MNB Assesses Inflation Data for January 2024

In January 2024, inflation continued to fall at a rapid pace, the National Bank of Hungary (MNB) says in an analysis published this Friday. Consumer prices rose by 3.8% in annual terms, thus 34 months after March 2021 the price index fell back into the central bank tolerance band. Core inflation and core inflation excluding indirect tax effects fell to 6.1%.

The month-on-month, total consumer basket price was up by 0.7%, while prices rose by 0.4% regarding core inflation. The rate of price increases compared to the previous month was below the historical rate seen this time of the year primarily due to a decline in fuel prices.

Inflation was lower in January than the mean value in the December Inflation Report projection. This difference was primarily caused by the more favorable changes than expected in fuel and processed food prices. Core inflation was also slightly below our expectations while the rises in demand-sensitive items prices was in line with our earlier projection.

According to MNB, the slowdown in inflation continues to be perceived generally, fueled by the combined effect of tight monetary policy, the government’s measures to strengthen competition, subdued demand, base effects and significantly lower external cost environment than seen in recent years. The consumer price index fell by 1.7 percentage points compared to the previous month, to the greatest extent driven by fuel prices (at -0.5 percentage points), and the market services and non-durables prices (at -0.3 percentage points, each).

Year-on-year core inflation fell by 1.5 percentage points with general disinflation. MNB’s measures of underlying inflation developments capturing persistent inflationary trends, calculated on a year-on-year basis, also fell. The inflation of sticky-price products fell by 1.0 percentage point and, in turn, the annual price rise of core inflation excluding processed food prices declined by 1.5 percentage points relative to the previous month.

The continued slowdown in underlying inflation is signaled by the fact that three-month annualized core inflation and inflation were both below 3% in a shorter-term comparison. The price of the basket calculated excluding fuel and regulated product prices was up by 0.7% compared to the previous month. Month-on-month core inflation excluding processed food, which better reflect underlying developments, was 0.3% in January. In the case of tradables, the January repricing corresponded to the historical average, while it was higher for market services and slightly lower for food products, the MNB report says.

A healthy business

Professional consultations, a welcoming and comfortable environment, central location and convenient end-to-end services – all this is provided by the highly-qualified and dedicated staff at FirstMed, the multi-disciplinary health clinic that celebrates its 20th anniversary this February.

Since opening in 1999, FirstMed has become the leading provider of private English-speaking family practice, women’s health, pediatric and specialist medical services in Budapest, serving individuals, families, companies, embassies, tourists and NGOs in the Hungarian capital.

The clinic was founded by Dennis A. Diokno, an American businessman, who gained his experience in private healthcare in Russia and China in the 1990s. At the end of that decade, he was sent by his boss to explore the possibilities of opening clinics in Budapest, Prague and Warsaw. He liked the business opportunities offered by the region so much that he himself decided to set up a business in the Hungarian capital after raising money through family and friends. “I really liked Hungary; I fell in love with the people, the culture, and from a business perspective it seemed like the right place to be,” he says.

Busiest services

It was not only the money that came from his family but also the ‘feel’ for healthcare, having grown up in such an environment: his father is a physician, his mother a nurse and his two sisters work in the pharmaceutical industry. He says what he likes most about his job is working in a service industry, focusing on customers and the customer experience.

Dennis A. Diokno, who is CEO and Founding Partner of FirstMed in Budapest, tells Diplomacy&Trade that “while our busiest services are primary care like family practice, pediatrics and gynecology, our other 30+ specialties, including orthopedics, cardiology, ENT (ear, nose and throat), to name a few, see just as many patients. These services and practices are also very much sought after by our clients.”

He explains that “we like to think of our patients as family. Many of them are long time patients returning again and again. When a patient contacts us – either online, by phone or meeting us at the reception – we make sure they receive prompt attention. We are proud of keeping pre-registered appointment times and the time our doctors spend with the patients. Should a patient have specialty needs or require treatment outside of the clinic, we arrange appointments and monitor the process to ensure the best customer service possible.”

He notes that he is very proud of the clinic’s transparent operations, reliable and quality-controlled customer services. The staff consists of 100+ physicians, nurses, radiology and laboratory technicians, customer service, billing and back office support. People in customer service speak seven languages, all doctors speak English and have international experience.

Transparency

Although, about three quarters of the clientele are expats living in Hungary temporarily or permanently, Dennis A. Diokno sees the number of Hungarian patients growing. He is of the view that while, in general, health awareness is growing and people have more money to spend, the primary reason for growth is the declining conditions in the state healthcare system in the country. There are frequent reports of underpaid and overworked doctors and nurses and there is a ‘gratuity’ system in place. Patients pay into the pockets of doctors and nurses for services that they are otherwise entitled to for ‘free’. He stresses that this is why one of the great advantages Hungarian patients appreciate at FirstMed is transparency.

