Blood is thicker than water. Knowledge ennobles. Language is the key to the world. Humility is a force that carries us forward. How does a master of diplomacy build bridges, relieve frictions and tensions in international relations? Wherein does the power of the female mind and heart in creating peaceful cooperation lie? The Spanish Ambassador is a savant of ancient secrets, a credible torchbearer in a challenging environment. Let’s drink her words…
The Ambassador's other passion: Writing (Photo: Private archive)
Take a Look Behind the Scenes…
For many, diplomacy is a mysterious, obscure, and boggy area. There is hardly anything to know about the negotiations – dancing on the sharp edge of the sword and striving for mutually beneficial solutions – behind the events playing in front of our eyes, as well as being in the crossfire of various political and economic forces.
However, it is exactly these highly educated, intelligent diplomats and their enthusiastic, devoted staff who, in the midst of the overwhelming deluge of information and fake news, safely build the framework of peaceful international cooperation in the background.
My articles include thoughts and stories by authentic personalities (ambassadors, attachés, and other members of the diplomatic corps, as well as well-known and respected persons) who carry out their jobs as a true mission to build and develop international relations in the interests of fruitful cooperation. One of them is the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to Hungary, H.E. Anunciada Fernández de Córdova y Alonso-Viguera, who is taking us on a journey through the mysterious and exciting world of diplomacy.
How much did the fact of you coming from a diplomatic family and living in a number of foreign countries from as long as you can remember shaped your way into diplomacy? Did you have anything else in mind or heart?
I was a very shy little girl as a child, and I had a hard time changing countries, schools, friends… I was always the new one, the outsider of the tribe but, at the same time, I was very curious, and one of my aspirations was to become an explorer. One Christmas, I wrote in my letter to the Three Kings (the ones who in Spain bring presents for the children) that I wanted “explorer binoculars”, perhaps a premonition: My father, a diplomat himself, was touched by this.
I also went through a phase of wanting to become a parachutist or a bullfighter, but I suppose that goes together with the adventurous spirit. Being a child of a diplomat has one advantage: You get to learn languages, which is very useful to become a diplomat and is something you cannot improvise.
In the company of Hungarian Minister of Defense Dr. Tibor Benkő (16.10.2018) (Photo: Private archive)
Authenticity and Pride
Not only your upbringing but also your curriculum provides you with all the tools to be authentic in representing your homeland abroad. What has been your most memorable assignment so far and why?
Travelling with HM The King in some of his official trips, seeing his prestige and how he represents Spain made me feel very proud. Accompanying the corpse of an Ecuadorian victim of a terrorist attack by ETA back to Ecuador for the burial in his homeland was very moving. Receiving the incomparable sculptures from Valladolid Sculpture Museum for an exhibition I organized in the Narodna galerija in Slovenia was thrilling. Attending the Ibero-American Summits, which gather the chiefs of state or prime ministers of all 22 Ibero-American countries, and getting to know all of them, speaking Spanish with all of them, was very interesting. I could enumerate hundreds of memorable and very different moments dealing with social, political, economic, scientific, or cultural matters in my diplomatic career…
Royal Tradition and Responsibility
The royal tradition is deeply rooted in the mind of the Spanish people. Having served at His Majesty The King’s Office, what are the values attached to that very historic image in your opinion?
The King is above the political debate. I think it is good to have a figure that does not compete for elections, someone who represents Spain and its unity. The King, of course, must, as Felipe VI has said on several occasions, “earn” his crown every day and lead a life which is worthy of the respect of the Spanish people.
With former King of Spain Juan Carlos I and her beloved father (1994) (Photo by Dalda)
Attracted by Hungary
Having lived as a child and later served as your country’s ambassador in Slovenia brought you close to Hungary. What are your recollections from back then and your experiences from your current mission on the Hungarian people?
My first trip to Budapest was when I was very young and my father was Ambassador to Prague (then Czechoslovakia), around 1979. Pure communism then, although my impression was that Hungary was not as tough as Czechoslovakia.
