It was just two years ago that the German-Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DUIHK) had its 25th anniversary and this year, the organization has an even more prominent anniversary to celebrate: the first German-Hungarian Chamber of Commerce, the DUIHK was established a hundred years ago.
As the CEO of DUIHK, Gabriel A. Brennauer tells Diplomacy&Trade, strong historical ties create mutual trust and understanding and this fully applies to the German-Hungarian relations. “We are proud that Budapest was among the first capitals to host a German bilateral chamber at the beginning of the last century. Some key principles of the 1920 Chamber are still valid in 2020. On the one hand, we are an independent organization and abstain from any political engagement. On the other, our activities are driven by our service mentality: we seek to support companies in their daily and strategic business operations with tailor-made, practical solutions.” Although no bilateral chamber was allowed after WWII until the regime change, German-Hungarian economic ties remained strong even under the communist regime. In 1989, the combined East- and West-German trade with Hungary equaled that of the Hungarian-Soviet trade, and already in the 1970s, a German multinational was the first Western company to set up a joint venture in Hungary. “This prehistory helped a lot to quickly rebuild economic ties after 1990 which laid the ground for the extensive bilateral trade and investment co-operation we built up until today,” he adds.
Coping with the epidemic situation
Unfortunately, 2020 is not only a year of anniversaries but also of the of the COVID-19 pandemic. “As a Chamber, one of our key assets is to be a networking platform for companies among each other as well as with key decision makers in the administration. Therefore, the restrictions imposed to fight the pandemic hit our organization hard, because after all, we could not organize physical meetings anymore. However, we managed to quickly transform many of our services into new formats suitable for the online-world. Hopefully, many of these new tools and instruments will help to optimize our services even after the end of the pandemic,” the CEO highlights.
An important part of the activities of the German-Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce was to inform companies about latest changes in regulations in Hungary and Germany, about travel restrictions, rules for international transports or available state subsidies. They also conducted intense consultation with the government since early March. Many suggestions and proposals from DUIHK and other associations had been taken up and implemented by the government fast, among others the introduction of wage subsidies for those employees, which suffered reductions in their working hours.
Gabriel A. Brennauer stresses that German companies, like the Hungarian and other international companies, face multiple challenges due to the pandemic. On the one hand, extensive measures were needed – and taken – to protect the health of their employees. From a business perspective, many firms face severe difficulties in production due to disturbances in international supply chains. These difficulties have been overcome at least partially during the last few months, but new waves of the pandemic could hit companies again. Finally, the pandemic also cut back international and domestic demand in many areas, which will not recover very quickly, he says.
“Our and others‘ latest surveys show that returning to pre-crisis levels is expected by the majority only from the second half of 2021 onwards, rather in 2022. Therefore, the economic impact of the epidemic will be felt further for quite a long time, even if the much-awaited vaccine should be available soon.”
Pushing the accelerator pedal
Several big German car manufacturers are present in Hungary. As to how much the German-Hungarian automotive scene has changed in the past two years since the previous German Focus in Diplomacy&Trade, the DUIHK CEO is of the view that during the past few years, climate change related issues gained much momentum in national and international politics. The automotive industry is affected strongly by new climate goals and regulations. “Given that this industry plays an outstanding role in Hungary as well as in Germany, companies have to realign their strategies, to re-think their product and service portfolio as well as their productions chains. This process will last many years, but recently, it has accelerated notably. German carmakers and the extensive range of suppliers will also undergo fundamental changes, but their tremendous know-how should warrant that they can cope with these challenges and safeguard their international competitiveness.”
Gabriel A. Brennauer stresses that DUIHK seeks to maintain constructive relationships with all players relevant for German-Hungarian business ties and for the general business climate in Hungary. A very important partner is the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (ITM), which is in charge of training issues, of assignment of EU-funds, energy, transport and many others. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is a natural partner, when it comes to international trade issues, but DUIHK also co-operates closely with the Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency (HIPA), i.e. when new investors should be informed and supported as they are looking for investment opportunities in the country. Also, the Finance Ministry is an important partner, with consultations obviously focusing mainly on taxation issues.
Training to German standards
Education and vocational training has been in the focus of the German-Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce for decades “because successful business operations hinge on well skilled and motivated employees and managers. Today, we focus on three dimensions of education and training. Firstly, we are organizing dual training courses in or for companies in Hungary, according to German standards. Further, we organize trainings and workshops for managers and specialists. A highly successful course is the European Energy Manager (EUREM) training, which is based on an international scheme, but we also offer special courses for production supervisors, procurement specialists or HR managers. Finally, we provide consultancy for the government on the further modernization of Hungarian training system regulation. The DUIHK is a permanent member of National Innovation Council for Vocational training. Furthermore, we are partner in a pilot-project between the ITM and Siemens, which shall reshape the vocational training for industrial professions according to the actual needs of the companies and latest professional knowledge, and which will serve as a blueprint for modernizing other curricula in the upcoming years,” Gabriel A. Brennauer concludes.