"We are widely recognized as being a country that is engaged in Hungary with a lot of project work." These words by the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Hungary, John Gregory Dorey - in an interview with Diplomacy and Trade magazine - well reflect his activity in fostering bilateral ties
When Greg Dorey arrived in Budapest in 2007 to represent the United Kingdom as HM Ambassador, he had five aims to achieve. He wanted to ensure that the UK and Hungary voted together as much as possible in the European Union on important issues like energy, environment, transparency, relations with Russia, etc. In trade and investment, he wanted to see an increase in British interests and levels of trade, a better business environment. In terms of public relations, his intention was to build new relationships, “not just talking to government on a bilateral basis, but also trying to reach people as much as possible”. He also wished to engage with NGOs and other organizations, and find new ways to “flag up British values and British excellence.”
In managing the Embassy, he wanted it to be as efficient, effective and diverse as possible. “Personally, I wanted to makesure that I don’t sit in Budapest but actually travel around the country because I want to be Britain’s ambassador to Hungary and not just to the capital city,” Ambassador Dorey tells Diplomacy and Trade magazine.
As for improving cooperation, the Ambassador is of the view that “there are perhaps less issues that we agree on bilaterally than there ought to be but by talking to the relevant people, by holding seminars, arranging negotiations, we have got better understanding, I think, of where we stand on these issues because it is important – even when you disagree – to understand why you disagree. On the other hand, there are many aspirations we share, for example, the expansion of the European Union, the stability of the Western Balkans, better relations with countries to the east, etc.”
In trade and investment, there is a lot of achievement, he says, but, “of course, our positions are somewhat undermined by the economic crisis.” The Ambassador is satisfied with what has been achieved in public diplomacy. “I think we’ve done quite well. We are widely recognized as being a country that is engaged in Hungary with a lot of project work in the field of human rights, environment, energy, etc. We’ve got quite varied coverage in the media and I often experience when I go around the country that people have been reading about it because they comment to me about our activity.”
Before his current assignment, Greg Dorey was also in Hungary between 1989 and ’92 as First Secretary at the British Embassy. Those were “incredibly exciting and stimulating times then,” he recalls. “I have kept in touch with friends since and followed the media coverage of Hungary and having been here before helped a great deal in deciding to apply for this job in Budapest.”
Economic relations between Hungary and the UK are well established with a number of key British investors present here. “Perhaps Tesco is the most visible, but there are a number of other major investors like Vodafone, BT, GlaxoSmithKline, BP, etc.,” the Ambassador points out. UK exports to Hungary in 2009 were around HUF 280 billion (over USD 1.4 billion), while HUF 710 billion (over USD 3.5 billion) traveled the other way (mainly machinery, automotive components, chemicals, fertilizers), “so the balance is very much in Hungary’s favor.” The economic crisis the ambassador believes could have caused a 15% fall in both directions. However, the latest figures show a strong recovery in imports and exports in 2010, up by 30% each way so far.
Projects and partners
The Embassy is involved in a number of programs throughout the country. “The most recent project we launched with a variety of partners is setting up a ‘climate office’ at the University of Gödöllõ, just east of Budapest,” the Ambassador says. He also helped the Hungarian government to launch the ‘Hungary 10:10’ campaign. This is a campaign that started in the UK but became international with the aim of reducing carbon-dioxide emissions by 10% by individuals as well as organizations over a period of a year starting in 2010.
“We’re trying to practice what we preach, we’re obviously trying to achieve that aim here at the Embassy as well,” stresses Ambassador Dorey who is the patron of the 10:10 campaign in Hungary. “I’m also very proud of the ‘Music against racism’ campaign initiated together with the organizers of the Sziget Festival where we launched it last year with well-known bands and individuals from Britain performing there. With Hungarian bands and other companies, organizations and individuals joining in, this British initiative is becoming more and more successful in this country, as well.”
In addition to the government administration, the Embassy has a wide range of partners. There are semi-autonomous bodies, various NGOs working on the environment, energy or on development issues and the British Chamber is also a key partner. The British Council is very active here – it’s a different sort of work they were doing, say, ten years ago. They still administer a lot of exams here but they do much more in terms of capacity building, training the leaders of the future. ‘VisitBritain’ is an important partner, actively promoting tourism to the UK, and “we often work with the Hungarian Embassy in London. It is a much wider range of activities than, say, a decade ago,” Ambassador Dorey stresses.
Call for transparency and unity
The Ambassador is member of the group of 12 ambassadors who try to share best practice and ideas and try to work with the Hungarian government on transparency issues. “We registered our concerns but also expressed our desire to help with ideas where it’s appropriate to collaborate to make it a better place for foreign direct investments as it is also of benefit to for Hungarian citizens.” Ambassador Dorey is “sorry that Hungarians don’t get along with each other as perhaps they should.
I see more division than when I first left in 1992. That is a kind of luxury Hungary cannot really afford right now. It would be good if more people could work together for the common goal. The new government has talked a lot about national unity. We’ll see what that means in practice.”