Many years later, I travelled on several occasions to Budapest, driving from Ljubljana, while I was serving as Ambassador there. I remember one of those occasions was to attend a splendid exhibition on Cézane at the Szepművészeti Múzeum, another an unforgettably beautiful dinner at the same museum for the opening of a baroque exhibition (I then accompanied a good friend of mine, the director of the Narodna galerija, which had lent some of the paintings), and I also enjoyed strolling around Budapest, visiting the spas, restaurants. One of those visits was on July 02, with my son, and Budapest was that weekend the hottest capital of the world, with Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. This was a surprise for me because I expected Budapest to be cold in the winter, but I never would have thought it was so hot in the summer!
Portrait at the residence (29.10.2018) (Photo by Turizmusonline.hu)
Now, serving as the Ambassador of Spain to Hungary, I have the opportunity of diving deep inside a country I was familiar with because I was responsible for Hungary back at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Spain. I cycle in Pest, I enjoy the fantastic cultural offer, especially the musical offer (I am a fan of Müpa, of the Liszt Academy, and of BMC), I travel around the country, I hike at Normafa, I discover the delicious Hungarian food and wines in restaurants and csárdas… I keep my eyes and my ears wide open to get to know as much as I can from this amazing country and its people. I think if you ask a Spaniard what he or she thinks of Hungarians, he or she will say: Nice people. I share that opinion, and I have also personally discovered something about the Hungarian philosophy: If something is simple, why not complicate it?
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What were your initial goals when presenting your credentials and what have you been able to effectuate in this almost one year of your mission to Budapest?
Our bilateral relations are more intense than I had foreseen, in all fields: Economy, tourism, education, culture… And I am working hard to increase them.
I visit Spanish companies, which are doing very well. There are big Spanish investments in Hungary: Automotive sector, hotels, and others; a total of around 270 companies with 4,500 employees.
The interest in the Spanish language is rocketing and we firmly support that. I visit periodically the bilingual (Spanish-Hungarian) sections in secondary schools around the country and in my meetings with students and teachers, I always stress the fact that Spanish is spoken, as a native language, by 470 million people in the world. I get acquainted with cultural institutions so as to complete an interesting cultural program. I believe culture is the best bridge between the people of two countries.
Presenting her credentials to Hungarian President János Áder (25.06.2018) (Photo by KEH | KKM Protokoll)
Tourism is also soaring: 280,000 Hungarian tourists visited Spain last year, and there are 12 direct destinations, from Budapest or Debrecen, to Spain. I have organized meetings with tour operators, Hungarian businessmen, or directors of cultural institutions in my residence. I try to cover all topics and get acquainted with all the possible actors in our bilateral relations.
Gastronomy and wine are also fields in which we have a lot to do: A Spanish-Hungarian company produces mangalica ham and a prestigious Spanish winery produces wines in Tokaj. Talking about wine, on May 03, there will be an interesting major event on Spanish wines: Fiesta de Vino!
I would like to underline that last December the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, visited Hungary, the first official bilateral visit in 11 years. Conversations, both with Prime Minister Orbán and with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Péter Szíjjártó, touched all fields of our bilateral relations, with sincerity and the best will to cooperate.
There are many aspects in which Spain and Hungary can work together. In fact, as a follow-up of that visit, last February, the Director General for EU Affairs came to Budapest and met his Hungarian counterparts. Last February, too, Minister Szíjjártó organized a presentation and a lunch for the Spanish company F. Segura, which has invested 14 million euros in its plant in Szolnok. In the last days, the Spanish company Fluidra has won an important contract for public swimming pools (Aquaticum Nagyerdei strand) in Debrecen.
With Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell at the Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest (17.12.2018) (Photo: Private archive)
In view of the turbulences the European Union has been facing for some time, with internal disruptions and the migration crisis in particular (Spain being highly affected), how can our two nations support each other’s agenda for a mutually positive outcome on a bi- and multilateral basis?
