The Arab Republic of Egypt is represented in Hungary by a senior diplomat, Dr. Ashraf Mohsen Mohamed Mohsen who presented his credentials in March this year. He gave an interview to the summer issue of Diplomacy & Trade.
After his previous posting, Ambassador Mohsen stayed in Egypt as a coordinator in the Foreign Ministry. “Although, there were postings available in countries more important for Egypt, I opted for Hungary that I had been enamored with since I read about the 1956 revolution,” he tells Diplomacy and Trade.
Ambassador Mohsen is a former deputy foreign minister who has held numerous positions during his career, including the chairmanship of the Arab League expert group on terrorism or heading the political section at the Egyptian Embassy in Tel-Aviv for four years.
He says being an ambassador in Budapest is a more peaceful job but challenging. The challenge is to make bilateral relations stronger. “I do not believe in traditional diplomacy. I’m trying to bring in investors, major investors, I’m looking for markets for Hungarian products and Egyptian products.”
Ambassador Mohsen believes that strong bilateral relations need to concentrate on the economic side and the education side. “We’re thinking of the banking sector to be able to finance investments. Also, I’m encouraging projects involving Hungarian technology and Egyptian labor force in Hungary or in Egypt, trying to export Hungarian goods through Egypt to Africa, the Arab world. This will open up new markets for Hungary. Then, there could be direct exports of dairy products, cattle and other livestock, and there are business opportunities in real estate and hotels, as well. Since my arrival, close to 50 top Egyptian businesspeople came to Hungary.” He is also advocating the exchange of students between Hungary and Egypt.
The Ambassador believes the marketing of the real superior products of Hungary is not given enough attention. “I’m opening the menu. One of the top investment banks from Egypt came to see how to promote Hungary not only in Egypt but in other Arab countries, as well. The financial potential of the Arab world is tremendous,” he says.
There are decades-long traditions, exchanges of goods, services and people, from the 1960s-70s current relations could be built on. “Hungarian products, and Hungary, itself, have a good reputation in Egypt. In Egypt, the luxurious train is called the ‘magary’ because the first such train in Egypt was brought from Hungary.
The reputation is there, which is good, but the methodology of trade in those times was different: government oriented barter trade managed by state authorities. Now, in both countries, the economy is dominated by the private sector and the key issues are quality and profit, and we need the two markets to be re-introduced to each other.”
Ambassador Mohsen believes that both countries have strong points. “Hungary is in the heart of Central Europe, Budapest is the most beautiful city in Europe, the country has great history and long-standing traditions and vast potentials. It needs Egypt, the Arab world, Africa to develop and these compatibility issues create opportunities that we need to grab to develop bilateral relations.”
In culture, “I’m trying to introduce Egypt to Hungary. For the recent Francophone film week, we have brought to Budapest the famous and avant-garde Egyptian director and film writer Khaled Youssef, and the young and aspiring actor and director Khaled Abol Naga. Three folkloric groups coming here in the summer,” the Ambassador says. He adds that he has opened here exhibitions by Hungarian photographers who have been to Egypt and now depict life and culture there through Hungarian eyes.
“In tourism, my intentions are to increase the numbers because Egypt is a ‘good-quality-for-money’ destination – and no tourist was harmed during the revolution. We have beaches, monuments, good weather and conditions will not change under the rule of the Muslim Brothers, either,” the Ambassador claims. On the other side, he is also trying to encourage Egyptians to visit Hungarian spas.