world of restaurants, restaurant kitchens and confectionery as a profession, all in one person.” She adds that she also represents a kind of educational line. “I give courses and have two dessert books published, the third is about to come out just before the Gourmet Festival. Perhaps in this way, through the books, I may be known by more people than pastry chefs working in other restaurants.” Almost a decade and a half ago, when she was writing her PhD dissertation in classical philology, she started a gastronomy blog on bonbons and chocolate making as a hobby, “purely because I bought some silicone bonbon molds somewhere and just loved the fact that I could make very personalized, homemade, edible gifts in them. Then, I started getting a little bit more professional books, looking at more professional techniques, getting more professional tools, and so, I kind of drifted deeper and deeper into this story.”

Desserts by Zsuzsanna Ötvös are said to be characterized by a focus on flavor and harking back to Hungarian classics. She highlights that tastecentricity really means that there are pastry chefs who envision something and try to translate that into flavors when they design a dessert. I always start from the flavors, so it's a bit of a reverse route and the look itself, is the last step in the design process. I really like to take different Hungarian desserts as inspiration, even for restaurant plate desserts. And this is an important thing, because we can relate to it through memories.”

Regarding the Gourmet Festival as an annual event, she is of the view that it is a very concentrated dose of gastronomy. “Condensed into three days in time, you can have a very wide spectrum of players, fine dining, bistros, pizza, pastry shops. It's actually that all these in one space at there in Millenáris you can see a very big slice of where we are now and what the trends are.”




This year's MBH Bank Gourmet Festival in Budapest will welcome over 100 exhibitors, including 35 restaurants and seven pastry shops. The theme of the event, held between May 24 and 26 at the Millenáris event center is 'female energies'.

For delicious and healthy bread

Gabriella Ormós, who gave up a career in communications to live under the spell of sourdough, will also be a gourmet envoy, and her main mission is to teach as many people as possible how to bake delicious and healthy bread. Speaking of women’s increasing role in gastronomy, she believes that “we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we just need to go back in time. In prehistoric times, it was already the women's job to keep the fire going and the preparation of the food. Men would bring home the ingredients from the hunt and women would prepare it for the family or the community.

Over the years, this may have changed a little, because you have to admit that it is very hard physical work if you do it every day – almost like a business. Thus, this profession has become very male-dominated, but basically, women have always had a place in gastronomy.”

She regards her invitation to be special envoy at the festival “very honorable” and says she was very happy to take on this role. “I also think that the MBH Bank Gourmet Festival, which is one of the most, if not the most, high

quality and biggest gastronomic events in Hungary, is a very important meeting point for Hungarian gastronomy. To be an envoy of such an event is also a great responsibility.”

Gabriella Ormós also had a career change that she admits “technically, it was not intentional. I had a hobby that took more and more time of my life – in a good way. Then, I got to the point of equilibrium where I could switch to make a living in the bakery profession.” However, she can still make good use of her communications skills. In her recently opened bakery, “on the one hand, I can apply the marketing analysis, that is, the analytical side of the marketing work, and on the other hand, I can also apply the communication work to a great extent both in my own bakery as well as a member of the board of the Artisan Bread Association.” As for the roles of men and women in gastronomy in the 21st century, she points out that “we need to draw on our female intuition and men need to let that happen in a profession that they currently dominate – I think they will do.” She adds that “domestic gastronomy is moving more and more towards quality gastronomy,

towards finding good quality ingredients, finding a sustainable value chain that has the guest at the end of it, and that has the product that we produce, that is, our ingredients. We should move in that direction, and I think we have a very good intuitive ability to do that. I think our little intuitions are creating some very cool new things and I hope that men can embrace that.”