Expansion

Regarding plans to expand services in Budapest and in the region, the CEO highlights that “we currently occupy the entire fifth floor of the Hattyúház office building. This January, we signed a lease to take additional space to begin offering out-patient surgery. However, our expansion is not limited to the Hattyúház building. We have a plan for additional locations in the city as well as elsewhere in Hungary. As for regional development, we began working on a project in Italy last year and we expect our clinic in Rome to open in the second half of this year. We are also looking at other major cities in the region.”

Social responsibility

Describing the guidelines of the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy and practice, Dennis A. Diokno points out that “from our first year in Budapest, our clinic has always supported charitable causes. We focus on organizations that are healthcare and child related. The Robert Burns International Foundation and the Csodalámpa (Magic Lamp) Foundation receive the largest portions of our charitable gifts, but we support many foundations and causes with cash and in-kind donations.”

He adds that FirstMed is very proud of its CSR programs, it is at the core of their values and activities. “Being a health care provider, we have spent a lot of time supporting sick children by working closely with Csodalámpa Alapítvány for over ten years now. Our colleagues work as volunteers as we know first-hand how much a joyful and positive experience can contribute to the healing of a child or sadly sometimes only to the daily survival.”

FirstMed also started supporting the Robert Burns International Foundation several years ago. The foundation focuses its efforts on raising money to benefit sick and underprivileged children in Hungary and Central Europe. “We sponsored the foundation’s curling tournament, which brought companies together to introduce people to the sport and we sent the leading FirstMed team to the annual Burns Supper.”

The Managing Director concludes by saying that “we are active members of several chambers. With the British Chamber of Commerce in Hungary (BCCH), we offer networking platforms as well as training opportunities for SMEs to gain contemporary digital business skill sets.”

Kosice region to launch new tourist sites

Over EUR 1.2 million will be spent for the development of tourism in the Region of Ko¹ice this year, which is a significant leap upwards. The regional tourism organization is planning new trips, regular tourist trains, larger investment projects, as well as activities related to the Ice Hockey World Championship.

A significantly higher amount of public funds will be spent in the area of tourism in the Ko¹ice Region this year than the last year. This was said at the opening press conference of the Ko¹ice Region at the ITF Slovakiatour 2019 Travel Fair in Bratislava.

"The Ko¹ice Region is so diverse that all types of tourists would find in it their favourite destination. The number of visitors and overnight stays has been rising year after year; last summer, over 11% more guests were accommodated in the facilities in this region than in the same period of the year 2017. Our shared task is therefore to continuously improve the level of infrastructure, products, and services, support active entrepreneurs or associations, and inspire other entities by providing them with examples of good practice. For these reasons, the Ko¹ice Self-governing Region spending on tourism will exceed the sum of € 1.2 million this year which is significantly more money than last year. I believe this fact clearly reflects our methodology and approach to tourism as an area of high-potential economy“, says the Ko¹ice Self-governing Region President Rastislav Trnka.

Ice Hockey World Championship

As he added, exceptional projects, activities, and publicity have been successful in increasing the attractiveness of this region as a tourist destination. Improving transport accessibility, offering trips, developing tourist infrastructure and services, as well as the Ice Hockey World Championship-related activities. These are the main aims of the regional tourism organization Ko¹ice Region Tourism for the year 2019. „The Ko¹ice Region‘s exhibit will once again be among the largest at the international fair in Bratislava. On an area of 154 m2, we will present the most important thing that characterizes our region this year. In view of the destination, it is the theme of the ice hockey championship, as Ko¹ice will become the capital of the Slovak - „Ice Hockey“ Republic for almost two weeks. As for the exhibitors at our stand, the concept reflects what we consider to be the cornerstone of tourism advancement - cooperation and partnership. Therefore, our regional tourism organizations include representatives of air transport - Turkish Airlines, LOT, Eurowings, and Ko¹ice Airport“, said Lenka Vargová Jurková, the KRT Executive Directress. As she said, a number of novelties is already being prepared for tourism in the Ko¹ice region this year.

Tourist train

This February, the project of an extraordinary tourist train, the Ice Express, was launched in its winter version, which commutes every Saturday. During the main season, the Gemer, Ice, and Tokai Express will be introduced one by one. The KRT is also planning a new offer of all-day organized trips with the programme, the construction of the Promenade by the Zemplínska ©írava Lake or the reconstruction of the cable way to Geravy. In connection with the Ice Hockey World Championship, this organization is preparing short experience trips on which both international and national visitors will have a chance to spend their leisure in case their team will have a day off. The championship activities will also be accompanied by a fun online campaign linking the hockey and the destination of the Ko¹ice Region.

