"Not so long ago, matters like EU membership, let alone Presidency, were unimaginable for Poles and Hungarians, but these have since become reality and our common valuable experience has been effectively utilized for achieving Polish, Hungarian and regional goals,” the Polish Ambassador to Hungary, Roman Kowalski tells Diplomacy & Trade reflecting on the past two decades.
The Ambassador is of the view that “our EU membership is a huge success story in the development of our economy and infrastructure, and this gave a significant impact to Poland’s political position in Europe. Being part of the EU also means being more effective as regards our cooperation with our Eastern and Western Balkans partners. We also became a much more attractive partner for countries outside the EU. Our EU membership created a very new situation in our bilateral Polish-Hungarian relations (and also between Poland and countries of the Visegrád Group) when we realized how big our common tasks and our needs are and, on the other hand, how effective and strong we can be when we act together.”
He says EU membership and the ever more active cooperation within the V4 put Polish-Hungarian relations have reached unbelievably intense – and mutually beneficial – level. “Direct meetings of our presidents, prime ministers, foreign and other ministers have built a very substantial base for our relations.”
Still room to grow
Ambassador Kowalski believes that “despite of all the unquestionable successes, there are still huge opportunities for development in our economic relations. In spite of the global crisis, the turnover of bilateral trade is still at a significant level of nearly EUR 6 billion. This is really an outstanding result. Besides a lot of opportunities, there are a lot of challenges because our economic relations may soon be facing infrastructural barriers. We do need modern road and railway connections on the North-South axis. And we need our energy infrastructure to be connected. There is still unused potential in regards of our mutual investments, which would bring the economies closer to each other. It is getting better but still not good enough.”
As regards cultural relations, they are a very strong element of the Polish-Hungarian cooperation. In the past years, successful Polish projects in Hungary have included – among others – the Chopin Year (2010), the Korczak Year (2012) or the Lutoslawski Year (2013). “We also managed to present a lot of Polish exhibitions, movies, books, we opened a Memorial Room dedicated to the Polish fugitives of World War II in Balatonboglár where there are more and more beautiful statues, and we also opened a Polish consulate in Szeged,” he adds. The two countries are in the final stage of preparing a long-term agreement on cultural cooperation. There is a notable growth of mutual interest between the two societies and the growth in the number of tourists, mutually visiting Hungary and Poland is very important, too, he adds.
Long years in Hungary
This is not the first time Roman Kowalski serves in Hungary as a diplomat. If nothing else, his excellent command of the Hungarian language is witness to the altogether 16 years spent in this country. “Over all these years, I have visited a lot of beautiful and interesting places and have participated in plenty of fascinating events in Hungary. Nevertheless, my most important experience has always been the people – Hungarians whom I have met and whom I am still getting to know and through whom my friendship for Hungary is continuously and non-objectively growing,” the Ambassador concludes with a big smile.