“In the past year, Italy was the second largest market for Hungarian exports and the eighth largest supplier country,” the Ambassador of the Italian Republic to Hungary, Manuel Jacoangeli tells Diplomacy&Trade in the leading article of the recently published Italian Focus. Besides soaring economic relations, he also stresses the deep-rooted cultural ties and the areas of international cooperation between Italy and Hungary.
Ambassador Jacoangeli has been in office in Hungary for almost a year now. He tells Diplomacy&Trade that so far, it has been a tremendously positive experience for him. “I feel very privileged to serve in Hungary that hosts so many Italian citizens and companies and where our presence as an EU member partner can really make the difference. Fostering political relations and enhancing bilateral economic and cultural ties is my main objective together with the promotion of the image of Italy.”
Bonds rooted in shared values
The Ambassador adds that building a solid network has always been the first step of his diplomatic work. He has had the opportunity to meet many people, to attend several events and to witness the growth of ties and friendship between Italy and Hungary. “Our bonds are rooted in shared values, history and in a common engagement to promote peace and prosperity. The exchanges between our people, businesses and academia have been enriching our societies for such a long time and our economies are deeply interconnected, spanning from the most traditional sectors to the new and most technologically advanced ones.”
He notes that working in Hungary is attractive from both a political and professional point of view, and the relationship between the two countries are proceeding into a right, sound direction. “Over the past year, we achieved some relevant results, we were able to count on Hungarian support for many of our candidacies within many international organizations; the volume of bilateral trade exchange already reached the pre-pandemic level of 2019, allowing Italy to be once again one of the most important Hungarian partners; several economic and cultural events have also been organized.”
Among other initiatives, he highlights the recently launched ‘Italy is simply extraordinary: beIT’ communication campaign, which ranks as “Italy’s first-ever nation branding initiative and targeting our 26 top priority international trade partners, Hungary included. We have also launched the campaign of the candidacy of Rome to the 2030 Universal Exposition.
Definitely, there are some areas where we can improve our bilateral cooperation but I am pleased with progress reached up to now.”
Italy well-known in Hungary
The Hungarian public is said to have a great understanding of Italy, of Italian culture – something that Ambassador Jacoangeli very much agrees with. “Since the moment I arrived to this beautiful country, I immediately realized how the image of Italy is deeply rooted in our Hungarian friends’ minds. Our artistic and cultural heritage is well known in Hungary together with our lifestyle, the beauty of our lands and their diversity. Culture is at the core of Italy’s identity and its history lives on through its unique heritage sites and natural wonders. Italy boasts the most UNESCO world-heritage sites in the world, with 58 locations and monuments on that prestigious list. However, Italy is not only known in Hungary for its UNESCO heritage but also for its 4,000 museums and 6,000 archaeological sites and for hosting several festivals of historical importance.”
He adds that Italy’s excellent education system also contributes in a relevant way to the country’s culture and society, with 36 Italian universities ranking in the world’s top 1,000.
“Hungarians are aware that Italy is a synonym of high quality of life. They appreciate our passion, the true essence of the Italian identity, our creativity and our capability to blend vision and imagination to develop more innovative products. Hungarians also share with us the passion for a healthy and modern lifestyle, showing particular sensitivity to everything that is tasty and beautiful. All of this is enclosed in the concept of Made in Italy.”
Since his arrival to Budapest, the Ambassador says he has devoted his utmost effort to the promotion of cultural activities. A large number events have been organized by the Embassy, together with the Italian Cultural Institute, so as to convey to the Hungarian public the set of values that stem from Italian culture. “I firmly believe that Italy and Hungary share a common vision on the importance of culture as a tool for diplomacy to strengthen relations between our countries.”
Grande Partenza in Budapest
Following the start from Budapest of the Giro d’Italia bicycle race, Italy is very much in focus in Hungary. “Hungary’s enthusiasm for the Giro d’Italia was amazing, as well as surprising. The Giro organizers’ themselves openly revealed the positive feedback they received either from the Hungarian organizing counterparts and from the public. I had the chance to witness this sport event in from a unique position, since I was accompanying Hon. Manlio Di Stefano, Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs of Italy who came to Budapest to inaugurate the Grande Partenza of the Giro d’Italia. Therefore, we have had the chance to see the race from a few meters distance. An experience that I have deeply treasured and that I will always remember pleasantly,” the Ambassador points out.
Cornerstones of cooperation
Both Italy and Hungary are members of the European Union and NATO. Regarding the main platforms of cooperation within – and perhaps, outside – these organizations, Ambassador Jacoangeli states that the EU and NATO are two different cornerstones of both the Italian and the Hungarian position within the international community. “We have countless areas of cooperation, ranging from trade, transports, culture and so on. Should I specify an area of cooperation that by the Hungarian Authorities’ own admission is expected to be particularly fruitful, I would mention the ongoing Hungarian investments in the Port of Trieste – very promising for both of our countries. Thanks to the finalization of these projects, Hungary will have easy access to the Adriatic Sea, with a positive impact on its economic exchanges. At the same time, the economy of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region will benefit from the development of that port area. We also have solid cooperation in the field of military affairs, as proven by the recent high level bilateral meeting held in Budapest between the Italian Minister of Defense, Lorenzo Guerini and the then Hungarian Minister of Defense, Tibor Benkő on March 7, 2022.”
