Distinct courses of history have enriched bilateral relations, says the Portuguese Ambassador to Hungary in an interview published in a recent issue of Diplomacy and Trade, adding that the two countries explore ways of enhancing cooperation.
“The idea that the first Portuguese king’s father was of Hungarian origin may be one of the reasons why Hungary enjoys a romantic, very friendly place in the Portuguese imagination.
Even if this has no historical evidence, this traditional assertion is mentioned in the major Portuguese work of literature "Os Lusiadas" written in the 16th century. However, this attraction is mainly due to the rich Hungarian history and culture that has been captivating Portuguese people's interest.” These words by the Portuguese Ambassador to Hungary, Antonio Augusto Jorge Mendes to Diplomacy and Trade reflect what sort of things can connect two countries as distantly located from each other as Portugal and Hungary.
From the Hungarian point of view, the fact that the Portuguese language is spoken by more than 230 million people and is the official language of countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America is one of the reasons why it receives significant attention also in Hungary where it is taught in four Universities. At ELTE University, Portuguese has been studied for thirty years. A recent publication in Hungary of a new dictionary has been referred as a benchmark for these studies. Hungarian writers are becoming more and more known in Portugal. Translations of Portuguese literature have been published for many years. The Hungarian version of a renowned "Concise History of Portugal" will be launched this September. It is noteworthy that an international Symposium, entitled "the Portuguese Discoveries and Mittel Europa" was held at ELTE last October.
“Due to diverse geo-political situations both nations had very distinct courses of history that translates currently in a mutual enriching exchanging of views and information. The relations between the two countries retain a special dynamic given that both nations are members of NATO and European Union,” the Ambassador points out, adding that “however, the developments of their societies and economies, stirred up by an open and competitive world, have created new opportunities for interactions and cooperation.” For instance, Portugal has been in the forefront of areas such as renewable energies (53% of electricity consumed last year came from these sources), communications systems, e-government, and electrical mobility. In these fields and others, Portugal and Hungary have been exploring ways of enhancing cooperation and looking at each other’s relative advantages for mutual benefit.
As for economic ties, there are Portuguese companies active in financial services, telecommunications, construction, consulting in Hungary. Business activity has yet to reach its full potential. The international crisis affected trade and investment between the two countries, but the data of 2010 suggests that those flows are growing. The trade balance is currently favorable to Hungary and there is more direct investment of Portugal in this country than vice-versa. Antonio Augusto Jorge Mendes is proud to say that “there is a consistently increasing movement of people such as students and tourists. In this latter case, it is favored by daily flights between Budapest and Lisbon by the Portuguese airline TAP.”
He says “the work of the Embassy is a continuous activity that looks for new potential opportunities. These are generated by evolving circumstances as well as ideas and contributions from various agents in the public sector and civil society of both countries, in the political, economic, social and cultural fields.”
Although, the Ambassador has just completed his first year in Budapest, “an intense and busy year dominated in part by the Hungarian presidency of the EU and the many visits by Portuguese high officials, including our President,” he had the opportunity to travel in Hungary, “to taste its flavors, to be very pleasantly surprised by its wines and to discover its culture.” He visited places near Lake Balaton such as “Keszthely and its beautiful Festetics Palace, Heviz where my family and I enjoyed a relaxing moment in its delightful thermal waters and Veszprem where Hungary's history is very much present.” In Villany, southern Hungary, “I was introduced to some of the best wines in particular the ‘portugieser’, which has a very inspiring name.” Regarding Hungarian gastronomy, he had the opportunity to taste local cuisine and to become “very attached to the cherry soup, the gulyas, the Hortobagyi palacsinta and, of course, the always perfectly made and delicious chocolate cakes.” But mostly, he says he has been fascinated by Budapest, “a beautiful city full of treasures, some almost hidden and waiting to be found and surprise the curious visitor, its rich history from a distant past to recent times that are still alive in the memory of many Europeans, its streets framed by elegant buildings, its cafes, the opera, the ballet, the concerts and all the stimulating cultural program that I wish I could have the time to follow even more. In all it has been a very rich experience and one that my family and I are very much looking forward to develop even further,” the Ambassador has concluded.
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