Flights

Ko¹ice International Airport is a major actor in the field of passenger transport in the Ko¹ice region, which will be an important hub in the context of the World Championship. Despite the perturbations of flight destination cancellations (Doncaster, Sheffield, Cologne, Tel Aviv, and recently Bratislava), the airport has also been growing in the number of passengers and the number of frequencies on regular flights. „It was a year of records for us, when we checked in 542,000 passengers. Significant year-on-year leap was achieved by regular air carriers as well as the summer charter season, when the number passengers grew by 40 percent on a year-onyear basis. Since April, Ryanair, the largest airline in Europe with a flight to/from London, will launch its operations in Ko¹ice. So Ko¹ice will enjoy the services of seven airlines. Ko¹ice may be reached from over 500 destinations globally thanks to stable network carriers, which opens up this region to the world, and that is, with respect to the ice hockey championship, excellent“, said Tomá¹ Janèu¹, a member of the Ko¹ice Airport Board of Directors.

Bratislava Region Tourism presentation

The Bratislava Region Tourism regional association will attend the International Fair of Travel (ITF) in the Slovak capital, Bratislava on January 24th-27th to present itself as a destination to the professional and general public.

The Bratislava Region Tourism regional association appears at the Fair in cooperation with the member regional tourism organizations, the Bratislava Tourist Board and the Senec, Little Carpathians, and Záhorie Regions.

The Bratislava Region will be presented as a modern region capable of obliging any type of visitor. Apart from the region’s tourist attractions, visitors will also be acquainted with traditional culinary specialities, wine, beer, and liquors, as well as with a wide variety of activities at the expo. As for the editorial work, new publications entitled Golf, Running and the brochures on such topics as Views, Adrenaline, Sacral Sights, Castles, and Criss-Cross will be premiered.

Bratislava with its background offers opportunities for active rest, the aquatic sports at the Danube, the Little Danube, and the Morava to sportsmen and holidaymakers; it is also a crossroad of the European EuroVelo cycle routes.

Tourism fans will be made familiar with the Záhorie Region, which is tailor-made for peaceful walks through the pine woods or the Morava river bottom land.

The Senec Region offers a wide range of sporting activities at the Sunny Lakes (Slneèné Jazerá) in the summer and wellness services all-year-round.

Wine lovers will get their money’s worth below the Little Carpathians and mountain bikers will be pleased with the unique local forest pistes or singletracks.

The ITF Slovakiatour is one of the most significant events of its kind in Central Europe. Year after year, it provides comprehensive services to the people who are eager to travel abroad or to explore the beauties of Slovakia. Many travel agencies, hotel resorts, tourist attractions as well as foreign tourism marketing headquarters participate here.

Red Cross opens charity café in Budapest

A community space ‘Empathy Cafe & Bistro’ has been opened in the heart of Budapestat the headquarters of the Hungarian Red Cross in Arany János Street. Those visiting the place support the organization's charitable work through their consumption.

The organization says Empathy
is not just a charity café and a bistro, it is also a community and creative
space that proceds a place for discussing important social issues in the spirit of empathy.

The investment was made possible by Google's foundation support and is the
result of extensive domestic co-operation. The companies participating in the
project offered their own products or services free of charge or provided
significant discounts for these good causes.

Diplomatic childhood

In its WittyLeaks series, Diplomac&Trade regularly publishes the personal accounts of diplomatic mission leaders accredited to Budapest. This time, the Canadian Ambassador shares her experiences of being a diplomat with a small child.

For the past two years, I have had the great privilege to serve as the Ambassador of Canada to Hungary, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. My husband is a former German Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium and to the OSCE. Our daughter is having a diplomatic childhood, with all the opportunities but also some of the challenges it offers. Many diplomatic children end up following in their father’s and, more and more, mother’s footsteps. Others settle in their home country, never wanting to see a moving truck ever again.

Caroline is six-years old, and she has already lived in four different countries. She is fluent in French and German, her English is improving by the day – and her Hungarian is much better than ours! Her best school friends at the Lycée français de Budapest are from China, Hungary and Morocco. Such circumstances are, of course, not uncommon for diplomatic children (and many friends and colleagues could tell similar stories), but they still require a good dose of adaptability – on the part of the entire family!

Borshika and other animals

To help with our transition from Vienna to Budapest in the summer of 2016, my husband suggested that we buy a dog for Caroline (then 4), and by pure coincidence, he met a breeder from Siófok, a town by Lake Balaton. All truth be said, I did not meet this idea with unbounded enthusiasm, but it turned out that our Hungarian teckel, Borshika (or Pepper Corn, due to her dark color at birth), has been and will be for years to come a wonderful and constant companion for Caroline – ensuring a stable presence in a sometimes unsettling life.

As parents, my husband and I have also strived to ensure that our daughter felt right ‘at home’, wherever we lived. After Brussels, Ottawa and Vienna, home is now Budapest and we are taking full advantage of what Hungary has to offer when it comes to spending quality time together – be it through regular visits at the Budapest Zoo (a clear favorite!), enjoying a day out on the shores of beautiful Lake Balaton or going a bit further afield to explore the natural beauty of the puszta at the Hortobágy National Park.