In the first 11 months of last year, trade between Italy and Hungary grew by 26%, setting a record, as did Hungarian-Italian imports and exports. In 2021, Hungary recorded an increase in external trade of 15.8%. Italy’s trade in goods amounted to EUR 12 billion and achieved an unprecedented growth of 27.4%, compared to the previous year. The value of the whole trade flow was 20% higher than the 2019 peak. In 2021, Italy improved its position as Hungary's trade partner country from fifth to fourth, with a market share of 5.2%. In the past year, Italy was the second largest market for Hungarian exports and the eighth largest supplier country. “I would like to point out that Hungary is the 19th largest destination market for Italian exports and the 13th largest market for Italian exports in Europe. The preliminary data related to the first quarter of 2022 shows a further increase of trade in goods with Italy by 15% then during the same period of 2021,” the Ambassador notes.
According to Italian evaluations, the companies operating in manufacturing, agriculture and wholesale and retail trade have contributed the most to this trade growth.
“Unfortunately, many factors are affecting the overall world trade performance. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in the wake of the global pandemic, has significantly altered the geopolitical and economic context. The impact of the invasion on the economies of EU member states resulted in higher energy and food prices and weaker growth forecasts. Taking into account the worsened economic outlook, the heightened uncertainty, further downside risks and higher inflation, the trade trend between our two countries could slow down in the short term,” he adds.
Italian-Hungarian bilateral cultural relations are regulated by the Cultural Agreement signed in Budapest on September 21, 1965. As the Ambassador highlights, “this international settlement is quite important because it provides the legal framework of our cooperation and, at the same time, boosts a wide range of cultural activities between the two nations (concerts, screenings, exhibitions, performances, language courses, academic presence, scholarships etc.). Nevertheless, since the legendary time of Christianization of the Magyars by the Venetian Benedictine monk Gerardo (‘Gellért’), under the rule of King St. Stephen, Italians and Hungarians are linked by more than a millennium of strong ties. This deeply-rooted and extremely fruitful connection, which has grown throughout centuries of intense interactions, cannot be encompassed by a single document, as important as it is. In my opinion, this special cultural relationship is perfectly represented by the beautiful buildings hosting the two cultural institutes operating in the respective capital cities. In the heart of Budapest’s ‘Palotanegyed’ [‘Palace District’], the former Chamber of the Deputies of the National Parliament, a beautiful neo-renaissance palace realized by Miklós Ybl, was donated by the Hungarian State to Italy and, since 1943, hosts the Italian Cultural Institute. Similarly, on the banks of the Tiber, the gorgeous Palazzo Falconieri – an already existing construction reshaped by Francesco Borromini himself – hosts the Academy of Hungary in Rome, a Baroque jewel that is the Headquarters of the Hungarian cultural programs in the Peninsula. These prestigious twin institutions embody the reciprocal attention that is shared by our two countries in the crucial field of culture and clearly underline the importance given by our nations to constantly renew such a long-lasting and precious bond.”
The objective: Rome 2030
Italy submitted the candidature of Rome to host the World Expo 2030. As the Ambassador reminds, Italy was one of the countries that signed the on 1928 ‘Paris Convention” that created the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE). As he says, “Italy has always played an important role within the organization. We attended the most important international exhibitions and, over the past 40 years, we hosted several specialized expositions in Rome, Naples, Turin and Genoa. Under the auspices of BIE, Italy has organized 15 editions of the ‘Triennale di Milano’, one of the most important cultural institutions in the world for culture, architecture, visual and performing arts and, in 2015, Italy hosted the ‘Expo Milano’.
In December 2021, the Italian candidature of Rome was presented to the BIE Member states together with the candidacies of the cities of Moscow, Odessa, Riyadh and Busan. Recently Russia withdrew its candidacy. The decision to candidate Rome was overdue, especially because of its millenarian history. We consider Rome an attractive destination and we believe that it could be the ideal place to develop the concept of urban regeneration. The theme chosen for the Exhibition is ‘People & Territories: Urban Regeneration, inclusion and Innovation’, promoting the concept of inclusive, polycentric, green and sustainable cities, able to overcome the differences between suburban and urban centers, promoting same opportunities and access to services for every citizen.”
The Organizing Committee has identified five pillars for the candidacy of Rome: evolution and regeneration; diversity and inclusion; sustainability and circularity; digitalization and zero emission; decentralization and connection. The five thematic areas have been conceived to be compatible with the urban, historical and architectural characteristics of Rome and Italy and are considered to be a reminder for our tradition, in a country where the past has always been forging the future.
Italy considers the candidacy of Rome an important opportunity to set up synergies with partner countries on a win-win basis. Such approach consists of the definition and implementation of projects of common interest in the subjects covered by the theme, identified by both parties and sized on the real needs of the participating country.
“Specific projects, carried out with Italy would offer the opportunity to our partner countries to follow a common path while approaching the Universal Exhibition. Rome 2030 aims to offer a great world showcase in which each country will be able to illustrate their respective good practices in such sectors and, possibly, the results achieved in the initiatives promoted together with Italy.
It is my understanding that Hungary has a long-standing experience in the field of urban regeneration. I specifically refer to the urban regeneration process in District 9 (Ferencváros) that became a model for further urban rehabilitation projects all over Hungary. We really hope to count on Hungary to support to the candidacy of Rome for Expo 2030,” the Ambassador concludes.