Diplomacy for You

A Journey in the Exciting World of the Art of International Relations

150 Reasons to Love Japan

2019. szeptember 17. 10:35 - IAMedia

This current year, the air is filled with celebration, change, and hope. The dawn of the new ’Reiwa’ (i.e. beautiful harmony) era associated with the new Japanese emperor, His Majesty Naruhito, the entry into force of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, a milestone of multilateral economic cooperation, as well as the 150-year anniversary of diplomatic relations give us enough reason to focus on the strong bond with a special country. Let us embark on a thrilling journey with the help of H.E. Kuni Sato, Ambassador of Japan to Hungary…

jp-sato-kuni-budapest-embassy-office-web-fb.jpgHer Excellency Ambassador Kuni Sato in her office (Photo: Private archive)

 

+++ Kattints ide a cikk magyar változatának olvasásához! +++

 

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.

 

Finding a Solution


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 Japan to Hungary, H.E. Kuni Sato, who is taking us on a journey through the mysterious and exciting world of diplomacy.

Your impressive curriculum spans over a wide range of diplomatic activities (legislation, international agreements, press and PR, WTO, UNESCO, etc.) around the globe. Where does your devotion to public service come from?

It is rooted in my belief in the human abilities to find a solution, which offers a better prospect of life for every participant, nation, or individual.

jp-sato-kuni-press-conference-web.jpgAt the presentation of the logo of the 150th Anniversary of diplomatic relations between Hungary and Japan (Photo: KKM Protokoll)

 

What have been your impressions on Hungary and the Hungarian people since you presented your credentials to President Áder in late 2017?

A country and people rich in history, traditions, and culture, and known for their will to survive.

jp-sato-kuni-wreath-laying-ceremony-web.jpgWreath-laying ceremony at Heroes' Square in Budapest (Photo: KKM Protokoll)

 

Episodes of Bilateral Diplomatic Relations


This year marks the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Hungary, so, there is enough occasion to celebrate. Would you please evaluate their development and current state?

We shall break them down to two main stages: To the period before World War II and to the one that came after.

150 years ago, Japan was about to start its modernization and industrialization. Hungary was to enter into its “golden age”, too. Perhaps due to the physical distance of those days, the relationship was not necessarily intense but definitely amicable. Let me mention just a few episodes.

Episode 1: Tokai Sanshi (Shiba Shiro, 1852-1922) meets Lajos Kossuth (1802-1894) in March 1887
Tokai, pronounced like Tokaj wine, was a samurai who studied in the western world in the early Meiji period. He wrote and published a series of literature entitled ‘Strange encounters of a Beautiful Woman’. In this journalistic-fictional writing, he passionately wrote about the Hungarian revolution of 1848 and the life of Kossuth, as was told in the book by a daughter of the latter. Tokai’s interest in Kossuth and Europe was such that he actually visited the revolutionary in 1887 in Torino, where he was in political exile. One should note that the two countries then shared the passion for modernization and for survival in the rapidly changing world. There is no written record of what they discussed in the meeting but one could imagine a samurai and a revolutionary talking about the future, of Hungary, of Japan, and of the world over a cup of espresso, a glass of Hungarian wine or Japanese sake.

jp-sato-kuni-hungary-japan-150-year-anniversary-diplomatic-relations-logo-web.pngThe official logo of the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Hungary and Japan (Designed by Reiko Toi)

 

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Episode 2: Imaoka Junichiro spends time in Central Cafe in the interwar period
Imaoka was born in 1888, one year after Tokai met Kossuth. He majored in German at university and was introduced in 1914 to a Hungarian ethnographer, Benedek Barathosi Balogh, who came to Japan for a research project. Imaoka helped him as a German interpreter. Thanks to this encounter, Imaoka became interested in Hungary and learned Hungarian. From 1922 to 1931, he lived in Budapest, frequented Central Cafe where artists gathered. In a letter replying to a request for a meeting, he wrote, “I normally can be found at Central Cafe from 1 to 4 p.m.”. He wrote many articles about Japan in Hungarian newspapers and gave lectures. When Japan did not have an embassy in Hungary, he acted as if he was the consul general. On the occasion of the 140th anniversary of Japan–Hungary diplomatic relations, a plaque was hung at the cafe in memory of Imaoka who loved the cafe and Hungary.

Episode 3: Prince and Princess Takamatsu visit Budapest in January 1931
We move from a cafe to a garden. In 1931, an imperial prince and princess of Takamatsu visited the Varga Márton Horticultural School in Budapest to see a newly created Japanese Garden, completed just in 1928. Recently, I visited the garden, which had been renovated with the goodwill of many people, for its celebration of beautiful cherry blossoms. One of the highlights of Mr. Imaoka’s work back in the interwar period was the preparation for the visit by Prince and Princess Takamatsu.

After World War II, diplomatic relations between our countries were suspended until 1959. It took us another 30 years and the fall of the Iron Curtain dividing Europe to rejoice elevated relations from 1989.

jp-sato-kuni-menczer-tamas-meeting-web.jpgConstructive meeting with state secretary Tamás Menczer (Photo: KKM Protokoll)

 

From Ikebana to Wadaiko


There are a number of Japanese-themed cultural events throughout this year. What are you especially fond of when it comes to art?

The opening event of the anniversary was an ikebana [traditional Japanese art of flower arrangement – ed.] demonstration at The Hungarian Academy of Sciences, while the final episode of a long series of festive programs is going to be really dynamic wadaiko [Japanese drum – ed.] performance at The Palace of Arts (MÜPA).

As far as music is concerned, one of my favorite artists, Maestro Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi, came back to Budapest to commemorate the 150th anniversary at MÜPA. He is known as KOBAKEN and as a conductor of passion. Passion is shared mutually: He has been loving Hungary ever since he won the Hungarian Television’s first international conducting competition back in 1974 and Hungary feels the same way about Kobayashi.
The anniversary program started with the national anthems of Japan (Kimigayo) and Hungary (Himnusz), followed by the premiere of a piece composed by Maestro Kobayashi, entitled ‘A Hundred and Fifty Years of Two Homelands’. Then he conducted Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Kodály’s Dances of Galánta, as well as Brahms’ Hungarian Dances No. 1, 4, 5 & 6.

 

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A Good Balance


Discipline and respect for traditions are key factors of the Japanese way of life. Though the female role in society has changed in the last century, a significant increase in the number of women in politics and diplomacy would definitely be desirable. However, one more reason to rejoice in having a Lady Ambassador representing your country! As former Ambassador for Women, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Affairs, in which ways can you and your government support this very favorable tendency? What is your agenda on this subject?

One such way is to improve social infrastructure. One example is to shorten the long queues for nursery care services. Another is to give incentives to companies to continue employing women before and after childbirth.

Still another – and perhaps equally important – way is to change the mindset. For example, “ike-men” in Japanese means “nice-looking guys”. The sound would give a positive note. Then came a new phrase, “iku-men”, meaning “child-raising guys”. It is cool to be nice-looking, of course, but it is equally cool for men to be active in raising a child. Such a new role model, inspired by the positive image, would encourage both men and women to be more attentive to families.

A good balance between work and private life is now an increasingly accepted concept and prevailing in our society. Earlier, long hours of work would prevent both men and women from being active in any other part of their lives other than work.

jp-sato-kuni-garden-flowers-web.jpgThe nature-loving Ambassador surrounded by roses (Photo: Private archive)

 

Deepening Mutual Understanding


How do you feel about your current mission? What are your goals? What achievements are you really proud of?

One important part of my mission is to deepen the mutual understanding between our two nations. Thanks to the bond we have already been weaving in the past 150 years, it can be performed with the goodwill of many people. I am both grateful for and proud of that.

jp-sato-kuni-ambassador-peru-web.jpgAmbassador Sato with her Peruvian colleague, H.E. Raul Alfredo Salazar Cosio (Photo: Ivan Aigner)

 

In your opinion, what are the essential elements of being able to create a healthy balance between a responsible career of a diplomat and a loving home, especially for a woman?

One of the essential elements would be her own health. Then, of course, healthy relations among her colleagues at work and among members of her family. They work and live together, helping one another particularly in difficult times. They depend and rely on one another. Ultimately, they share the joy of accomplishment and the relief of cure.