A few weeks after we moved to Budapest, my husband found out by chance that the former stables of the Hungarian Horseguards were located a mere five-minute away from our Residence. By then, Caroline had already demonstrated a keen interest in riding and she now benefits twice a week from the well-established Hungarian equestrian tradition. She is quickly becoming a good rider. No doubt seeing the Richter family in action at the Hungarian National Circus, or visiting the Lázár farm near Gödöllõ, has been a further source of inspiration.

Little diplomat

During my previous posting as Canada’s Permanent Representative to the OSCE in Vienna, Caroline was less exposed to my work as a diplomat given the specific dynamic of multilateral work, but she had heard enough stories around our dinner table to decide one day to play the Ambassador. Sitting at an imaginary computer, she started typing furiously, turning to me to ask for which country I needed a visa. She then announced that the visa would be ready only the following day (very quick service!) since she had to deliver a speech at the Hofburg in the meantime. We had a good laugh.

But her first real diplomatic moment came on October 3, 2016 on the occasion of the presentation of my credentials to the President of Hungary, His Excellency János Áder. Officially part of the Canadian Delegation attending what is a very impressive ceremony combining military pomp and state protocol, Caroline was introduced to and shook the hand of the President as if this was the most natural thing of the world. This is now a precious memory we share as a family.

While many diplomatic events are clearly not intended for children whose patience can be limited, we take Caroline along (with the host’s permission!) as often as we can, especially during the week-end and when animals are part of the mix. One such occasion was the Diplomat’s Polo Cup held at the Hungarian Polo Club in Tabajd in partnership with the Embassy of Argentina. More recently, I took Caroline to the end-of-year show of the Hungarian National Circus School, staged by the Artistic Director of the famous Montreal-based circus company ‘Les 7 doigts’, Samuel Tétreault. Of note, this very poetic, yet highly technical show will be presented to the public later this summer as part of the Sziget Festival.

For me as a representative of Canada, it is particularly exciting when Caroline attends events with a decidedly Canadian flavor. She cheered on the Canadian national hockey team when it played against the Hungarian team in Budapest in 2017 (for the record, Canada prevailed in the end but Hungary scored first and put up a good fight). She had her first maple syrup pancakes at the ‘Cabane à sucre’ event organized at the Cafe Dumas/French Institute as part of last year’s celebrations of Francophonie Month in Hungary. And she is always happy to join us at the annual Canada Day reception, where her special task is to draw the name of the winner of the tombola.

Living abroad as a family

However, diplomatic children are not the only beneficiaries in this story. I am convinced that other diplomatic parents will agree with me when I say that living abroad as a family is a very enriching experience as one sees things not only through his or her own eyes but also through the eyes of children and discovers many places they would not have otherwise known about.

As a diplomat, I am also constantly inspired by my daughter in my daily work because she makes me a better person. Thanks to her love for nature and for the animals (all of them!), I am more strongly committed to the protection of the environment and convinced of the need to handover to future generations a planet in better health, from fighting climate change to limiting oceans’ plastic pollution. This year, we have devoted specific efforts to make all the Embassy’s events more bio-friendly, notably by refraining from using non-recyclable items.

Granted, I was a convinced feminist well before I had a child due to the fact that my own parents brought us up, my brother and I, in a very equal and supportive environment, but being a parent has made me even more convinced of the need to make gender inequality history (which was a key theme at the recent G7 Summit hosted by Canada in Charlevoix) and to ensure that boys and girls alike are provided with equal opportunities, including good educations, to realize their dreams.

In this, I am helped by a wonderful role-model in the person of Canada’s Governor General, the Right Honorable Julie Payette, who flew two missions in space and became Chief Astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency. She is thus the living proof that sky is not the limit after all – something I hope my daughter will always remember, whether she chooses to become a diplomat or not.

The steppe in my heart!

In the WittyLeaks series, Diplomac&Trade regularly publishes the personal accounts of ambassadors and other diplomatic mission leaders accredited to Budapest. this time, the departing Kazakh ambassador shares his 'sacred memories of a friendly Hungary'.

During my years in Hungary, I visited almost all regions of this beautiful country, where history and the present, traditions and new trends intertwine. This country is dominated by beautiful architecture, stunning natural landscape, delicious, exotic and rich gastronomy, and famous Hungarian wines. The charming Lake Balaton and Tihany will always remain in my memory.

Pearl of the Danube

Apart from this, I would like to mention the pearl of the Danube: the city of Budapest. I'm just enchanted by the beautiful scenery, beautiful nature and magnificent architecture. I love to take a stroll in the Royal Palace, on Mount Gellért, along the central streets of Pest and next to the majestic Parliament building.

I visited the famous museums, and of course, the famous thermal springs. What impresses me in this country is that there are a large number of festivals where guests can get acquainted with the Hungarian culture and traditions. In particular, Kazakh people like the ‘Spring and Autumn Festival’, the ‘Opera and Ballet Festival’ and the ‘Budapest International Wine Festival’. During winter, you can enjoy the bustle of the Christmas markets.

