An exclusive interview with H.E Mr. István SZABO Ambassador of Republic of Hungary
Q: How do you see the relationship between Pakistan and Hungary?
A: The relations of Pakistan and Hungary look back on quite a long history. Diplomatic ties between our two countries were created on 26 November 1965 but Hungary’s attention towards what is Pakistan today is based on even older ties. Let me refer here only to the fact that the first registrar of the Punjab University was the Hungarian professor Dr. Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner (Leitner Gottlieb Vilmos) or that another renowned orientalist of Hungarian origin, Sir Aurel Stein (Stein Aurél) also used to be registrar of this university. Moreover, the life and work of many internationally acknowledged scholars, historians and travellers should also be mentioned here, including Alexander Csoma de Kőrös (Kőrösi Csoma Sándor), Hermann Wamberger (Vámbéry Ármin) Charles Fabri (Fábri Károly) and Julius Abdulkerim Germanus (Germanus Gyula), whose heritage contributed significantly to the better understanding of Islam as well as the abundance and complexity of the Subcontinent.
Today Hungary sees Pakistan as an extremely important partner in the economic development, stability and connectivity of the region. Pakistan has a lot to offer those who are willing to cooperate with it both in economic and political terms. Luckily, Hungary and Pakistan have no points of contention so we are free to develop our relationship dynamically. We are trying to bring the two countries closer by establishing tighter economic and political ties. I am happy to say that this is warmly welcomed both in Pakistan and in Hungary.
Q: What is the volume of trade between Pakistan and Hungary, and what kinds of goods have trade between the both countries?
A: Today, the sectorial structure of Hungary’s export is heavily dominated by machinery and manufactured goods (vehicles, spare parts, high-tech products, electronic appliances, medical equipment, chemical industry, pharmaceuticals etc.), followed by a traditionally strong agricultural sector. The geographical structure of the export is primarily focusing on Europe: about three quarter of the total export goes to the EU market. It should be noted though, that non-European countries, especially in Asia, are slicing out an ever growing chunk in the country’s export. In 2012 Hungarian export to Pakistan was around 38 million USD. The main products were Communication equipment – like mobile phones; Chemicals – pharmaceutical ingredients and medicine; Medical equipment; Clothing; Machinery (turbine spare parts and vehicle parts) and so on. On the other side Pakistani export to Hungary was only 12 million USD, with Leather and leather clothing; Textiles – cotton thread and material; Machinery (spare parts) and sport goods like Footballs being the main items.
Q: How many agreements have been signed between the two countries for cooperation in different fields?
A: The two governments signed the agreements on double taxation, on scientific cooperation, and on cultural exchange. We have also established a consultation mechanism between foreign ministries, and of course we are working on other agreements to enhance people to people contacts and to develop the economic ties.
Q: What would you advise to Pakistani businessmen who would like to make trade with Hungary?
A: We usually say to foreign businessmen that “Hungary is a gateway to Europe” with excellent location to enter the EU market. It offers an advantageous geographic location and a vibrant and highly professional entrepreneurial community as well as skilled workers and professionals from every field. Pakistani businesses would gain access to the EU market once established in Hungary. As an example other Asian countries are present with good results in our Country.
Of course, one to take into account the environment one’s employees and partners have to live in abroad, and in this aspect, Hungary is more than attractive. Hungary offers its guests and business partners amazing hospitality, miraculous thermal waters and spas, a vivid cultural environment, and the culinary pleasures ensured by the world famous Hungarian cuisine.
Q: What is your foreign policy regarding Pakistan and this region?
A: Although there were ups and downs in the development of our bilateral relations in the last four and a half decades, high level interaction between our countries got new impulses in the nineties with elected democratic governments being at helms in both of our countries.
Mutual visits of the leaders of legislative bodies were especially active and in that row it was former Prime Minister Mr. Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani who visited Hungary in 1995, in his capacity of the Speaker of National Assembly. The Hungarian minister of foreign affairs visited Pakistan in 2006 and it was followed by other mutual high level visits in different fields. To maintain the dynamics of political engagement, in April 2011, Special Envoy of the Government of Hungary for Pakistan-Afghanistan, Deputy State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Mr Péter Sztáray visited Pakistan to hold the second round of talks between the Foreign Ministry of Hungary and Pakistan. As the latest episode in the row of high level contacts, Foreign Minister Mr János Martonyi held successful bilateral consultations with Foreign Secretary Mr Jalil Abbas Jilani on the sidelines of the 9th ASEM Summit in Vientiane, Laos on 5th November 2012. Additional Secretary Mrs. Ayesha Riyaz visited Budapest in March this year to hold a further round of MFA to MFA consultations. Although no specific dates have been set as yet, we are constantly working, through diplomatic channels, on the realization of further high level meetings.
Hungary recognizes the important role Pakistan plays in the peace, stability and development of the South Asian and Central Asian regions. We are cooperating with Pakistan in its efforts to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan, support the government in its undertakings in the fight against terrorism, and look forward to improvements in its bilateral relations with India. Once better relations with the neighbours are achieved, we will be able to cooperate in enhancing regional integration. In this aspect, we can build on our experience as EU member states and also as a Central European country with a long history of intertwined interests and cooperation with its neighbours and the greater region. We believe that the entire world would benefit from a more stable and more interconnected Central and South Asia and are working together with the governments of the region to achieve that goal.
Q: How many Hungarian companies are working in Pakistan like MOL and what is their role for improving the relationship between the two countries?
A: Though bilateral trade shows a changing and hectic picture, Hungarian investment in Pakistan presents a completely different one, that of stability and long-term commitment. An outstandingly important and mutually beneficial element of our bilateral cooperation has been the presence and activity in Pakistan of the largest Hungarian business entity MOL, the Hungarian Oil and Gas Company. Concentrating their activity first of all on Khyber Pakhtunkwa province they have been extremely successful in exploring new reserves of natural gas, oil and condensates. Through these discoveries by now they produce and provide a considerable portion of gas supplies for the country for power generation and other needs. With an accumulated investment already going well into hundreds of millions of USD over the last decade and with its incessant further research in these and other fields of the country MOL Pakistan is not only the biggest single Hungarian investor in Pakistan but also an important contributor to the fulfilment of Pakistan’s current and future energy needs. We are working hard to attract other Hungarian investors to Pakistan. In this regard, we have initiated a string of chamber to chamber and business to business visits that hopefully will bear fruit soon.
Q: What are your plans to further strengthen relations between Pakistan and Hungary?
A: We hope to strengthen political ties and cooperation on regional and global issues bilaterally and within EU/NATO framework, enhance cultural, scientific and educational exchange, engage businessmen on both sides, strengthen ties through visits and cooperation agreements between chambers of commerce, advance with agreements regarding trade and economic cooperation, ameliorate image of Pakistan in Hungarian business community.
Q: Would you like to share with us your impressions about Pakistan and its people?
A: I have had so far relatively limited chances to experience first-hand the natural beauty of Pakistan and the warmness of its people. In the years ahead of me in Pakistan, though, I am ready and eager to go out and see as much as possible, from the breath-taking mountain peaks in the north, through the lush green fields in the east, to the rocky desert and sandy beaches in the south.
I would like to express my best wishes to the people of Pakistan and I truly look forward to working together and explore new spheres of cooperation between our two countries and their people. On behalf of the Embassy of Hungary and all Hungarians in Pakistan I wish great successes in their endeavours for peace and prosperity to the people of Pakistan on the occasion of the 23rd of October, the National Day of Hungary.
Hungary, Gateway to Europe
An exclusive interview with H.E Mr. István SZABO Ambassador of Republic of Hungary