 

Healing and Recovery


This year mark also the end of the ‘Heisei’ (i.e. achieving peace) imperial era. The 30-year-long reign of Emperor Akihito not only redefined the monarch’s role by getting closer to his people but also showed unprecedented commitment to the reconciliation with Japan’s neighbors. How would you describe this period?

Natural disasters frequently hit Japan during the Heisei period. Emperor and Empress Akihito visited seriously devastated areas and talked to people, closely hearing stories from one person to another. Their attentiveness helped heal the minds and inspired recovery processes.

jp-sato-kuni-budapest-chain-bridge-web.jpgAmbassador Sato at Chain Bridge in Budapest (Photo: Private archive)

 

Preservation and Adjustment


If you had the power to change three things in the world, what would you do?

If the verb of the hypothetical part of the question was “preserve” rather than “change”, I would like to say: If I had the power to preserve three things in the world, I would like to gather forces to preserve UNESCO World Heritages, both tangible and intangible.
Tangible heritages in Hungary include Budapest, including the banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter, and Andrássy Avenue; the Millenary Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma and its natural environment; as well as the early Christian necropolis of Pécs (Sopianae). The folk art of the Matyó (embroidery of a traditional community) and the safeguarding of the folk music heritage by the Kodály concept are typical Hungarian examples of intangible heritage.
As for Japan, Kyoto and Nara are examples of tangible, washoku (Japanese cuisine) and washi (Japanese paper) of intangible heritage.

In many perspectives, these are all precious for our daily lives in order to be culturally rich and environmentally healthy. They also assist our mutual understanding. We should be able to preserve them while adjusting ourselves to the challenges of the time.

 

Useful Links


Do you want to know more about Japan, the operation and mission of the Embassy of Japan in Hungary? Are you interested in Japan-related programs and events? Visit the Official Website of the Japanese Embassy...

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No One Is Left Behind

2019. július 29. 11:55 - IAMedia

What does connect us? What are the challenges ahead? Refreshing summer interview with the Finnish Ambassador to Hungary, H.E. Markku Virri on success, family, trust, cooperation, and basic values...

fin-markku-virri-urkuti-gyorgy.jpgWith György Urkuti, Ambassador of Hungary to Finland and Pertti Torstila, former Ambassador of Finland (June 2019) (Photo by Miika Kangasniemi)

 

+++ Kattints ide a cikk magyar változatának olvasásához! +++

 

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.

 

The Formula of Success


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 Republic of Finland to Hungary, H.E. Markku Virri, who is taking us on a journey through the mysterious and exciting world of diplomacy.

Your Excellency, would the mathematician in you please explain the formula of success in public service? Where does your passion for international relations derive from? Which multipliers or factors are essential for being authentic?

If I should name the common denominator between mathematics and public service, it would be accuracy. An ambassador is always a mediator between his home country and the country where he is posted to, so in my case Finland and Hungary. Our embassy is in tight connection with our Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, we get their instructions and exchange information. We cooperate daily or even several times a day on different issues.
In my view, it is a basic requirement for performing successfully the ambassador’s task to follow the instructions we get. By doing so, I think, I represent my home country authentically. In order to be authentic, I also consider very important to know Finland and the Finnish society deeply, with both the positive and the negative aspects.

fin-markku-virri-wreath-ceremony-heroes-square.jpgAmbassador Virri with his spouse at Heroes' Square in Budapest after the wreath ceremony (05-09-2018) (Photo by KEH/KKM Protokoll)

 

Diplomacy and Family


How much is the family life affected by changing your position and moving to another country every couple of years? What are the main challenges?

This is my 6th diplomatic post during my carrier in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. My first diplomatic posting was in Brazil in the early 1990s. Then we went to the Netherlands, after which we went back to Finland for 5 years. I was posted to London in 2003, followed by Ottawa, Canada. Then back to Finland for 4 years. In 2014, I was appointed Ambassador to Brazil where we stayed for 4 years.

My post here in Hungary started in September 2018. Of course, our family life has always been affected by the movings. I think all diplomats who have families know what I am talking about. For us the biggest change now was that our daughters have not moved with us to Budapest. However, one can think that it belongs to life, they have grown up and we are happy that they manage on their own. They would probably live on their own even if we lived in the same country.

 

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From Brazil to Budapest


What cultural and social differences did you experience when changing the location from your previous mission, far away in Brazil, back to Europe, actually, to a country that has close ties with Finland?

It always takes a while until you get used to the new environment, the new culture, and the way of thinking but, as I mentioned, this is our 6th post, so I already have some experience on it. Brazil is of course very different from Hungary: The size of the country, the climate, people’s temperament, just to mention a few issues. It was not easy to leave Brazil as I spent there such a long time and I have quite a few friends there.
A huge advantage in Hungary is that we are closer to Finland, so it is possible to visit our home country much more frequently. One of the things that surprised me here very positively is that so many Hungarians speak Finnish. I continuously come across people who can say at least a few words in my mother tongue. I have to admit that it is flattering. Until now, I have had a lot of work and settling down took its time, too, but I am happy to announce now that, recently, I have had my first Hungarian lesson.

fin-markku-virri-presenting-credentials-president-ader-janos.jpgPresenting his credentials to Hungarian President János Áder (05-09-2018) (Photo by KEH/KKM Protokoll)

 

Then and Now


This is not your first time in Hungary. What childhood memories are being replenished? How much has changed since then from your point of view? What is it like to actually live and work in Budapest?

Yes, in fact my first time was at the age of 14. I cannot recall much of that visit, except for Balaton and the spas in Budapest. After that, I have had a chance to visit Hungary several times. Budapest has always been a beautiful city and interesting both geographically and culturally. Living here is of course different than just visiting, one can gain a deeper insight.
For me, it is very comfortable that we have our residence and the office in the same building. However, whenever I wish so, I find everything one can need in a walking distance. I would like to get to know the countryside, too. So far, I have made official visits to Pécs and Debrecen, but I am planning to travel to other places, as well, especially to the other cities where we have honorary consulates (in Szeged, Veszprém, and Miskolc). In addition, I have privately visited several other places.

fin-markku-virri-mexican-swiss-ambassador.jpgCordial conversation with his Mexican and Swiss colleagues (06-12-2018) (Photo by Enikő Bianka Dancs)

 

Twin Cities


What are the main fields of cooperation between our two countries?

Of course, political and economic relations between our two countries have always been important. I also want to underline that Finland and Hungary have always had a special relationship based on linguistic relativity. There are strong connections between the two countries on all levels of society. The number of Finnish–Hungarian twin cities is around 60 and practically all bigger Hungarian cities have a Finnish partner city. There are some twin city agreements that are already over 50 years old, but there are also some very new ones, too. I was happy to be informed about the most recent agreement between the first district of Budapest and Savonlinna, subscribed in July 2018.
The big number of twin cities means also that a lot of people have had the chance to visit each other’s countries and get to know each other’s culture. There is a tradition to organise a conference, a 3-day-event for Finnish and Hungarian twin cities every three years and this year it will be held in Hämeenlinna. These conferences often deal with common projects, best practices, and possible fields of cooperation.

 

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Finland’s EU Presidency


What priorities does your agenda for your mission in Hungary comprise?

My goal is to maintain and even strengthen the good relations between our two countries, on a political, economic, cultural, and people-to-people level. An important phase is the second part of this year when Finland is holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. That affects our work also here in Hungary.

fin-markku-virri-finnish-president-slovenia.jpgWith Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Slovenian President Borut Pahor (23-05-2019) (Photo by Matti Porre / Office of the President of the Republic of Finland)

 

Cleanliness, Trust, and Equal Opportunities 


Cleanliness, transparency, trust, and quality come into my mind when thinking about Finland. What makes you proud of your homeland?

All the above mentioned, of course. We should mention still one thing: Equality – and the factor behind equality: The Finnish education system. The basic thought behind our education system is that as there are so few of us, we cannot afford to leave anyone behind. Finland’s education system offers all of its citizens equal opportunities for learning, irrespective of their domicile, gender, socio-economic status, or linguistic and cultural background.

fin-markku-virri-embassy-reception.jpgReception at the Finnish Embassy (06-12-2018) (Photo by Enikő Bianka Dancs)

 

Little Streams Make Great Rivers


The European Union is facing a number of tough issues causing an unfortunate tendency to disintegration that is quite opposite to the very idea of its foundation. What measures can and need to be put in place in order to foster communication and integration between peoples with the same interest of providing lasting peace and cooperation on a continent torn by war and conflict throughout its entire history? How can smaller countries like Finland and Hungary go hand in hand towards unity in diversity?