Feeling at home

While I was working here, I felt like I was in Kazakhstan because, between our countries, there is close historical proximity. Also, there is a desire to revive national culture and traditions and a mutual interest to study common historical roots.

As you know, the descendants of the Kipchak tribes reside in Hungary. They came from the Turgai steppes in the first half of the 13th century. It should be noted that in 2007, our Head of State Nursultan Nazarbayev was elected as honorary leader of the Hungarian Kipchaks.

So, what do we have in common? Kazakhs and Hungarians were nomadic peoples: they lived in yurts, were engaged in breeding cattle and were belligerent. Being nomads, Hungarians, like Kazakhs, especially venerated horses. In Hungarian language, there are many words that are similar to Kazakh words: ‘Anya’ – mother, ‘alma’ – apple, ‘kerek (kérek)’ – I need it, ‘alacsony’ – low, ‘kicsi’ – small, ‘keshik (késik)’ – late, ‘balta’ – an axe, ‘sakal (szakáll)’ –beard. For me, it was amazing to see that in the town of Karcag traditional competition for cooking a dish of mutton ‘pörkölt’ (stew) is held annually, which is, according to taste and the method of cooking, no different from the Kazakh dish called ‘kuyrdak’.

Warm and trustful relationship

I am pleased that my official mission was in a timeframe that included such a significant date as the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. After all, a warm and trustful relationship was developed and a strategic partnership has been established between Kazakhstan and Hungary in this – by historical standards – short period.

It should be noted that in 1992, Hungary became one of the first states to recognize Kazakhstan as an independent state, and in 1993, it was in Budapest that we opened our first diplomatic mission in Central and Eastern Europe.

A powerful impetus to the expansion of the bilateral dialogue was provided by the visits to Hungary of the President of our country Nursultan Nazarbayev in 1994 and 2007, as well as the visits to Kazakhstan by Presidents of Hungary Árpád Göncz in 1997 and Pál Schmitt in 2010 and by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in 2012 and 2015. In recent years, there have also been a number of official visits at the level of heads of governments and foreign ministries. Today, our countries have solid legal bases, successfully working intergovernmental commissions on trade, economic and legal cooperation, and an inter-parliamentary friendship group.

In recent years, all our efforts have been focused on the implementation of a number of joint economic projects:

– in 2016, the Kazakh-Hungarian Agricultural Private Equity Fund was established with an authorized capital of USD 40 million. Currently, there is an active implementation of projects in Kazakhstan for which we wish to get advanced Hungarian technologies;

– the opening of direct air service between Astana and Budapest in June 2017 was the result of years of scrupulous routine work; the Hungarian company Wizz Air became an official carrier. This flight is very popular among Kazakh people and our Hungarian friends.

– the Hungarian side allocated 200 grants for Kazakh students who are already studying in almost all Hungarian cities with universities (Budapest, Pécs, Debrecen, etc.). We are certain that they contribute to our friendly and strategic relations.

Along with this, cultural cooperation is the ‘core’ of bilateral interaction. In recent years, famous Kazakh creative groups (Astana Opera, Astana Ballet, etc.) performed in the best concert halls in Hungary.

Also in 2014, an ‘Astana street’ was officially inaugurated in Budapest, where a bust of the Kazakh poet Abay Kunanbayev was installed. In turn, in our capital, Astana, a street was named after Budapest.

We support Hungarian youth who show an increased interest in learning the Kazakh language. For example, Kazakh language and literature are lectured at the University of Szeged and the People's University of Lakitelek. Former students of these universities are already working for the benefit of our countries.

Opened in 2014, the honorary department ‘The Kazakh Way and Nursultan Nazarbayev’ at the Kodolányi János University of Applied Sciences and the center of Kazakh literature and culture at the Hungarian National Széchényi Library evoke particular interest among our Hungarian friends.

Saying good-bye

In summary, I would like to note that it was an honor for me to be a part of the intensification of relations on a whole range of issues on the bilateral agenda. I am sure that the next Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Hungary will do everything possible to strengthen and expand diplomatic relations between Astana and Budapest.

These are the last days of my stay in Hungary as a diplomat. While collecting personal belongings and books, I unwittingly leaf through the collections of poems by Sándor Petõfi. As one of them ‘Hazámban’ (In my homeland) says:

“The steppe expanse in golden wheat,

Where the mirage conjures in summer heat

With play of foggy, ghost paintings are done!

Look at me! Recognized? I'm your son!”

(free translation)

This verse immediately brings to my mind parallels with the text of the anthem of Kazakhstan, which begins with the lines:

“In her sky, is the golden sun,

In its steppes, is the golden grain...”

(free translation)

I feel that longing for home is starting to show. Soon, I will return to my native steppe expanse, whose son I was born to be. However, in my heart, I will always keep a sacred memory of a friendly Hungary.

