Luxembourg, an exemplary model for Hungary

The Benelux issue of Diplomacy & Trade carried an interview with the Honorary Consul of Luxembourg in Hungary, veteran diplomat István Horváth. The Luxembourg ambassador accredited to Hungary is based in Luxembourg.

The diplomatic career of Luxembourg’s honorary consul in Hungary, István Horváth dates back decades as he was Hungary’s ambassador to the Netherlands in the early 1980s, then to Germany (1984-91) witnessing changes like the tumbling of the Berlin Wall. During those years, at the invitation of the Luxembourgian Ambassador to Germany, he established good relations with high-ranking officials in Luxembourg.

At an international conference in 1994, he met the then finance minister, and current prime minister, of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker. That meeting was followed by an official request for István Horváth to be the representative of Luxembourg in Hungary and thus, he acted as honorary consul for the Benelux country from 1995 till 2003 when he was appointed as Hungarian ambassador to Austria.

When that term ended in 2010, he was requested again to resume as honorary consul for Luxembourg in Budapest. “It was a great honor that the Luxembourg government waited for my ambassadorial term to end in Vienna,” he told Diplomacy and Trade.

István Horváth is the sole representative of Luxembourg actually stationed in Hungary. Until now, the Luxembourg ambassador accredited to Hungary worked from Vienna, while the new ambassador, Marc Courte, who presented his credentials in Hungary on March 13, works from Luxembourg.

“We have classical consular tasks,” the consul says. “When a citizen of Luxembourg needs assistance in any way, we are here to help.” The other task is to strengthen the economic relations as – despite its small size – Luxembourg has significant influence in economic and financial matters internationally.

Although, not widely known, there are at least 13 Luxembourgian companies active in Hungary, like the Guardian float-glass and mirror manufacturing firm in Orosháza, southeast Hungary; LINDAB Ltd., the manufacturer of pre-fabricated steel buildings; the ceramic producer Villeroy & Bosch; or MRTL, the television channel with the highest share of viewers in Hungary.

István Horváth says “these companies are in the fortunate situation of not belonging to the group of firms burdened with special taxes by the Hungarian government. Therefore, they don’t have political objections related to such burdens.” They “only” suffer from the general symptoms of the crisis, wish to see more predictability and follow developments vis-à-vis the government’s policy regarding the legal state in Hungary. There is talk about the necessity of forming some sort of chamber cooperation, an interest representation organization, among these companies but these efforts are still in the infancy stage.

Regarding bilateral political relations, the honorary consul says there is some tension between the two governments. He is of the view that the reasons are complex and mainly concern the changing state of the dialog between the Hungarian government and the European Union.

The foreign minister of Luxembourg made quite critical remarks early last year about the new Hungarian media law, “not evoking the friendliest response from the Hungarian government circles,” the consul remarks, and it had its impact on bilateral political relations. As a result, dialog between the two countries was mainly resorted to cooperation within the framework of the European Union.

The situation was somewhat eased as later in 2011, Gergely Proehle, deputy state secretary in the Hungarian Foreign Ministry visited Luxembourg but an official visit there by Foreign Minister János Martonyi is yet to happen. The new ambassador of Luxembourg to Hungary taking office may also speed up things on this field. István Horváth adds that this tension between the two countries has never affected his personal relationship with the Hungarian Foreign Ministry. He likes to stress that he has always been most welcome at the Ministry.

In the 1970s, Luxembourg began an exemplary transformation of its economy based on heavy industry and agriculture and started to attract foreign capital by basically all means possible. The leadership of the country rightly saw the opportunities lying in the central location of this small Benelux state. As a result, nowadays, some 90% of its GDP are produced by firms settled in from abroad.

István Horváth says this Luxembourg policy helped the country find its place in the world economy and provided an example for other small countries with favorable location such as Hungary. For Luxembourg, it “brought about the versatility of international relations with national traditions still flourishing and the locals not feeling oppressed by foreign capital,” the honorary consul concludes with the reference to recent developments in Hungary.


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