Finland has been considered many times throughout the history as a bridge builder. We have always been pragmatic and tried to find solutions with our famous sisu [Finnish national concept characterized by bravery, tenacity of purpose, stoic determination, and resilience – Ed.]. Several times, we have been able to offer our experiences and best practices to other countries, too. I would mention just two most recent examples: The Helsinki Summit between President Trump and President Putin in 2018 and the activities of our former president, Mr. Martti Ahtisaari.
The Helsinki Summit was a great signal from superpowers that our country is considered reliable ground for having such high-ranking events. President Ahtisaari is world-famous for his international peace work. He has played a prominent role in solving different long-lasting conflicts. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in 2008. So being small does not mean that you are not heard. Even better if small countries like Finland and Hungary can cooperate.

fin-markku-virri-finnish-president-slovenia-negotiation.jpgNegotiation in Slovenia (Photo by Matti Porre / Office of the President of the Republic of Finland)

 

Relaxing Immersion in History


How do you recharge your inner batteries after an exhausting (series of) day(s)? How do you keep the music playing?

Unfortunately, I do not have much free time but if I have, then I read both fact and fiction. I am very much interested in history and international relations. I would like to deepen my knowledge on Hungarian history, too. By the way, also our embassy building, which has just turned 30 years old, has an interesting history. Before our present building was built, there was an old villa at the same place. It was ruined during World War II, so it could not be restored. Originally, the villa was bought by the Finnish state from a noble family that had had some debts.

 

Basic Values


What world would you like your daughters and their families to live in? What values make the vision of a thriving future come true, in your opinion?

There are two fundamental values: Security and sustainability. I hope very much that they can live their lives in a secure and clean environment. The values mentioned are highly appreciated in the Finnish society in general, too. Security and fighting against climate change will be also among the priorities during Finland’s EU presidency in the second half of 2019. I think those are values that most people appreciate, quite understandably.

fin-markku-virri-slovenia-mountains.jpgMr. Ambassador with his wife in the mountains (Photo: Private archive)

 

Useful Links


Do you want to know more about Spain, the operation and mission of the Embassy of Finland in Hungary? Are you interested in Spain-related programs and events? Visit the Official Website of the Finnish Embassy...

Szólj hozzá!

The Humble Lifesaver

2019. április 04. 11:55 - IAMedia

What depends on a talented, well-trained professional during an international crisis? How can you help create balance and mutually beneficial situations in a chaotic world? How do you manage to keep your cold blood when you burst from the inside watching the suffering of others? The answers are given by a strong and successful woman…

a-elisabeth-ellison-kramer-skiing-austrian-alps.jpgSkiing in the Austrian Alps (Photo by August Ellison)

 

+++ Kattints ide a cikk magyar változatának olvasásához! +++

 

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.

 

Joyful Successes


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 Republic of Austria to Hungary, H.E. Elisabeth Ellison-Kramer, who is taking us on a journey through the mysterious and exciting world of diplomacy.

 

Your impressive professional career speaks for itself. However, what is the source of your strong dedication to public service?

I was born in the sixties in Vienna and grew up in a Europe divided by the iron curtain. Austria played an important role as a neutral country between the two blocks. After my high school exam, I decided that I wanted to become a diplomat to participate in Austria’s important work in this regard. Ever since the world has changed a lot and so has the role of Austrian diplomacy, but I think we still have our place in multilateral, as well as in bi-lateral diplomacy.

In the thirty years that I have had the honor to serve my country, I have worked in very different fields: press, culture, multilateral affairs in the UN and the Council of Europe, negotiating treaties, as well as consular support. A common thread of all these activities has been to foster better understanding between peoples and countries. Every success in these endeavors (sometimes even an ongoing process is a success) has been enjoyable and rewarding for me.

a-elisabeth-ellison-kramer-presenting-credentials-president-ader.jpgPresenting her credentials to Hungarian President János Áder (06.02.2017) (Photo by KEH)

 

Common Past, Present and Future


Austria and Hungary had been interlinked for long centuries. After four decades of separation, the “reunification” of the people of Europe brought our two nations closer once more. What have been your experiences in the past two years of your mission? How do you feel in your host country, at the so-called “brothers-in-law”?

I have come to Hungary at a time of dynamic growth of economic exchange, investments, tourism equally distributed on both sides. Many Hungarians work in Austria and it is a popular destination for Hungarians students. In opinion polls by various organizations, Austria finds itself on the top of the ranking of the most popular countries in Hungary.
There is also very much sympathy and interest for Hungary in Austria. Many Austrians have family ties to Hungarians. I have been received with warmth, kindness – well maybe like a “brother-in-law”.

Centuries of common history have forged a strong bond, though like any neighbors, we sometimes have to solve issues that regard both countries. Different points of view can, however, usually be approached in a factual matter, good cooperation on common projects prevails by far. Austria and Hungary were always best off when the worked closely together, and this is still true today.

a-elisabeth-ellison-kramer-ludovika-ambassadors-forum.jpgLecture about the Austrian EU Presidency at the Ludovika Ambassador's Forum (12.09.2018) (Photo by Dénes Szilágyi | NKE)

 

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Assignment at Neighbors


Do you perceive any major differences compared to your previous assignments?

As this is the first time for me to serve in a neighboring country, there are, of course, a lot of differences to previous postings: common history, Central European culture, cross border cooperation, as well as the widely spread, excellent knowledge of the German language. At the same time, Hungarian culture and, of course, especially the language is quite different, too.

 

Success Story and Bridge Building


During his visit last summer in Budapest at the summit of the heads of government of the V4 countries and Austria, Chancellor Kurz referred to Austria as a bridge-builder. Will you please share, in this regard, some (personal) success stories you are especially proud of as Austrian Ambassador to Hungary.

Rather than referring to a particular success story, I would like to point out that Austria has, for all the above mentioned reasons, a much better understanding of Hungarian matters than many other countries. For instance, as close neighbors, we have noticed with appreciation the achievements of the Hungarian people over the last decades in developing this country economically and creating a democratic society. Hungary is a success story in many ways and can rightly be proud of it. It is this knowledge and appreciation that contributes to bridge building, as Chancellor Kurz has pointed out in Budapest at the V4 meeting in June.

a-elisabeth-ellison-kramer-chancellor-sebatian-kurz.jpgIn the company of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (Vienna, 2018) (Photo: Private archive)

 

Working Together in the Spirit of Multilateralism


What do you see as the greatest challenge(s) of our time? How can we cope with those?

It is a paradox that, even though we are better connected through technology than ever before in this world, we seem to be drifting apart in many ways. There is a lot of frustration and I think that the manifold achievements of multilateralism of the post-war and Post-Cold War era are unfairly overlooked. Certainly, nationalism is no solution as big problems, like the perils of climate change, can only be solved in a concerted manner. We have to find new ways of cooperation, though adapted to the challenges of today, using technical achievements and digitalization to our common benefit.

a-elisabeth-ellison-kramer-working-luncheon-austrian-presidency-2018-group.jpgWorking luncheon in the framework of the Austrian EU Presidency, at the Ambassador's residence (21.11.2018) (Photo by Márton Kovács / KKM) 

 

Life-Saving Negotiation Skills


I cannot help but address the matters of the Austrian physician under trial back in 2011 or the young woman sexually abused in 2014 in Dubai, who both are safe and sound thanks to your intervention during your time as Head of the Department for Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. What are the thoughts that come to your mind, and mostly your feelings, when reminiscing about these extremely sensitive cases?

Supporting Austrian citizens in need abroad, also in legal difficulties through consular support where appropriate, is one of the core responsibilities of a ministry of foreign affairs. The ministry’s or consulate’s role is usually to give advice on how to find legal support and representation.
During six years heading this department, our dedicated team came across various quite difficult situations. We were asked for help in situations of abducted children, forced marriages, criminal arrests… Especially in faraway countries with different cultures and legal systems, the situation can be very difficult and scary for both the citizen concerned and their families. Assisting people in these situations, you get very close to their stories, fears and hopes. I have to admit that I still do think once in a while about one or the other, how they went on with their lives and how they could cope, even when everything had been solved for the moment. It was sometimes not an easy but altogether very rewarding time.

a-elisabeth-ellison-kramer-austria-womens-national-u18-ice-hockey-team.jpgWith the Austrian women's national under-18 ice hockey team after the game with the Hungarian team (Photo by Josef Jungmayr / Austrian Embassy)

 

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Building Friendships Abroad


The memorial year 2018 was special for Austria in many ways: The commemoration of the end of the First World War with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the centenary of the founding of the First Republic, as well as its ever-alarming annexation to Nazi Germany 80 years ago that, ultimately, led to Austria’s constitutionally enshrined neutrality. Also, let us not forget about the introduction of universal suffrage 100 years ago. Without that, we probably wouldn’t even be having this conversation, let alone seeing strong women of your caliber in such responsible positions. How can a mother, who also happens to be an excellent diplomat, find her harmony both at home and at work?

