Kuwait was the first Arab Gulf state to establish political, diplomatic and economic relationship with Hungary on May 4, 1964. The two nations just completed 50 years of diplomatic relationship, a milestone in their friendship.
H.E. Ferenc Csillag, Ambassador of Hungary to Kuwait spoke in an exclusive interview to The Times detailing the friendship that is now taking on a new thrust.
Ambassador Csillag, a career diplomat, graduated in 1988 in Moscow with specialisation in Arabic language. He began his career in Baghdad in 1990 and in his 24 years of diplomacy he has served in various Arab capitals gaining valuable insight and experience of the region.
His first posting as ambassador was to Qatar in 2003 and after a successful tenure he returned to Budapest as deputy director of Arab-African department. In 2010, he was posted as ambassador to Kuwait. “I immediately realised that existing solid base offers a much greater scope for our relationship to develop and to rekindle our friendship,” Ambassador Csillag pointed out.
During the past quarter of a century Hungary had focussed on its regional issues particularly since it joined NATO and the European Union. So there was an extra focus on these tasks. But once completed, Hungary turned its focus to re-establishing and re-strengthening of its relations with its friends and launched a new policy called “Opening to the East”.
Kuwait and Hungary have signed several agreements since the seventies and some of them were outdated, Ambassador Csillag pointed out. “So we kept the basic ones such as investment protection, double taxation etc and worked on upgrading the older ones,” he noted.
“We established a joint economic commission with Kuwait and had the first session last May in Budapest where the main areas were discussed and from that we started focussing on specific areas,” Ambassador stated.
On Friday, Jun 13, Kuwait’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled Al Sabah signed three memorandums of understanding in Budapest for cooperation in the fields of health, water and agriculture.
Sheikh Sabah also disclosed that there were more opportunities to sign joint agreements in the economic and investments fields in order to benefit from exchange of their expertise in these areas. Sheikh Sabah described Kuwaiti-Hungarian relations as strong and based on solid and historical friendship.
During the past four years Ambassador Csillag disclosed that more than a dozen agreements have been signed in areas of higher education, scientific research, infrastructure cooperation and visa exemption for diplomatic passports. Kuwait University has signed more than four agreements in education cooperation itself. An agreement was also signed between the Kuwait Diplomatic Academy and its Hungarian counterpart, the Hungarian Diplomatic Institute.
There have been ongoing cultural exchanges between the two nations and Kuwaiti artists held a contemporary art exhibition in Hungary last summer, which was continued by a Hungarian Art exhibition at the CAP Kuwait last December and in October this year there will be a Hungarian Chamber Orchestra to mark the national day celebrations including the 50 years of relations between the two nations.
Hungary has also signed an agreement with Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) and a delegation of its London Office (KIO) has visited Hungary to gauge the potential in the different areas. The Hungarians are now preparing proposals as per KIA criterias and are optimistic of future investments.
Hungary has been transformed into a knowledge based economy with specialisation in manufacturing and agriculture products, Information Technology, life sciences, biotechnology construction. We are looking closely into those areas of cooperation where we can utilize our expertise within the on-going projects of the Kuwaiti National Development Plan together with our Kuwaiti partners.
Hungary also attracts hundreds of Kuwaiti tourists a year and Ambassador feels that the potential is much more. “We have had tourists seminars and presentations to showcase the attractions,” he revealed and added that Hungary is world renowned for its spas and hunting facilities.
More than 10 million tourists visit Hungary annually and the country can provide an ideal vacation for the discerning Kuwaiti tourist.Commenting on bilateral trade Ambassador Csillag revealed that in the last three years bilateral trade has increased steadily, reaching today around $ 30 million in favour of Hungary.
Though the potential is much more as Hungary was now looking to provide specialised technology to Kuwait in IT and construction in forms of joint ventures and other ways.
“We are in negotiation with Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research and want to offer them modern technologies which can be used in the housing market. Besides the innovative light structure building technologies offered, our special coating and sealing techniques can reduce 30 to 40 percent heat and will be tested in the coming months and this is a patented Hungarian technology,” he pointed out.
One area Ambassador Csillag is keen on is education. Hungary provides world class and high standard of education in English and students from around the world are attracted to Hungary attending courses in medicine, engineering, science and economics. He is optimistic that there would be a small number of Kuwaiti students in the coming years attending Hungarian universities after the appropriate decision of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Higher Education.
“Hungary is also keen to establish a physical rehabilitation centre in Kuwait showcasing the Hungarian expertise in this field. Our doctors are specialised in this area and if our proposal is approved by the Ministry of Health we would be happy to set this up,” Ambassador Csillag noted.
At present there are around 300 Hungarian nationals in Kuwait working in the service sector, as well as financial advisers, engineers and sports trainers.
Ambassador Csillag expresses a great optimism that the relationship between the two countries will take on a new dimension in further enhancing political, economical and cultural exchanges.
- By Reaven D’Souza