Denmark holds the rotating presidency of the Europeam Union in the first half of 2012. On this occasion, the January issue of Diplomacy and Trade featured an interview with the Danish Ambassador to Hungary, Mads Sandau-Jensen.
Mads Sandau-Jensen arrived in Hungary four and half years ago at a time, when relations between Hungary and Denmark were already well functioning. His aim was therefore to further even closer relationships, more exchanges of viewpoints, more trade and commercial relationships, also concentrating the ‘people-to-people’ opportunities.
“The latter does not make headlines but it is important that we get our peoples together,” he tells Diplomacy and Trade. “As we are both members of the EU, there is a lot of coordination, a lot of exchange of viewpoints on all levels. I think all these day-to-day steady contacts add up and help create a very positive relationship between our countries.” This will be even more so in the first half of 2012 when Denmark holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Commenting on bilateral economic relations, the Danish Ambassador says “our interchange of goods has fallen since the outbreak of the world economic crisis, but now, we can see an increase again and I hope it is the light at the end of the tunnel.” In 2010, Danish imports from Hungary amounted to just over EUR 455 million, while the value of Danish goods and services exported to Hungary was about EUR 414 million.
The most important items in Danish imports included machinery and instruments, transportation equipment as well as medical and pharmaceutical products, while it was machinery, mineral oil, chemical, rubber and plastic industry, and electronic goods that featured high in Danish exports. “We have quite a lot of investments here,” Ambassador Sandau-Jensen continues.
He points out that Danish companies employ some 5,000 Hungarians. “We are involved in pumps, medical equipment, building equipment, toys. Considering the size of Denmark, I think it is quite an impressive volume of investments. The reason why we are here is not so much the cost of labor. It is an important factor, of course, but the main issue is the availability of skilled labor in Hungary,” he adds.
Regarding the issue that many international companies do not find the Hungarian government’s handling of affairs very friendly, the Ambassador says he is aware of that but “as for the Danish investors here, I have experienced no problems in this respect. However, I would like to underline that the most important for the business community is predictability and I must say there have been several surprises in the past year.”
Events in bilateral cultural relations usually do not make the headlines, either, as they are “small efforts but lots of small efforts”, as the Ambassador puts it. “We have had exhibitions here by artists from the different parts of Denmark, like one about people producing ceramics on Holmen Island or those by several painters. The most outstanding event of the past years was the Royal Danish Ballet’s successful performance in Budapest in 2010.” The cultural exchange of students is also important.
As for the near future, “with our Nordic friends, we will make a quite big exhibition this coming spring, and it is also then that we have several small but powerful bands and orchestras over here from Denmark,” he stresses, adding that “Kecskemét in east-central Hungary and the Danish city of Aarhus maintain quite close sister city relations and that is one of the reasons why we are the only country that placed its cultural institute outside Budapest – in Kecskemét.”
Over these four and a half years’ service in Hungary, the Ambassador notes he has had a lot of opportunities to discover the country. “When I come to a new country, my wife and I always travel extensively during the first year – trying to visit every corner. I must say there’s hardly any village that I had not passed through in Hungary. There are places we go back to, like Eger where we have some good friends producing nice wine.”
Other favorite places include Sopron in the West and Pécs in the South, while in the north-eastern part of Hungary, he is impressed by “the beautiful nature, mountains, villages, the puszta and the culture of the locals.” He finds Hévíz special with its unique medicinal water and surrounding. The Ambassador’s favorite Hungarian dish is the pörkölt (meat stew), “especially when it is made from the meat of the grey cattle”.
In 2010, Mads Sandau-Jensen hosted a meeting of Danish Ambassadors accredited to countries all over the European continent who gathered for a conference in Hungary. One of the main dishes served for them was the pörkölt cooked in traditional Hungarian bogrács (kettle).
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