Harmony in the family and at the working place is important for everyone. It is especially important for diplomats as they lack the support of the wider family and lifelong friends being abroad and away from home.
I am lucky to work, at the Austrian Embassy in Budapest, with a very dedicated and professional team of colleagues sent from Vienna, as well as locally employed staff. The same is true for the staff working at the Austrian residence.
With regard to my family, this is the first posting during which I am separated from my daughter and son. Both stayed in Vienna to pursue their University studies, I am proud to say, very successfully. We are, however, in regular contact and, fortunately, Vienna is not too far from Budapest.

Forging new friendships is important, too. I enjoy making acquaintances with Hungarians, for instance at work-related meetings during the day, at dinners and events in the evening, I have found many new friends among them.
Relations with my fellow ambassadors are cordial and especially close with the female colleagues, Budapest Lady Ambassadors, who have a very close network.

a-elisabeth-ellison-kramer-lady-ambassadors.jpgMeeting of Lady Ambassadors accredited to Hungary at Károlyi Castle in Fehérvárcsurgó (02.10.2018) (Photo by by Dávid Pólya-Pető / OGY)

 

Soothing Classical Music


Being aware that you are playing the violin, I wonder how you keep connecting to music and what it means in your life? Are there any other passions that enrich and make you whole?

Playing the violin more often is one of my resolutions for the New Year, as I have not had much time to do so in the last years. However, I do listen a lot to classical music and attend concerts whenever I can. (The quality of classical music performances in Budapest is excellent indeed.) Listening to classical music I like, I can find calm during busy times. I also love the outdoors, nature hikes and attending art exhibitions.

 

Ambassadors in Concert


Music as a universal language can serve as an important tool to build bridges. Do you sometimes play together with some of your fellow ambassador colleagues who are also devoted to an(other) instrument?

I am a bit out of practice and have not started any initiative to play with other colleagues due to lack of time. That would be a very nice initiative though...
Every year in Vienna, there is a concert entitled ‘Ambassadors in Concert’ featuring both domestic and foreign performers playing together. It is amazing how many talented colleagues there are.

a-elisabeth-ellison-kramer-habsburg-gyorgy.jpgGeorge Habsburg and H. E. Elisabeth Ellison-Kramer, Ambassador of Austria to Hungary (Photo by Ivan Aigner)

 

Achievements of the Austrian EU Presidency


Austria’s motto of the recent Presidency of the Council of the European Union was “A Europe that protects.” What steps have been taken, what results already achieved with regard to this great endeavor?

This motto was chosen in response of many European citizens’ worries. It included the aim to strengthen the European economy, as well as to combat uncontrolled illegal migration.
With regard to that, a migration agreement was reached under the Austrian Presidency to strengthen the Frontex mandate for the protection of external borders and cooperation with third countries.

During the Austrian Presidency, the EU succeeded in once again placing greater focus on the Western Balkans and initiating a new dynamic in the process of rapprochement for all countries with an EU accession perspective.
Good and substantial progress was achieved on the next Multiannual Financial Framework of the EU budget for 2021‑2027. Let me also mention the ‘Europe Beyond Anti‑Semitism and Anti‑Zionism – Securing Jewish Life in Europe conference that took place in November in Vienna.
A ‘High‑Level Forum Africa‑Europe’ in December brought together almost 1,000 companies, as well as heads of state or government from both continents to strengthen long‑term partnership. Progress could also be achieved in environment and climate protection.

a-elisabeth-ellison-kramer-working-luncheon-austrian-presidency-2018.jpgWorking luncheon in the framework of the Austrian EU Presidency, at the Ambassador's residence (21.11.2018) (Photo by Márton Kovács / KKM) 

 

Personal Wish for 2019


What is your wish for this New Year on both a personal and a professional level? Where is the bridge you help building with your heart and mind leading to…?

For this year, I look forward to contributing to strengthening the ties between both our countries even more through bi-lateral contacts on all levels and through new common projects. Personally, I also look forward to visiting more places in Hungary and learn more about the culture and society.

 

Related Articles


Check out other related articles. Click either the pictures or the titles highlighted in black below… >>

n-olav-berstad-2018-mexican-reception.jpg>> Diplomat and Father at the Service of the King of Norway <<

b-marie-france-andre-2018-dog.jpg>> Belgian Ambassador Reveals the Trump Cards of Diplomacy <<

 

Useful Links


Do you want to know more about India, the operation and mission of the Embassy of Austria in Hungary? Are you interested in Indian-related programs and events? Visit the Official Website of the Austrian Embassy...

 

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Christmas Gift from the Swiss Ambassador

2018. december 24. 18:04 - IAMedia

What makes us really rich? How do we derive advantage from diversity? What can we learn from the experienced Swiss ambassador? One thing is certain: There are more bridges connecting than rivers separating us. Exclusive Christmas interview…

ch-peter-burkhard-2018-chrstimas-xmas-gift.jpgPhoto by Jeshoots.com

 

+++ Kattints ide a cikk magyar változatának olvasásához! +++

 

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.

 

Neutrality and (Pro)activity


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 Swiss Confederation to Hungary, H.E. Peter Burkhard, who is taking us on a journey through the mysterious and exciting world of diplomacy.

 

Switzerland is famous for its neutrality. However, you are very passionate about building international bridges. Where is your approach to things with a positive and curious attitude, as well as your eagerness for cooperation rooted? Why did you choose this métier?

Concerning the first aspect, I would like to clarify the following: Neutrality means that a state does not take part in armed conflict. It does not mean neutrality of opinion, and it does not mean abstention from actively participating in shaping the world.
Switzerland is pursuing quite an active foreign policy, and this is enshrined in its constitution. The latter stipulates that the Swiss Confederation, among other things, shall assist in the alleviation of need and poverty in the world and promote respect for human rights and democracy, the peaceful co-existence of peoples, as well as the conservation of natural resources.

As you see, this is not at all in contradiction to my personality and the passions that you ascribe to me, on the very contrary. And yes, my interpretation of my métier goes exactly in this direction. It is true, though, that many of my assignments were not in traditional fields of bilateral diplomacy, and maybe with a greater focus on “moving things forward”. This includes three mandates as Head of Mission of OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) operations, namely in Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Serbia, and earlier posts in special Task Forces of the Swiss Foreign Ministry. I participated in the work of the Task Force for the Swiss OSCE Chairmanship 1996, and subsequently, I worked for three years as Chief of Staff of the then “Task Force Switzerland – World War II”. The role of the latter was to coordinate all government action concerning claims related to the role of Switzerland, its National Bank and Swiss enterprises, notably banks, during World War II.

ch-peter-burkhard-2018-presenting-credentials-2016-10-19.jpgPresenting his credentials to Hungarian President János Áder (19.10.2016) (Photo by Dávid Harangozó)

 

Swiss “Concordance-Grade” Lifestyle


How does the unique federal organization of your country, the very strong integration of the people in the everyday decision-making support the Swiss way of life? What are you especially fond and proud about when thinking of your homeland?

If you search the Internet for “Swiss way of life”, you may find interesting comments about habits of eating, drinking or dressing, about Dos and don’ts in social interactions, or about things like e.g. the high value that we place on public transportation, on healthy lifestyle, and on outdoor activities.
That is obviously not, what you have in mind; you rather refer to political culture. This is a vast subject so I will try to sketch just a few traits of it.

Switzerland has a remarkably nonhierarchical social order, there is a deeply rooted skepticism vis-à-vis political authority (and authority in general), and on the other hand, there is a high level of civic responsibility. There is a dislike of conflict and a desire for what we call “concordance”. The political institutions reflect and correspond to these expectations and attitudes.