A mangalitsa farmer

The third special envoy of this year’s MBH Bank Gourmet Festival, Zsóka Fekete is of the opinion that there are still not enough women entrepreneurs, chefs or cooks to represent the ‘female energy’. “It's hard but we should encourage young people in schools that yes, we women can make it in this profession. Because it is in schools that we can develop young people's interest.” Being a special envoy is important for her as a female farmer specializing in raising mangalitsa, an indigenous swine breed from Hungary, and as a mangalitsa products entrepreneur, “to represent a masculine profession, with a female energy that can motivate the participants, even to set an example. Just like my business in agriculture is quite male-dominated, gastronomy is a male-dominated profession. You have to know that it is mentally and physically exhausting, hard physical stamina, mental fitness and perseverance are required in both agriculture and gastronomy. We should be proud of all those women who put their heart and soul into their profession. Let us support them!” She was born into farming as her grandparents and parents were also farmers. “I also raised rabbits and poultry as a child, while helping my grandparents and parents with organic farming. After graduating from high school in agriculture and then from the Faculty of Food Science at Corvinus University of Budapest as a Certified Food Engineer, I applied for the Young Farmers tender, which helped me to start my own business 12 years ago. From a flock of 20 mother sows, it has now grown to a herd of almost 400 mangalitsa. The farm feeds the animals with organic feed, slaughtering the fatteners we raise ourselves, slaughtering them on contract, processing them in our own processing plant and selling them in Budapest, on location or by delivery. It's been a long bumpy road to the full range of the business, but I think by now all the hard work has paid off and my customers appreciate the quality they get,” she highlights. She finds the MBH Bank Gourmet Festival an important event because “people can get to know the restaurants and producers and even talk to us in person. It is very important for us too, in this hectic world, to stop for a while and have time to talk to each other and exchange ideas.”

www.dteurope.com |DIPLOMACY & TRADE| 2024/I 21




The Urban Verbunk group is a prominent player on the Hungarian folkdance scene. Recently, it has been dazzling the audience with a dance show based on a groundbreaking performing arts concept that raises awareness of today's pressing global social issues. They have created a dance style that is unique in the world, combining classical music greats, the world's greatest pop performers and grandiose visual elements to create a cinematic entertainment experience that is completely unique for audiences in pop culture, theater and opera.

The central theme of the show

Don’t Lie to the Planet is the issue of artificial intelligence, which is increasingly affecting our society. Although it is becoming an increasingly important factor in human life every day, the representation of this technology in stage dance has not yet been widespread. The production uses grandiose visual elements to show how humans are using

modern technology to deal with their habitat, the environment people have created throughout history, and what the future may hold.

Making people think

As the company’s artistic director, Ahmed Moussa explains to Diplomacy&Trade, “all societies have the same problems: water shortages, forest fires, air pollution, etc. so,

this dance performance deals with a global social issue that affects humanity. The aim is not only to dazzle and entertain, but also, very importantly for us: to make people think. In this way, we are seizing the opportunity to bring traditional culture closer to those who have not yet come into contact with it – either because they have not been receptive to it, or because in some way or another, they have not yet had the opportunity to be exposed to this great treasure we call folk. Every nation has its own folk tradition and we believe that national identity is preserved if we have roots and traditions.”

Updating folklore

Urban Verbunk performances are based on elements of Hungarian folk dance. As to how these are reflected in the Don’t Lie to the Planet production, the artistic director points out that the formal language is the dance itself. “Dance is the most universal form of communication, with which there are no linguistic boundaries. Folk dance is what feeds the dance performance. We've seen this before as the Irish tap dancer Michael Flatley became world famous by creating such a global production. We work on the basis of the same pattern, and thus, we create stage productions from Hungarian and Carpathian Basin folklore, updating it to 21st century trends in a way and not because we want to be fashionable but because we try to cross the thresholds of inspiration, the itineraries and keep them in mind, so that it can be accepted by all people in some way, and even be able to enter the popular palette of today's pop music.” He mentions two very good musical director colleagues, Miklós Szitha and Ádám Tóth, “with whom we have jointly developed a new dance style, which modernizes folk dance, so it can no longer be called classical folk dance. In doing so, we are also renewing the musical language and form by creating classical and pop music transcriptions. So, to give you an idea, Imagine Dragons and Carmina Burana are playing simultaneously in the performance. This is a very novel and interesting initiative, combining pop music and classical music, we are running it in parallel, so it is composed very seriously and by competent professionals, music producers, composers, so that people who love pop music and people who love classical music and opera can all find their entertainment and value exploration opportunities in it.”