The birth of modern circus remembered

Argentine ambassador Maximiliano Gregorio-Cernadas, welcomed the staff of the Capital Circus of Budapest in his residence at the 250th anniversary of the modern circus. The guests of the event, including several ambassadors, were entertained by Argentinian and Hungarian artists, among them Agustín Viglione from Argentina who impressed his audience with a magical bubble performance.

This January, Agustín Viglione will be one of the stars n January 2018 of the Budapest Circus Festival iwhose organizer is the Capital Circus of Budapest.

A horse statue symbolizing the 250 years of the modern circus was temporarily set up in front of the Argentine residence on Andrássy Avenue.

Love letter to the homeland

One of the aims of the Italian week in Budapest this November was to support the application of the Prosecco Hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene for the title ‘UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage’. In the framework of the campaign, the movie ‘Finché c'è prosecco c'è speranza’ (As long as there is prosecco, there is hope), which debuted at Festival Venezia 2017, was screened for the first time in Hungary and followed by a tasting of the famous wine.

The director of the film, Antonio
Padovan was born and raised in Venice, Italy, but has lived in America for a
long time. He told Diplomacy&Trade, before the premier of his full-length
feature film, that he went to New York City as an architect but he always liked
films and he managed to get a film scholarship there. “After finishing the one-year
course, I decided not to go back to Italy because my girlfriend, my friends, my
job all tied me to New York City.”

Most of his films have been
shot in the West Village neighborhood of New York City. “I like this city a
lot. It is a place where a lot of different people live together, they live
nicely together and all this reflects my idea of the world,” the director said.

Although, he lives in the
United States, he chose an Italian theme for his first full-length feature
film. “This is the first time that a movie has been shot around the hills where
I was born. Those are the hills where they make Prosecco wine, an area about 40
kilometers from Venice in the northeast of Italy. I have been living in New
York City for almost 12 years and in the past few years, I have felt the need
to come back home. With this new job, I found a way to pay homage to my land.
It was a little bit of nostalgia, a little bit of my wish to show to the world
the place where I was born and grew up. For me, it is almost like a love letter
to my hometown.”

The film follows Inspector
Stucky investigating a series of murders and the theatrical suicide of
Desiderio Ancillotto, a count who lives in the hills of Conegliano and
Valdobbiadene, in a story that recounts the conflict between greed and respect
for the land. “I think the movie has a very strong message about justice. The bad
guys seem to be the good guys and vice versa. It is very hard for the main
character to understand who the bad guy is, but also, he talks about the environment
and how we want to either make money very quickly or think about how we live. In
a way, he celebrates a lifestyle that is a little bit slower, takes his time
and enjoys a slower rhythm,” the director summarized.

Antonio Padovan gave up being
an architect but he still likes architecture. “I really like the environment, a
little bit like Woody Allen did as the city became a character in his films. My
set designer said I am a ‘pain in the ass’ because I am always checking every
detail. He said ‘hey, you should look at the actors not the background!
However, I still use my architect’s eye.”

He explained why he works as a
writer and film director. “This prosecco movie was taken from a book of the
same title and I wrote the movie script together with the writer of the novel.
I do not think I could direct a movie that was written for somebody else or
write a movie for another director. So far, I have been lucky that I can do
both. Also, when I write I already know how I want to see it done. I am a
director in the first place and writing is what I have to go through to get the
movie done properly – it is part of the job. Some people like to write more, I
just prefer to direct.”

Guy Fawkes bonfire night party

The Grand Ballroom of the Marriott Hotel was “on fire” recently. Not literally of course, but certainly the 200 or so guests that gathered to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day in Hungary and raise funds for local children’s charities were in a feverish state throughout the night.

HUF 5.356 million was raised, a record amount for this annual soiree that was attended by Budapest’s business, cultural and diplomatic communities and was organized, as always, by Xpatloop. This extravagant evening, with its backdrop of majestic views over the Danube and Royal Palace, also marked Xpatloop’s 17th anniversary.

The evening featured a myriad of food and drinks and festivities that included a virtual fireworks display, a fireworks dance performance, wine casino games and live musical entertainment. The fundraising efforts included a raffle, art auction, silent auction and one of the highlights of the night, a live auction which was once again conducted with finesse by HE British Ambassador Iain Lindsay OBE. Neither the evening itself, nor the fundraising efforts, would have been possible without the many outstanding individuals and companies who supported this event.

The beneficiaries of all the donations made at the event this year are the following Hungarian charities: ‘Young People in Need’ (Rászoruló Fiatalok), which focuses on solutions to the emotional abuse of children, the ‘Magic Lamp Wish Granting Foundation’ (Csodalámpa Alapítvány), which supports children suffering from a life-threatening illness, and SOS Children’s Village, which sponsors children to give them a loving family home, education and healthcare.