Swiss political structures strive to be close to the people and to respond to the wishes of the citizen. So when thinking about Switzerland, it is in first line this bottom-up character of our political system that I could be fond of, and I might feel some pride that Switzerland has been able to maintain the key elements of the Swiss civic society and state since quite some time.
This is far from self-evident, given the profound changes the world has been undergoing, but particularly also in the light of the fact, that for more than a hundred years now, with the exception of the two World War periods, Switzerland always had a share of a foreign population of some 20%. The integrative force of the Swiss society and political system seems to be very high.

ch-peter-burkhard-2018-bern-aerial-view.jpgAerial view of Bern, the capital of Switzerland (Photo by Nicolas Jossi)

 

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White-Crossed National Identity


What are the advantages and handicaps of multilingualism and/or multiculturalism that constitutes a major pillar of the Swiss society?

The Swiss national identity is not based on language or culture, or, if so, then only on its political culture. Different parts of Switzerland belong to the areas of various great European cultures, which is the basis for a wide range of enriching interactions and exchanges. Although usually, Swiss school children acquire at least some basic knowledge of a second national language and often also of a third foreign language during their compulsory school years, the image of all Swiss being quadrilingual is a myth.

It is true, however, that in international comparison the share of people knowing several languages might be higher in Switzerland than elsewhere. Nevertheless, I would also dare to say that the rhetoric skills of Swiss are usually not particularly high. I do not know really why, but maybe this is somehow related to the fact that our national identity is not based on language, or to the rather egalitarian nature of our society.

ch-peter-burkhard-2018-sehenswert-film-festival-dieter-fahrer.jpgThe ambassador interviewing director Dieter Fahrer at the 'Sehesnwert' film festival (Photo by Zoltán Kerekes)

 

Developing Well-Established Relationships


What were/are the main objectives of your mission in Hungary?

It is customary that at the beginning of each year, we define some goals and objectives for our mission in our respective host countries in discussions with our Foreign Ministry in Bern. I am currently thinking about what we might specifically try to achieve in the course of 2019 with regard to our relations with Hungary. Of course, this is to be seen in the framework of a longer-term perspective, it is about building upon the existing fundaments, in particular developing further the good relations namely in the economic but also in the cultural sphere.

ch-peter-burkhard-2018-balassagyarmat-2016-11-07.jpgAt the closing ceremony for the project 'Rehabilitation of the Drinking Water Supply of the City and Region of Balassagyarmat' (07.11.2016)

 

Collective Experiences


What is your overall impression of Hungarians?

I do not like collective judgments. The diversity between people belonging to a given social group or, in this case, nation is always bigger than the diversity between these groups or nations. However, what I am trying to study and to understand (and I even might endeavor to come to some assessment) is the way how this collective is acting as a collective, how it organizes itself and how it is defining, pursuing and achieving collective goals.

In order to get a deeper understanding of the Hungarian society, I still lack a key instrument of insight, namely the language. I start reading news, I can grasp at least the general thrust, and I am about to start watching movies. A few days ago, I saw the new film ‘Sunset’ (Napszállta). Of course, the English subtitles were of help, but I had the impression that I could follow the dialogues. Coming back to your question about my objectives, achieving a sufficient level of semantic and not only syntactical understanding of the Hungarian language is clearly one of them.

  

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Diplomatic Family Model


A career in foreign service poses a great challenge for a diplomat having a family. What is your experience?

It is a great privilege to serve one’s country as a diplomat, and I could not imagine a more fascinating profession. Moving with your partner or your family from one country to another, changing not only your physical but also your social environment every few years is not a challenge in itself, or you can even see it as an element of the attraction of this way of life. However, combining two professional careers, if one of the two parts of a couple is pursuing a diplomatic career, is very difficult. This was not an issue in old courtly traditions, and diplomacy has its roots in the monarchic state system, but in nowadays world, with life plans of modern men and women, this poses a problem. I am not aware of any Foreign Ministry that has found a solution to it; for sure, we in Switzerland have not.

ch-peter-burkhard-2018-swiss-parliamentary-delegation-budapest-andrassy-university-2017-10-26.jpgOfficial visit of a Swiss parliamentary delegation (Foreign Policy Commission of the National Council) in Budapest (Andrássy University, 26.10.2017)

 

Christmas Around the World


How do the Christmas preparations look like at the Swiss Embassy that houses not only your office but your residence, too? How and where do you usually spend the holiday season? Are there any special traditions in your family?

My wife and our child are currently staying in Kiev with the parents of my wife, and I will join them for the upcoming holidays. Last year, when we were all together here in Budapest, we had some quite traditional Christmas decorations in the residence, i.e. a Christmas tree with ball ornament etc. However, this year, I must admit, I was not thinking of it.

When I was a child, our family always spent Christmas with my grandparents in a small village in Southern Germany, which left deep memories with me. Later, in student years, I often went skiing over the Christmas/New Year period.
Then followed years when I was in countries with other traditions, the first time for a longer period, when I worked from 1985 until 1986 in Novosibirsk as a scientist. There New Year was a great thing, but Christmas went unnoticed as it was customary in the USRSS back then in socialist times.
In the former Soviet Republics with Christian roots, notably Russia and Ukraine, where I worked as a diplomat in subsequent years, it has become different.
On the other hand, in Azerbaijan or Uzbekistan, where I was heading diplomatic missions later on, religious holidays followed the Islamic tradition.
However, even if a country with Christian traditions, like in the case of Cuba, where I served as Swiss Ambassador some ten years ago, Christmas has quite a different character, if temperatures are tropical. While in Havana, I used to go to the beach for swimming on Christmas Eve.

I must add, though, that throughout the more than 30 years of quasi-nomadic life, I always tried, to the extent that calendars and work schedules permitted, to pay a short visit to my parents in Switzerland, when they still were alive, if not at Christmas then at least around Christmas time.

ch-peter-burkhard-2018-portrait-fdfa.jpgPhoto by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs

 

Challenges of Our Time


What is your wish for both Christmas and the New Year? In your opinion, how can we achieve further personal growth and professional progress in 2019?

It may sound pathetic but my biggest wish to you and your readers, to all the people close to me, to my staff, my family and myself, too, is good health.

As regards your second question, I am not sure whether I have a particular legitimacy to provide some advice. There seems to be a general perception that we live in times of fundamental changes. One of the things that seem to be challenged are the achievements of enlightenment. Therefore, instead of giving my own opinion, I would like to respond with the famous quote by Immanuel Kant, which in these times might serve as some kind of guidance: „Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's own understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another.”

ch-peter-burkhard-2018-austrian-national-day-ambassador-wenzel-ellison-parker.jpgWith German Ambassador Volkmar Wenzel and Austrian Ambassador Elisabeth Ellison-Kramer (Photo by Ivan Aigner)

 

Related Articles


Check out other related articles. Click either the pictures or the titles highlighted in black below… >>

n-olav-berstad-2018-mexican-reception.jpg>> Diplomat and Father at the Service of the King of Norway <<

b-marie-france-andre-2018-dog.jpg>> Belgian Ambassador Reveals the Trump Cards of Diplomacy <<

 

Useful Links


Do you want to know more about India, the operation and mission of the Embassy of Switzerland in Hungary? Are you interested in Indian-related programs and events? Visit the Official Website of the Swiss Embassy...

 

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Diplomat and Father at the Service of the King of Norway

2018. november 15. 11:37 - IAMedia

What kind of a father will the little boy be, who lost his daddy at the age of 12? How does he raise 4 children while performing foreign service in the name of the King of Norway? Exclusive interview with Norway's ambassador to Hungary...

n-olav-berstad-2018-mexican-reception.jpgPhoto by Ivan Aigner

 

+++ Kattints ide a cikk magyar változatának olvasásához! +++

 

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.

 

Pessimism or Optimism?


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 Norway to Hungary, H.E. Olav Berstad, who is taking us on a journey through the exciting and responsible world of diplomacy and fatherhood.

You have just started the third year of your mission in Hungary. What have been your experiences both professionally and as a private person?

I have enjoyed every minute of my stay in Hungary. Budapest is one of Europe’s greatest cities. There is always something going on, a festival, concert, exhibition and so on. As an ambassador, I get a lot of free offers and invitations. I live a highly privileged life, meeting so many interesting and knowledgeable people, diplomats, politicians, people of the arts and science and research, business persons, and so on.
We have our embassy and residence on the Buda side. I always find the atmosphere of Pest “exotic”, with all the tourists and colours. I enjoy also the Buda hills a lot, both for jogging, walking, and biking. Indeed also an occasional ski trip when, - if - there is snow in winter.