During my Minister’s visit last December, migrations were one of the topics on the agenda, both with Prime Minister Orbán and with Minister Szíjjártó. Spain and Hungary have different views, but we also have points in common, and one of them is the will to work with the countries of origin and transit, and to help them in a preventive way so that people will not have to leave their countries in the first place. This is the policy Spain has successfully been implementing since 2006. Looking at the future, enhanced cooperation with third countries (of origin and transit) will contribute to manage migratory flows in a predictable and sustainable way.
On the other hand, Spain has a very long maritime border, which is an external border of the EU. Hungary and Spain strive to have our national efforts of defending that external border recognized. In this realm, both countries consider member states play a fundamental role to be complemented by EU Agencies.
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Honesty and Mutual Respect
The minor friction last September, due to a remark by Spain’s foreign minister, resulted in you being summoned by the Hungarian party in order to discuss the xenophobic charges. Without going into classified details, will you please tell us what (diplomatic) solutions you can choose from to relieve unnecessary tension between friends and allies in such an unfortunate situation?
I was summoned because of some declarations of my Minister at a round table in Madrid, and what I underlined with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs was that my Minister had been critical but always respectful. I also stressed the fact that he was coming to Hungary under Minister Szíjjártó’s invitation. Sincerity and respect presided over the conversations that Mr. Borrell had with PM Orbán and Minister Szíjjártó during his visit, and both Hungary and Spain agree that it was a very successful one.
As for my relationship with the Deputy Minister, you can look at the picture in which we are both holding a paella: An image is worth a thousand words.
Holding a giant paella with Levente Magyar, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary (08.01.2019) (Photo: Private archive)
Being a Woman in Diplomacy
Women’s rights being an important issue to you, what are your experiences with serving in the field of diplomacy as a Lady Ambassador? What differences do you notice compared to the era when your father pursued his professional path as a diplomat?
The step forward from my father’s period to now has been enormous. Some days ago, I saw some pictures in the newspaper dating back to March 25, 1957, when the Treaty of Rome, founding the European Community, was signed: There were only men, which would look shocking nowadays. I have found myself being the only woman at some meetings but this is, thankfully, less and less frequent.
In Hungary, where we are 22 ladies out of 85 ambassadors, we have some special occasions in which being a woman opens the door to gathering with Hungarian officials. That is, for example, the case of a very pleasant and interesting lunch that Minister Szíjjártó organizes for Lady Ambassadors.
Meeting of Lady Ambassadors accredited to Hungary at Károlyi Castle in Fehérvárcsurgó (02.10.2018) (Photo
Besides your chosen vocation, you are also a renowned, award-winning author of poems and narratives. In which ways does this deeply-rooted passion and artistry assist you in becoming whole and better in your profession? What are the driving factors of you being such a colorful person?
I have a need to express myself and literature is the best way for me to do so. Diplomatic life means travelling, meeting people from different countries, different traditions – many possibilities of inspiration if one knows how to look at things, and a writer, as a painter, has to have her own glance and her own voice. Poetry is very much a question of your own personal view of things, of what things strike your attention. Living in different countries can be hard but it enriches and opens your mind. I speak about this in El vuelo de los días (i.e. The Flight of Days) that I wrote in a period in which I had to travel a lot because of professional reasons and writing was, in fact, a way of keeping the roots with my own self. As for poetry, it unites philosophy and music. It is a way to go beyond words, to squeeze all the juice out of them so as to be able to express what you essentially feel deep down.
Colorful person?! Thank you! Perhaps you say that because I love dancing!
The author at a public reading in Getafe, Spain (06.06.2016) (Photo by Pedro González | Fundación José Hierro)
What brings you joy as a private person? What do you do to refill your energy level in this demanding position?
Music and nature. As I get older, even more so.
Family, of course… I have three wonderful children and two little granddaughters. And friends… I treasure friendship as a very important value in my life. I am very loyal to friends and my friends have supported me in hard moments and shared and enjoyed with me the good ones.
The Ambassador surrounded by her loving family (Photo: Private archive)
If you had the power to change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Empowering women. That, for sure, would be the key to a world with less violence and more justice.
Do you want to know more about Spain, the operation and mission of the Embassy of Spain in Hungary? Are you interested in Spain-related programs and events? Visit the Official Website of the Spanish Embassy...
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