HE Iain Lindsay OBE summed it up perfectly: “Well done to XpatLoop for organizing a fantastic Bonfire Night party. It was a lovely event which raised a record total for Hungarian children’s charities. A huge thanks to all those who contributed so generously!”

The week of the Italian cuisine

The week between Novermber 20 and 26 will see a series of events orgnaized in Budapest in the framework of the ‘Week of the Italian cuisine’. The Hungarian public will have the opportunity to learn about Italian gastronomy - and even have a taste.

It is now the second time that the ‘Week of the Italian cuisine’ takes place between November 20 and 26, organized by the entire diplomatic-consular network and the Italian cultural institutes involved in organizing over a thousand activities. In Budapest, the Embassy of Italy – together with the Italian Institute of Culture, the Italian Agency of Foreign Trade (ICE), the Italian Tourism Agency (ENIT), the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Hungary and the Italian Academy of Cuisine – has created a series of events that bring to the limelight Italian quality cuisine and the story of the Italian countryside. The organizers also thank the Fondazione UniVerde and the Consorzio Tutela del vino Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco for their support.

As for the details, this second ‘Week of the Italian cuisine’ focuses:

● on the inseparable pairing of ‘quality kitchen and wine’ combined with tasting evenings at restaurants that have joined the initiative;

● on the presentation of Italy’s small historical towns and villages. These are the symbols of invaluable artistic and architectural heritage and of Italian culture embodied in the encounter of increasingly rare cultural and gastronomy traditions;

● on the presentation/promotion of wine gastronomy traditions through a communication campaign on Facebook and through drawing premium Italian products among participants;

● on the round table devoted to Italian quality food of extraordinary value and the presentation of Italian food culture based on the Mediterranean diet, which is unanimously recognized as healthy and nutritious as well as useful to counteract cellular aging and cardiovascular disease, a diet that is part of UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage;

● on supporting the applications of the ‘Art of Neapolitan Pizzaioli’ and the ‘Prosecco Hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene’ for the title ‘UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage’ by providing information with the involvement of Hungarian catering establishments;

● on supporting the presence in Budapest programs of third-generation pizza maker Fabio Cristiano, the founder of the "Scuola di pizzaiolo” (Pizza maker school).

Other scheduled events include screenings of films, thematic documentaries and the photographic exhibition ‘Food at one click’. In addition, the film ‘As long as there is prosecco, there is hope’ (debuting at Festival Venezia 2017) will be screened – for the first time in Hungary – and followed by a tasting of the famous wine.

World Press Photo: record number of visitors

Close to 34,000 people visited this year's World Press Photo exhibition in the Museum of Ethnography in Budapest. It is an outstanding number as the average attendance in the past years in Hungary was 20-25,000 people.

A value creating community

The Hungarian Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSDH) celebrates its ten-year anniversary. On this good occasion to look back, Diplomacy&Trade talked to the President of the
organization, Attila Chikán, Jr.

“In 2007, 15 companies and one private individual decided that businesses in Hungary should act to promote sustainability. To provide a framework for that, the establishment of the Hungarian branch of the World Business Council (WBCSD) was an excellent opportunity. That was how the Hungarian Business Council for Sustainable Development Public Benefit Association was formed. In the early years, the focus was on the involvement of similarly-minded companies and a continuous dialogue. Today, the organization has 80 corporate members that produce 30% of the Hungarian GDP and employ 400,000 people,” BCSDH President Attila Chikán, Jr. tells Diplomacy&Trade.

As to what he believes the greatest achievement of BCSDH over this first decade has been, the President points out that “we can be proud of the organization not only when we look at how big it has become, but also when we see the milestones. In 2012, with the CEOs of member companies, we created a core document for corporate sustainability. This guide to business leaders called ‘The Complex Interpretation of Corporate Sustainability’ highlights seven key pillars and has been signed by over 100 companies and organizations. I can also mention the Action 2020 Hungary program, set out in 2014, with the primary purpose to call for companies to take real action through a set of business solutions in the interest of sustainability. During the four years of work since the program’s inception, we have had over 100 scientists, civil and corporate experts and nearly 70 executives participating in the process. There are dozens of business solutions on the action2020.hu website.”

The President also finds it important to mention the ‘Future Leaders’ program in which the 100th talent has been given certificate this year. “This program is unique in its own right as people delegated by our member companies, can learn firsthand – not only from science and civil experts but also from experts of other member companies – about the theory and practice of sustainability. What is more, they can do this on-site, in corporate venues.”

A value-creating community

Regarding the attractiveness of BCSDH to its 80 corporate members, Attila Chikán quotes one of the member companies by saying “we are a value-creating community for business leaders – and I can only agree with that. It is an organization in which active work is taking place with the personal involvement of senior executives. This requires a real commitment from companies and business leaders alike.”