Professionally, Hungary is a story of its own. I think I will diplomatically formulate it like that. This is my seventh posting abroad and my third as an ambassador since I joined the Norwegian foreign service in 1980. However, here I see a different political philosophy or practice than what I have seen before. Hungary has made a very successful transition since the fall of communism, but now I sense that you are moving back in history, focusing on past losses, pessimism, and fear of the future and perhaps even of neighbours. I think one of the great achievements of Norway is the openness of the society, optimism, and the conviction that challenging issues can be solved or at least effectively and skillfully be managed, but never by us Norwegians in isolation, always together with neighbours, partners and allies.

n-olav-berstad-2018-cooperation.jpgPhoto by Rawpixels

 

Different Approach to Crisis Management


That’s interesting. Do you find that Hungary is an isolationist country?

No, I don’t. But I think there is an unhealthy emphasis on Hungary as a unique country, the Hungarians as a unique people. We are all unique in one sense or another. We have a strong national pride in Norway, emphasising our history, traditions, freedom and independence. But I feel that for us this is a strong platform for reaching out to others, embracing and welcoming foreign impulses and even people, sharing the burden for instance of managing refugee flows and migration. In Hungary a similarly strong national pride seems to create different responses. I may be wrong, but don’t think so.

 

+++ Have you lived or ever been to Norway?
Share your experiences and stories in a comment below. +++

 

Fatherhood Then and Now


Since 1949, Father’s Day (Farsdag) is celebrated on the second Sunday in November in Norway. What is your most memorable holiday memory?

I can’t say that Father’s Day was or is something widely celebrated in Norway. (Probably the owners of gift shops are the strongest supporters). When I grew up in the 1960’s the idea was to be nice to your father, bring him coffee and breakfast in the morning. At school, the day before, we made picture cards with drawings, perhaps drawings of things we associated with our fathers, perhaps a poem, but definitely with good wishes in colour and writing.

I think the concept of fatherhood is different today than when I was a child. Now, many children grow up without a father, because of divorce, long distances, other forms of separation. And in some cases children are born as a result of artificial insemination or sperm or egg donation, without a “father”. The notion of family has become much more complex, to put it this way. The stereotype of the past is father, the worker, breadwinner who returns home tired in the evening after work, having little time for the children before they must go to bed. Luckily, today the role of being a father is much wider, more engaging and participatory in the caring and upbringing of children. In that sense every day is a Father’s Day.

I remember that my father one day bought me a toy which we both saw in the store. He bought it on the spot. It was a kind of elastic band launched rocket. It would unfold a small parachute when falling down back to earth. To me, that was definitely Father’s Day, but it was also My Day and Our Day! I was very happy.

n-olav-berstad-2018-olav-katrine-lajka.jpgThe ambassador with his youngest child, Katrine, and the youngest member of the family, Lajka (Private archive)

 

Family Nest at the Oslo Fjord


Looking back on that occasion, how did you as a diplomat and a father of four children succeed to manage to balance a responsible and challenging career in foreign affairs with creating a loving environment for your family?

I think I have always tried to give my children – they are now 29, 18, 17 and 7 – some positive memory of myself and of being a family. I want to give them special moments to remember forever, occasions when they feel and recognise that we are together, a family. I don’t believe so much in material gifts. If you use them too frequently, they lose a lot of meaning. So the story about the rocket is not about the thing, but the sharing of a moment, of together finding out how it worked, the first successful “launch”, etc. (We lived right next to the railway. I remember that the rocket landed by parachute on the other side of the track and fences. I rushed over and around by bike to get it as fast as I could).

I think the balancing act you ask about is a difficult one. Some children from diplomat families suffer from frequent moving to new, sometimes challenging or exotic places. They feel that they don’t have any proper “roots”. I hope that I have succeeded in creating a good family environment and a strong sense of “roots” in my children. We have a small house a little south of Oslo, where the children know the neighbours, and the neighbours know us. That is our HOME we love to return to.

n-olav-berstad-2018-norway-hamnoy.jpgPhoto by Mischa Bachmann

 

Advanced Social Security System


Norway has a 100,000+ kilometers of twisting coastline. This natural embroidery is also reflected in every level of the Norwegian way of life. So, no wonder that the bonding of a newborn with both parents is supported by the state through various social benefits. Where is this very family-oriented mindset rooted?

Norway is a beautiful country, clearly. But I have seen enough of the world to realise that every little corner has its own beauty or special character and that people everywhere fundamentally share the same aspirations. However, a refugee from Bosnia told me some years ago that the Norwegians have a unique trait. Norwegians trust their neighbour. And not only that, they also trust the state. I think that a high level of trust within the society is something we share among the Nordic countries. Trust gives us a competitive advantage. Trust, I think, is a result of generations recognising that honest work, willingness to learn and adapt to new conditions, cooperation and seeing also the good in your political opponent, is smart and better for everybody.

Our level of social benefits and inclusion has developed over a long time, accelerating in the 1960-90’s as the state got financially stronger. In 1978 both fathers and mothers got equal right to paternity leave. In the early 1990’s a four week special allocation for fathers (“fathers’ quota”) was introduced. Today both parents share a 49 week long paternity leave at 100 % of the salary, or alternatively 59 weeks at 80 %. 15 weeks are allocated to the father and 15 to the mother. If you don’t use your quota, you lose it.

I have to admit that the principle of a “fathers’ quota” is disputed in Norway. Many feel that it should be up to the parents to decide how to use the total quota, not for the state to kind of dictate that men should be home with the child for at least 15 weeks.

 

 +++ Do not miss other interviews and reception reviews! Click the KÖVETÉS button in the upper right corner… +++

 

„Let Us Make the Planet Great Again.”


Ideally, a father paves the way to the healthy future of his children. Therefore, sustainable growth, environmentally friendly energy resources, and strong, reliable international partnerships are issues of utmost importance in our troubled world. In your opinion, how can small but geographically well-located countries like Hungary and Norway effectively exercise their influence in order to ensure stability and peace?

It is not only a father’s responsibility to pave the way as you put it, but also the mother, of course. There is a shared responsibility in all aspects.

Smaller countries can only exercise their influence if they cooperate among themselves and with the larger countries. As a diplomat and as a Norwegian, I find it quite natural that we first and foremost emphasise our national interests. “Making our country great”, or “great again”, is a good thing, if it doesn’t harm anybody else. However, I also like president Macron’s statement “Let us make the planet great again.” I don’t see any automatic contradiction here.

It is possible to make our planet truly great, if we change our mindset slightly and really implement the agreed UN sustainable development goals. I have written for myself four quite personal SDGs: working together in order to 1) eradicate diseases, 2) fight ignorance, 3) defeat poverty, - and 4) combat “nonsense”, - the superstition, traditions, beliefs and fake news which confuse, distract and weaken us.

n-olav-berstad-2018-fjord-loen.jpgPhoto by Damir Spanic

 

Scout Law Free of Superstition


If you had the power to change one thing in the world for the better, what would you do?

One thing? I believe in small steps forward. A small, good thing would in my view be to systematically teach the Scout Law in school and everywhere. I was a scout myself and I think the Scout Law is an excellent moral and ethical compass for everybody, irrespective of faith and other things. For me, this would be a bottom-up instrument of change. But I also realise that peaceful revolutions have a role to play. For instance, I regard women’s emancipation and equal rights as a real and positive revolution.

If you ask for a big thing of change, I think we should now systematically try and reduce the role and influence of religions and religious hierarchies. Religion in my view is a type of superstition. It is also an instrument of mind-control and suppression which should have been put into the dustbin of history already a long time ago.

 

Related Articles


Check out other related articles such as the interview with the Belgian ambassador and the former Indian ambassador. Click either the pictures or the titles highlighted in black below… >>

b-marie-france-andre-2018-trump-card-ace.jpg>> Belgian Ambassador Reveals the Trump Cards of Diplomacy <<

ind-independence-day-2018-budapest-chain-bridge.jpg>> Confession of an Ambassador in the Shadow of Terror <<

 

Useful Links


Do you want to know more about India, the operation and mission of the Embassy of Norway in Hungary? Are you interested in Indian-related programs and events? Visit the Official Website of the Norwegian Embassy and follow them on Facebook...