Strict requirements for dancers

Ahmed Moussa finds it important to mention that “as we are talking about an international production, one for the international market, I selected the best nine dancers, male dancers, from all over the country and the Carpathian Basin. Everyone here has 15-20 years of dance background and it was also very important for me that everyone came from the same dance style, so everybody is only dealing with folk dance. For me, it is very important in Urban Verbunk that for a dancer in general, there must be physical requirements: how you look, how you perform. On my part, it was quite a strict filtering that these people had to go through as I cast them to be able to participate in this production and other Urban Verbunk performances.”

A progressive choice of theme

The Don’t Lie to the Planet production is about combining the four elements – water, air, earth and fire – of the classical Greek mythology with artificial intelligence, or information technology in general, of our modern age to form a coherent whole.

Ahmed Moussa believes that “the idea is right, and I think that in practical terms, it is perhaps much more important that there should be a fifth element, because now, it is not four but five components with the new technology included. No telephones, no gadgets, no software running on them, no access to these, and then, life will practically come to a standstill with communication not being able to function, causing the economy to be basically paralyzed because society and humanity are now set up like this. Thus – not being a scientist or anything, but as a director –, I believe that this fifth component is crucial in our modern times and that is the subject that I think is most on everybody's mind right now. So, it's absolutely timely in terms of everyone's curiosity about the show. We've tried to go very much around this theme and stage it very responsibly, but I've never seen an experiment like this before, where you combine this fifth component with the ancient elements. I think that, in addition to the new dance language, the new dance style, the innovation of the musical form, the theme is also a quite novel and progressive choice of theme.”

Creative art

The driving force behind Urban Verbunk is that you always have to invent new things. As to how much the Don’t Lie to the Planet performance is different from the group's previous productions, the artistic director confirms that they are always striving to come up with new ideas, inventing new concepts. “When talking about dance art, we talk about a creative art – creation is there in the name. It's very important for a great painter – and I don't want to compare ourselves with Michelangelo or anybody like that – to always create something new, something different. In the life of a musician, it is important to release a new piece of music every three months, not to make the YouTube view counter spin better, but to constantly renew, to create a healthy circulation of blood, which gives the artist the opportunity to evolve. It's a huge step up from our previous performances because we use a huge visual technique, a very big lighting rig, and thus, the scenic rig and the technical rig that can stand up on any stage in the world. Our performances so far have been a little bit in the direction of more traditional folk dance but this production is more akin to the stage spectacle of the great pop music artists,” Ahmed Moussa concludes.

2024/I |DIPLOMACY & TRADE| www.dteurope.com



Since opening its doors two years ago, the Money Museum, the home of financial education, has already become one of Budapest's favorite museums, welcoming some 200,000 visitors so far. Those who visited the institution after it opened will find many new things to discover upon revisiting. For example, new robots that are capable of communication, two cafés with a panoramic view of Budapest from the Panoramic Terrace on the roof of the building. The museum offers a wide range of children's activities, such as handicrafts, and museum education sessions. There is also an exciting workshop on coin restoration, the Coffee House Talks series and the film ‘The Legend of the Gold Train’, which can be viewed in the museum on Thursdays. Admission, as well as participation in the programs, remains free of charge. penzmuzeum.hu



Scorpions, one of the most iconic and influential hard rock bands of all time, are returning to Budapest in 2024 with a brand-new exclusive show in celebration of the 40th anniversary of their classic album, Love at First Sting, performing the album plus all of their biggest hits. The band’s frontman, Klaus Meine says “we‘re very excited to return to road and can‘t wait to share our new show with our fans around the world, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the legendary Love at First Sting album along with our biggest Hits! Get ready… We're speeding up the pace, it‘s gonna be a Hell of a Ride!!!”

