Hungary’s new ambassador to Kuwait H.E. Mihaly Bayer is a diplomat with a career spanning 35 years of service in the Hungarian Foreign Service. Having served in several postings around the world and with strong experience of the Arab World, Ambassador Bayer’s depth of knowledge was evident with the ease of his conversation on war, peace, culture or trade, during his exclusive chat with The Times Kuwait
“I studied at the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations and having studied Arabic as one of my languages, I spent the first 19 years of my diplomatic career in the Arab World,” he says with a sense of excitement.
From postings in Iraq, Egypt and Libya, Ambassador Bayer served in many crucial positions before taking up his first assignment as Ambassador to Yemen. This was followed by ambassadorial postings in China, Moldova and Ukraine prior to coming to Kuwait in September 2014.
Ambassador Bayer also served as head of Africa and Middle East Department, Ambassador at Large for Energy Security and Head of Department of CIS countries. Having served in a region that has many challenges Ambassador Bayer says, “I am glad to come back and serve in this region once again after almost 15 years, and I have immediately begun brushing up my Arabic language skills.”
“Our relations with Kuwait is very old and intimate and Hungary has always been trying to be a good reliable partner of Kuwait, just as we have found Kuwait to be a good and reliable partner to us,” he pointed out. “We demonstrated this attitude several times and particularly in 1990 when we wholeheartedly supported Kuwait during the invasion,”
Kuwait was the first Arab Gulf state to establish political, diplomatic and economic relationship with Hungary on 4 May, 1964. The two nations just completed 50 years of diplomatic relationship, a milestone in their friendship.
“Kuwait in the seventies and eighties was a window for our activities in the Gulf region as Kuwait was the only country we maintained a relationship and all our products were routed through this channel as Kuwaiti companies played an invaluable role in promoting trade and commerce,” he pointed out.
Elaborating, he said a lot of things changed after the nineties and one of my goals is to rekindle this old relationship and provide new opportunities to Kuwaiti companies to act as intermediaries for Hungarian goods as Gulf markets are interconnected.
On the political front, Ambassador Bayer explained that their political relations have been very stable, warm and intimate and this is demonstrated by visits of the level of presidents and ministers regularly.
He hopes trade relations will now get a new flip as several agreements are in place and there is an upward trend. Hungary has been transformed into a knowledge based economy with specialisation in manufacturing and agriculture products, Information Technology, life sciences, biotechnology construction. They are looking closely into those areas of cooperation where they can utilize their expertise within the on-going projects of the Kuwaiti National Development Plan together with Kuwaiti partners.
“Hungary is an inseparable part of the international economy and is very much focussed on production of all types of multi-national companies. It works well, but our exports to this region are dependent on these companies’ directions,” he noted.
“We have a stable trade relations with Kuwait and this year I expect our direct trade turnover to touch $40 million dollars.” Ambassador Bayer pointed out that Hungarian products are also brought in through other ports and this does not reflect in the trade data which can sometimes be three times higher. Nevertheless he feels what is more important is that trade between the two nations is on the rise and there is optimism for it to grow further.'
Ambassador Bayer feels that Hungary has to be brought back into the radar of Kuwaiti investors, tourists and businessmen and it will be his priority to do so. Even though relations are solid and historical there should be more visibility of Hungary in Kuwait.
Hungary has also signed an agreement with Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) and a delegation from its London Office (KIO) has visited Hungary to gauge the potential in the different areas. The Hungarians are now preparing proposals as per KIA criteria and are optimistic of future investments.
This year will see more Hungarian roadshows, tourism, business and cultural exchanges to Kuwait This new found impetus to boost Hungarian presence in Kuwait is an initiative that ambassador Bayer feels will yield long-term results.
While there have been ongoing cultural exchanges between the two nations, Kuwaiti artists in the recent past held a contemporary art exhibition in Hungary, which was followed by a Hungarian Art exhibition in Kuwait. Celebrations for the 50 years of relations between the two nations also took place last year.
Kuwaiti tourists to Hungary are also on the rise and this year Ambassador Bayer expects to issue around 1000 visas for tourists. This figure does not reflect the real numbers as a lot of Kuwaitis have multiple entry visas and Schengen visas so they make several visits. More than 10 million tourists visit Hungary annually and the country can provide an ideal vacation for the discerning Kuwaiti tourist.
There is also an increasing interest in the spa’s in Hungary which are world famous and the beauty of the landscape and weather make the country a perfect holiday destination. Hungary is also a popular destination for hunting and is known to be the best in Europe.
On the education front Kuwait University has signed more than four agreements in education cooperation. An agreement was also signed between the Kuwait Diplomatic Academy and its Hungarian counterpart, the Hungarian Diplomatic Institute.
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.
At present there are around 300 Hungarian nationals in Kuwait working in the service sector, as well as financial advisers, engineers and sports trainers, noted the ambassador.
The insight, experience, knowledge and depth that Ambassador Bayer brings with him will surely help in further enhancing political, economic and cultural exchanges between the two nations.