 

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⛔ Any constructive opinion? Let it flow out! Write a comment!
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Belgian Ambassador Reveals the Trump Cards of Diplomacy

2018. október 17. 10:26 - IAMedia

Did you know that 25% of the ambassadors accredited to Hungary are ladies? One of them uncovers the secret of how to stay on top of the game, laying her cards on the table. Let’s unravel the mystery with this exclusive and candid interview…

b-marie-france-andre-2018-trump-card-ace-fb.jpgPhoto by Jack Hamilton

 

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.

 

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An exciting challenge


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 Belgium to Hungary, H.E. Marie-France André, who is taking us on a journey through the mysterious and exciting world of diplomacy.

Madam Ambassador, where is your passion for diplomacy rooted? How did you choose this very responsible profession?

By the way, I did not start my professional career in diplomacy but as a barrister. After I graduated from Law School, I was a barrister for 10 years. Though pleading in court was undoubtedly very exciting, I still decided to take the diplomatic exam because I had always been very interested in politics and international affairs.
My passion for travels definitely played a role, as well. The diplomatic career brings the great opportunity to live in different countries and offers the unique privilege to get to know these countries in depth.
It is also one of the rare professions where we have a chance to change positions every 3 or 4 years, not only moving to another country but also switching from bilateral to multilateral postings like NATO, the EU or the UN, which is every time an exciting challenge!

b-marie-france-andre-2018-belgian-hotel-inauguration.jpgInauguration of a Belgian hotel in Budapest

 

Diplomatic Trump Cards


How did you manage to make your way in a métier traditionally dominated by men? What were/are your trump cards?

The trump card for any individual in this career is to work hard, adapt fast to different people and different countries, give up any prejudgements and be able to be “in charge” in all situations. I do not think that this would be different for men or women. That being said, I’m convinced that being a woman in diplomacy is still more complicated for a woman than for a man. Not because it is “traditionally dominated by men” but because, generally speaking, a man will follow his wife abroad and give up his job more reluctantly than the wife of a male diplomat will do. The choice of a posting is than narrower if the distance between the posting and the family home must enable them to commute regularly.

Another consequence of this situation is that a Lady Ambassador, if she is alone in her posting, is also in charge of the organization of the many social sides of the job, such as dinners and receptions, while a male colleague will be able to be helped and supported by his wife for this time-consuming aspect of the function.

So yes, definitely, I’m convinced that this career remains more complicated practically for women than for men but this should not dissuade any woman to embrace this career if they are really attracted by its many positive sides. The fact that in Budapest almost 25% of the ambassadors are ladies is the best evidence of it!

b-marie-france-andre-2018-photo-contest-budapest-atmosphere.jpgAt the award ceremony of the photo contest 'Budapest atmosphère', organized by Madam Ambassador for her fellow ambassadors

 

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Castle World Record Holder Belgium


What do you love the most about your country? In your opinion, what are the values that make Belgium special and worth exploring?

Belgium is geographically located in the heart of Europe and has taken through history bits of the culture and attitude from both the countries of the north and the south of Europe. We have three national languages (French, Dutch and German) and many people speak English on top of that.
With many EU institutions and NATO being based in Brussels, the city became very multicultural though the country has not lost its own culture: Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia like to maintain their traditions alive. The Ommegang in Brussels and the many carnivals celebrated in Flanders and Wallonia are some examples of that respect of our traditions.

The country offers a whole range of landscape from the seaside in the west to the forests of hilly Ardennes in the east, without forgetting our beautiful art cities. I would also like to underline that Belgium has the largest number of castles per square meter in the world and that many of them can be visited.
Finally, I cannot help mentionning our gastronomy. Belgian chocolates, beers, speculoos (spieced shortcrust biscuits) and fries are famous around the world. However, there is much more than that: every foreigner who lives or visits Belgium can confirm that love of good food is in the Belgians’ genes.

b-marie-france-andre-2018-reception-at-residence.jpgReception at the Ambassador's Residence

 

Europe’s Beating Heart


Which positive outcomes derive from Brussels being the center of the European Union?

Belgium is a founding member state of the EU and since the signing of the first treaty, Brussels hosts the seat of the Commission, of the Council (which also convenes in Luxembourg), and hosts the sessions of the commissions of the European Parliament. With the development of the EU institutions and the successive enlargements (from initially 6 to currently 28 member states), the number of EU citizens working in Brussels has increased, also a lot of new shops and restaurants, representing all member states, opened in the city.
Brussels has really become the “heart of Europe”.

b-independence-day-2018-02-european-quarter-brussels.jpgPhoto by visit.brussels

 

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21st Century Diplomacy


How has the widespread of various social media platforms changed the face of diplomacy in the last couple of years? Will you please give some examples.

Since I arrived in Budapest, I opened and developed a Facebook page for the Embassy. It is a unique instrument to reach out to Belgians and Hungarians interested in the activities of the Embassy. What ambassadors and embassies do is not always very clear to the public beyond some stereotypes, as I note every time I speak to students in high schools or universities.
So, it is important to share what we do. It is also useful to give information about our country, its economy, its culture, about some important events and to promote some less known aspects of Belgium. For example, we will publish shortly a weekly series of articles about the bilateral diplomatic relations between Belgium and Hungary, starting with the wedding of Princess Stephanie, the daughter of our second King, Leopold II, who married Archduke Rodolph, the son of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elizabeth. After she became a widow, she married Count Lonyay de Nagy-Lonya and I am very proud to have part of her furniture and her piano in the residence.

I invite the readers to visit our Facebook page Embassy of Belgium in Budapest and to follow us…

b-marie-france-andre-2018-class-on-belgium-at-university.jpgGiving a lecture on Belgium at a university

 

Discover Hungary beyond Budapest


What place does Hungary have in your heart? What have been your experiences in the almost three years of your mission?

Living in Budapest is a wonderful experience! The city is gorgeous and has a lot to offer in history, art, music, and gastronomy. History is just as much present at every corner of the city as the love of music is. Every time I go to the magnificent MÜPA (Palace of Arts), I’m impressed by the extraordinary quality of the performances. I also never get tired of admiring the marvelous view every time I drive along the Danube.
I am very keen to discover Hungary beyond Budapest even more, though I have visited many places in the countryside, many castles that give a good image of a bygone era of Hungary and, of course, many art cities.

b-marie-france-andre-2018-dog.jpgThe Ambassador with her loyal bodyguard

 

Useful Links


Do you want to know more about India, the operation and mission of the Embassy of Belgium in Hungary? Are you interested in Indian-related programs and events? Visit the Official Website of the Belgian Embassy and follow them on Facebook...

 

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Confession of an Ambassador in the Shadow of Terror

2018. október 17. 08:45 - IAMedia

Are you wondering how the diplomatic machinery works? ...what happens in the background of champagne-sipping receptions? ...what Nelson Mandela suggested? ...how to work for peace in the shadow of terror? Success stories and tragic losses in the complex web of international relations as told by H.E. Rahul Chhabra, Ambassador of India to Hungary. Exclusive interview...

ind-rahul-chhabra-2018-ganga-danube-indian-cultural-festival-2017-budapest-chain-bridge-fb.jpgPhoto by Balazs Farkas-Mohi & Twitter / IndiainHungary

 

+++ Click here to read the interview in Hungarian +++

 

A 3rd-Generation Diplomat’s 3 Years in Budapest


Three years is just a blink of an eye in history, though being a huge blessing and offering an exceptional opportunity for a diplomat. 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 Republic of India to Hungary, H.E. Rahul Chhabra, who is taking us on a journey through the mysterious and exciting world of diplomacy.

Your impressive curriculum just as your open and friendly personality make you ideal for serving as ambassador. When and how did you become aware of your potential and aspiration for this prestigious area of public service?

I am a third generation civil servant; both my grandfathers worked in the government. Most of my close relatives from my parents’ generation were civil servants. I saw diplomacy working from very close quarters when I was still a student. My father was also a civil servant and I accompanied him to his assignment as Minister (Economic) at the Embassy of India in Tokyo. I was fascinated by how diplomacy works to bring together the people and cultures from different countries. Diplomacy plays myriad roles in building friendly relations, as well as promoting economic and commercial interests.

What comes to your mind and how does your heart beat when thinking of India?