He adds that BCSDH creates platforms where sustainability issues and their solutions can be discussed in an honest and inspirational way. “I am convinced that with the help of these events, we can achieve a real impact. What managers take home, to their companies, from an event can lead to positive changes. Membership enables companies to participate in programs such as our ‘Future Leaders’ talent program, business lunches and breakfasts. Every year, we hold our annual big event, our business lunch, where – in addition to presenting our professional work and a dialogue – we also have renowned speakers giving insight into the business aspect of sustainability. We also strive for 2-3 business breakfasts annually to provide real inspiration to business leaders. ”

When talking about sustainability, people tend to think it is just a vague idea that costs money with not much return. The BCSDH President’s reaction to that statement is that fewer and fewer people think that way. “There is growing perception and understanding that if we want to live in acceptable conditions we have to deal with these issues, and even from the point of view of the present, we can create a world that is much closer to the principles that we like to represent, that is better than the present world. I think these ideas are spreading rapidly, and there are fewer and fewer people who do not see the importance of it, so, I am absolutely optimistic about this.”

People reached through companies

In disseminating the idea of sustainability, Attila Chikán says BCSDH focuses on companies, works with companies and wants to reach wider layers of society through them. However, companies are made up of people. “When communicating through fellow workers, towards consumers and towards suppliers, we are extending the sustainability solutions we have. This is called scale-up. So, we want to achieve this goal through the companies and since our membership, with a total of 400,000 employees, is a fairly integral part of the Hungarian economy, I believe this is a pretty powerful approach.”

Attila Chikán is about half way through of his three-year presidency. “When I was elected president, I set three goals. One of these was that I would like to continue the very successful processes and activities. I think that I have managed to achieve this goal. The second thing I said was that I wanted to make BCSDH, our activities and our goals more visible in a wider circle with a more conscious communication. The communication of our events has become broader, more professional and more comprehensible, and thus, it reaches more people. Obviously, this is a continuous activity. The third goal was to build and deepen the relationship with other WBCSD affiliates and policy makers. I am satisfied with our foreign relations because we have an active presence in WBCSD. At the invitation of the German organization, we participated in a broader consultation and our ‘Future Leaders’ program is a benchmark for other member organizations.”

The issue of specific sustainability policies is somewhat more difficult. “It is where we can achieve more results in bilateral negotiations. We have yet to see politicians in charge of specific areas proactively ‘pounce’ on this issue but the process has started. The best example to date is the consultation in Parliament on June 16 with the National Council for Sustainable Development (NFFT). This is a slow and difficult process, we still have a lot of work ahead of us,” he adds.

Valuable programs

As regards the future direction of development for BCSDH, the President says the primary focus is on moving along the three goals he mentioned. “In addition, our membership system is strong enough – which, of course, does not mean that we are closed to new entrants – and in the future, the main objective will be to work with the existing partners on as many issues as possible. And, if necessary, we can extend this partnership to new players, for example, higher education. We certainly want to continue the ‘Action 2020 Hungary’ program, now in conjunction with the 2030 SDG goals. We are also working on the further development of our ‘Future Leaders’ program. Our primary goal is to maintain the valuable programs that have been successful, so far, but to always find the new form and innovativeness that will keep us up to the standard that encourages top managers to actively participate.”

As an example, he highlights the prize ‘For a Sustainable Future’ launched at the 10th Anniversary. It is designed to acknowledge – and present in a wider circle – outstanding corporate, leadership and personal achievements in the field of sustainability. “This is the first year we  award this in the ‘Change Leaders’, ‘Business Solutions’ and ‘Leading Women’ categories. This is another new initiative that we definitely wish to continue and develop,” the BCSDH President concludes.

Former president's bust unveiled in Budapest

Former President of the Republic of Hungary had his bust unveiled in the Óbuda University park, which is in the neighborhood of the one-time residency of the late President. Árpád Göncz was the President of the country between 1990 and 2000. He passed away in the fall of 2015, at the age of 94.

Region's largest tomato processing plant opens

The Hungarian Univer Product Co. Ltd. has opened Central Europe’s largest tomato processing plant in Kecskemét, southeast of Budapest. The Hungarian government contributed almost half of the investment costs of the project.

"Our flagship industries also include the Hungarian food industry, and accordingly it is particularly important to increase performance within this field”, Minister for National Economy Mihály Varga said at the official inauguration.

The Minister added that the most important role in the advancement of the Hungarian economy is played by those businesses that have suitable professional expertise and are capable of adapting to market requirements, which they achieve through the continuous development of their products and production methods. “This is why the Government launched the Large Enterprise Investment Programme in 2015, which has so far facilitated the realisation of 70 billion forints (EUR 231 million) worth of capacity-expanding investments on the part of 49 enterprises, and contributed to the creation of a total of almost 1650 new workplaces.”

Thanks to the new project, the company will be able to produce its outstanding quality tomato purees, which are competitive on both export and domestic markets, at double capacity, in addition to creating new jobs. The Hungarian government contributed to the 4.3 billion forint investment with 2.1 billion forints (EUR 7 million).