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Roman Kowalski | Dávid Harangozó

Poland-Hungary: traditional friendship

The Polish Ambassador to Hungary, Roman Kowalski says it is a habit in Poland that each ambassador presents for approval his mission program. Almost a year after arriving to Hungary, he tells Diplomacy & Trade it is a good moment to take the first look back at his activity as ambassador here.

"Before coming to Budapest, I indicated many – in my opinion – important issues; the key elements were intensification of cooperation, economy and infrastructure as well as social dimension of our relations, including first of all the involvement of the youngest generation into popularizing the idea of friendship between our nations,” the Ambassador tells Diplomacy and Trade it is a good moment to take the first look back at his activity as ambassador here. “I am very pleased, because during this extremely important year for Hungary many important events in a natural way supported the realization of my tasks.”

Renaissance of interest

Ambassador Kowalski is of the view that the “European Union presidency has become the natural platform for the extremely active relations of our countries.” Economic relations are developing very well and “in the area of social relations, we witness a renaissance of very direct contacts between cities, regions, civil organizations and what is especially important to me a renaissance of interest towards Poland and the tradition of Polish-Hungarian friendship between the youngest generation.” As an example, he mentions that almost 10,000 art works arrived from 500 Hungarian schools for a recent drawing competition for children about Poland and Polish-Hungarian relations.

Common past

The Ambassador believes political relations are exceptional. “There were more and less active periods in our cooperation, sometimes we used to have different evaluation of events and processes, but during difficult moments of our history, we could always count on each other. Let me just mention the exceptional experience of the horrible time of war (in WWII), which disclosed a beautiful card of real friendship in the relations of our nations when the Polish-Hungarian border became a passage for life for tens of thousands of Polish refugees who found help and peaceful haven in Hungary. We tried to compensate that in 1956 by organizing blood transports to Budapest, for example. Such events form an exceptional base on which one can build and I think that we have done so together, not only in bilateral dimension, but also for the region and for Europe.” He adds that these relations are important for Hungary, too. This was highlighted by the first foreign trip of the current Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, to the Polish capital.

Facilitating economic relations

On the economic front, the Ambassador says Polish-Hungarian relations have been developing very well recently. Last year’s data show that “despite problems in the Hungarian economy (and of course, the world economic crisis), we have been witnessing a dynamic recovery in our mutual trade level.” The growth of the Polish economy has been among the highest in Europe recently and projections also predict a steady development. The latest figures available indicate that Polish companies invested EUR 220.5 million in Hungary by the end of 2009. The most important Polish investors operate in the areas of food industry, production of wound dressing materials, information technology and clothing retail sector. “However, we have noticed a decreasing interest in investing in Hungary by Polish companies recently due to the difficult economic situation,” Ambassador Kowalski points out. “The Polish Embassy’s staff in Budapest is always keen on facilitating contacts between business communities on both sides. They are ready to provide assistance in identifying business partners in Poland or providing advice and information on doing business in Poland.”

Culture

As for cultural relations, the ambassador is happy to note that “there is a significant interest in Hungary towards Polish contemporary art, music (mainly jazz music), literature, and history. It is significant, that Hungary was the first country where Andrzej Wajda’s “Katyn” film was screened in cinemas outside Poland.” Recently, successful Polish-Hungarian film co-productions included ‘Essential Killing’ by Jerzy Skolimowski and ‘1’ by Pater Sparrow. The celebration of Chopin Year 2010 in Hungary was a big success. As Chopin and Liszt were friends, most Chopin Year events in Hungary recalled relation between these two geniuses. The Hungarian National Museum currently hosts a large historical exhibition about Hungarian-Polish relations. During the Polish Presidency in autumn, Poland will be the guest of honor of Design Week Budapest, with a large exhibition of Polish design in the Museum of Applied Arts (October). Poland will also be the guest of honor of the JazzForum Budapest (September), with several renowned Polish jazz musicians arriving.

Sándor Laczkó

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