Each one of us misses our homeland; particularly, on important festivals like Diwali and Holi or during family events like marriages and birthdays. However, we cannot let these feelings overcome us; we need to understand and appreciate the culture that we live in. In today’s age of social media, we are able to well connect easily with our relatives; in fact, several of us even conduct common ceremonies on special occasions.

India is an ancient civilization and we believe in ‘Vasudaiv Kutumbkam’, i.e. the whole world is a family. India is the birthplace of four religions, i.e. Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Our culture flourished despite invasions and today the entire world has started recognizing our contribution, including in the forms of Yoga and Ayurveda. People from far off lands come to India to learn our classical dances and music.

ind-rahul-chhabra-2018-credentials-sandor-palace.jpgAmbassador presenting his credentials to H.E. János Áder, President of Hungary (Photo by Balazs Farkas-Mohi)

 

Nelson Mandela’s Advice to the Young Diplomat


The Independence Day of August 15 brought a great deal of change to the subcontinent. In your opinion, what is the ultimate and everlasting message of the most peaceful freedom fighter ever, Mahatma Gandhi? Has he inspired you personally?

As a young diplomat posted in Senegal, I was particularly honoured to have been singled out in a room full of people by Nelson Mandela; he asked me never to forget that I represent a country that gave the world Mahatma Gandhi. Subsequently, while serving in the United States, it was heart-warming to see miniature busts of Gandhiji on the mantlepieces of several Senators and Congressmen. I was also able to organize, for the first time ever, a ceremonial alighting for the President of India at Pietermaritzburg; the town in South Africa, made famous due to the fact that Gandhiji was forcibly evicted from a train there.

Our freedom struggle led by the Father of our Nation, Mahátma Gandhi was fought in a peaceful manner. It was a great message for the entire world as it was achieved largely through non-violent means. This inspired many other countries to follow the path of non-violence to get freedom from the Empire.

It is interesting you ask this question since we are beginning in a few weeks celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji. Mahatma Gandhi’s message of peace and non-violence is more relevant today than ever. I am personally inspired by his message of simple living. It includes modest lifestyle and moderate food habits. If we follow some of his principles, we can live a healthy life.

ind-independence-day-2018-mahatma-gandhi-rupee.jpgPhoto by Ishant Mishra

 

India in the Arctic


Looking back at your career so far, what achievements are you the proudest of?

I have always followed the principle that you give your best effort to whatever job you get rather than hoping and trying for the best job possible.
While working in the Indian Foreign Service, I have been associated with many important decisions and processes. I have served in the capitals of 3 P-5 countries at very crucial junctures of bilateral and multilateral relations. It was very satisfying to be a part of the core team taking important decisions.

I helped promote FDI flows into India during the initial stages of the opening of the Indian economy in the early 1990s; was part of the government delegation to the World Economic Forum in Davos. I helped channelize commitments of billions of dollars of FII inflows from the Norwegian Pension Fund. I helped focus India’s foreign policy towards the Arctic. I was also a member of the team which negotiated the India–US civil nuclear deal in 2005-2006.

 

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The Indian Who Prevented the Execution of Árpád Göncz


It is the third year of your mission in Hungary. What values has this experience given to you as a person (e.g. friendship, knowledge, inspiration, growth, realization, exploration, fun, new hobby etc.)?

I have gained tremendous experience in all fields since I approach every task with an open mind. Our role as a diplomat is to understand the local conditions and convey recommendations to our government. Experiencing the thermal waters made me realize that Hungarians were open to alternative therapies; hence, our focus on Ayurveda and Yoga.

India and Hungary have traditionally shared very friendly relations. If I could remind you of the role played by the Indian Embassy in the 1956 revolution. People still fondly remember how President Árpád Göncz was helped by the Indian Mission. Over the years, Hungary has supported India’s membership bid to various multilateral organizations and I think there is a huge potential for growth in our economic and cultural relations.

ind-rahul-chhabra-mohamed-ataur-rahman-goncz-arpad-discovermyindia-eu-247572-pic-600x500.jpgPhoto by Discovermyindia.eu

 

10000+ Hungarian Employees of Indian Companies


You have been being engaged in economics for quite some time (from your education to the conception and organization of the India–Central Europe Business Forum). In your opinion, in what ways can business activities and relations contribute to a better understanding and acceptance of one another on an international level?

In the last couple of years, Indian investment in Hungary has increased manifold. Currently, employment is being provided to over 10,000 Hungarians by Indian companies. Apollo Tyres, TCS, Wipro are the big Indian names in Hungary and recently the foundation stone for SMR's fourth factory has also been laid. It is my strong belief that commercial ties are very important in order to enhance bilateral relations.

With the growth in economic relations, there has also been an increase in people-to-people contacts. There has been a huge increase in the number of Indian tourists visiting Hungary. The Indian Government has also introduced the e-tourist visa for Hungarian citizens interested to visit India. Now, one does not necessarily have to come to the Embassy for a visa. It can be obtained online. All these efforts are being made to promote our economic and cultural ties further. It is these interconnections that will lead to a better understanding and acceptance of one another that is so critical in today’s world.

ind-rahul-chhabra-2018-singing-mou.jpgSigning an MOU in the Parliament on the occasion of the official visit of H.E. Hamid Ansari, Vice President of India (Photo by Balazs Farkas-Mohi)

 

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Yoga and Ayurveda for Health


The widespread use of Indian methods for a healthier conduct of life (yoga, Ayurveda in particular) in recent years has opened many doors and minds. I know that the Indian Embassy is organizing several events, offering various programs throughout the year to promote the many benefits of these ancient Indian teachings. How frequently do you resort to these roots for personal replenishment? What other tools serve you in recharging your inner batteries in order to always be as fit as a fiddle for this most demanding and responsible job?

Yoga and Ayurveda have now been accepted world over as the means to a healthier life. The popularity of Yoga can be measured by the fact that the UN resolution to adopt June 21 as International Day of Yoga was co-sponsored by 177 countries. In Hungary itself, there are more than 125 schools/studios of Yoga imparting different forms of Yoga.

Ayurveda is an ancient holistic healing system. It lays emphasis on the comprehensive health of a person by focusing on prevention rather than cure. In Hungary, we have an Ayurveda Chair at the University of Debrecen. In addition to teaching, the current chair, Dr. Asmita Wele, a leading practitioner, is engaged in curcumin research. The Swiss Government has accepted Ayurveda as a system of complementary medicine. I would also like to warn the public to beware of quacks who pretend to be Yoga and Ayurveda experts but don't really have authentic knowledge.

We have been conducting regular Yoga classes in our Embassy. We have a free weekly Ayurveda consultation clinic every Thursday.

In my personal life, I regularly do Yoga to de-stress myself and complement it with swimming. Ayurvedic norms are routinely followed in our diet. This helps prevent several medical issues.

 

 

Somewhere Halfway Between Terrorist Attacks and Peaceful Cooperation


What would you suggest to some youngsters dreaming of a diplomatic career? What are the ups and downs? What opportunities has this profession to offer?

Diplomatic service has its own pros and cons. We are often required to work under challenging circumstances. I still can't forget how we lost many of our colleagues, including one of our very promising officers, in a terror attack on our Embassy in Afghanistan. I had been exchanging emails with him until a few days before the tragic incident; but not all is so despairing.

Diplomacy works silently behind all international agreements and peace deals, whether it is a climate change agreement or the deployment of UN peacekeeping forces (India is the largest contributor), everything is negotiated through diplomatic channels. Diplomacy plays the most important role in building and nurturing international relations.

Behind all the glitter of sipping champagne and ribbon cutting, our work never stops! We work to establish peace when war is on and to promote the ties when there is peace.

ind-rahul-chhabra-2018-warm-welcome.jpgPhoto from Twitter / IndiainHungary

 

Useful Link


Do you want to know more about India, the operation and mission of the Indian Embassy in Hungary? Are you interested in Indian-related programs and events? Visit the Official Website of the Indian Embassy and follow them on Twitter...

 

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✅ Do you like the article? Like and share it!
⛔ Any constructive opinion? Let it flow out! Write a comment!
❓ Are you curious what other exciting and interesting articles are coming up next? Definitely click on the FOLLOW button in the upper right corner!
➕ Are you wondering who pulls the strings in the background? Are you keen on getting more details? Join me on Facebook and Instagram!

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