The Scorpions are Germany’s number one rock band and one of the most important European rock bands of the last decades. To date, the Scorpions have sold over 120 million records, played over 5,000 concerts, countless awards, and have a star on the Hollywood Rock Walk of Fame. livenation.hu



Commemorating the 130th anniversary of the birth of the worldfamous Hungarian photographer André Kertész, the Hungarian National Museum will organize a series of exhibitions between March 23 and September 22 in Esztergom and at two venues in Budapest. A selection of Kertész's photographs purchased from New York in 2021 will be on display, allowing the public to see never-before-seen photographs at the Balassa Museum in Esztergom, the Hungarian National Museum and the Robert Capa Center in Budapest. The 2021 sale of the André Kertész Photographic Collection included a total of 1,163 images taken before 1925, including 943 contact prints, 59 large-scale vintages, 151 Polaroids, nine personal photographs and one collage. Following the purchase, the Hungarian National Museum carried out a condition survey of the photographs and the material was registered by Éva Fisli, historian and museologist at the Historical Photographic Collection. mnm.hu



Academy Award-winning actor Jared

Leto has announced the Thirty Seconds To Mars' monumental world tour, Seasons 2024, which will take place in Latin America, Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, including a concert in Budapest in May. The multi-platinum-selling Thirty Seconds To Mars, made up of brother and sister duo Jared and Shannon Leto, have returned to the scene with the huge success of their sixth studio album 'It's The End Of The World But It's A Beautiful Day', released on September 15. The album heralds a new era for the band, which not only explores people's bad experiences but also shows hope, reminding us that even in the face of seemingly impossible obstacles, we can find beauty in the world. The first single, ‘Stuck’, immediately opened at number one on the US Alternative radio charts and reached the top 10 in Italy, the best opening chart result of the band's career. The new song Seasons, which has been consistently in the top three of the German playlists and is also the title track of the tour, raises the question of whether we can accept change as we go through life's many seasons. livenation.hu



The biggest musical time travel in Hungary, the Deja Vu Festival in the southeastern Hungarian city of Szeged, has come up with a huge bang. Melanie C., member of the most successful girl group of all time, the Spice Girls, will be the star guest of the retro party, which is rated among the top ones in Europe. The festival, which brings to life the greatest party music of the '90s and 2000s, will take place on June 6-7-8 this year at the Szeged riverside beach Partfürdő.

Melanie Chisholm, aka Melanie C – or Sporty Spice – rose to fame as a member of the Spice Girls. In two years, the world-famous group released two consecutive number one albums, eight number one singles from nine world hits, the biggestselling debut single and the biggest-selling girl group album in music history. They have won five Brit Awards, four Billboard Music Awards, three American Music Awards, three MTV Europe Music Awards and one MTV Video Music Award. In 2000 they became the youngest ever recipients of the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. Melanie C launched her solo career in 1998, and her debut album Northern Star, which spans pop, rock and dance music, sold four million copies worldwide and went triple platinum in the UK; two singles from the album, Never Be the Same Again and I Turn to You, were also chart-topping hits. With eight solo albums to her name, she has a total of 41 silver, gold and platinum certifications as a solo artist. Melanie C boasts 14 UK chart-topping singles and is the only female artist to have topped the charts as a solo, duo, quartet and quintet. dejavufesztival.hu



The highest energy consumption of CUPRA Tavascan within the model group is 16,6 kWh/100 km, the highest CO2 emission is 0 g/km. The stated consumption and emission values were determined based on the factory-fitted specifications as recorded at the time of type approval and are valid at the time of the publication of this advertisement. The stated values are measured according to the WLTP, are not specific to individual vehicles, are not part of the information leaflet, but are intended to compare different vehicle types in accordance with the currently applicable requirements of Regulation (EC) No 715/2007. The model shown is for illustration purposes only and includes optional extras, available at extra cost. For further details, please contact your CUPRA dealer.


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