1 Jul

Diplomacy & Trade Hungarian magazine published an interview with Ambassador András Kocsis in its June edition. The article titled "Bilateral ties in the hearts and minds" was published online on 1 July 2021. 


Relations between Hungary and the Netherlands date back centuries and the two countries have recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations. András Kocsis has been the Hungarian ambassador in The Hague for five years now. He tells Diplomacy&Trade about the various aspects of bilateral relations “forged through centuries of friendship and mutual respect.”

“The Netherlands is a beautiful country, I like to visit every corner as often as I can and meet the locals. It is a heartwarming experience every time when people approach me after an event to talk about their experience with Hungarians or Hungary. Mostly, it’s about the 1956 revolution but there are also descendants from the so-called children trains of the 1920s. In the framework of a large-scale charity operation after World War I more than 20,000 sick or orphan Hungarian children came to the Netherlands. They did not only find welcoming families for a couple of months but in many cases stayed for the rest of their lives. You realize through these stories that bilateral relations are not only about official meetings done by politicians but they are anchored in the citizens’ hearts and minds.”

Celebrations not quite as expected
Of course, the Hungarian Embassy in the Hague also celebrated 100 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Ambassador Kocsis says they kicked off the centenary with the inauguration of the renovated embassy building in The Hague with the participation of the foreign ministers. Then, Minister Szijjártó organized a business breakfast with the CEOs of the biggest Dutch companies in Budapest. “I still remember vividly the lunch we had first in Budapest with former Hungarian ambassadors to the Netherlands, followed by a dinner at my residence with former Dutch ambassadors to Hungary spanning three decades. Then, the pandemic kicked in and our ambitious plans went up in smoke. Not all is lost, though: since the very first Hungarian envoy to the Netherlands was actually not sent in 1919 but by Gábor Bethlen, Prince of Transylvania, in 1623, we will have the chance to celebrate the 400th anniversary already in two years.”

Great cooperation
In reaction to the words of René van Hell, the Dutch ambassador in Budapest, that there is good cooperation between the two embassies, András Kocsis points out that “the Dutch are very informal and easy-going in general, and René is no exception. WhatsApp, direct messages on Twitter, emails, you name it: we give each other a heads-up on relevant developments that are important in our daily work. We also try to catch up whenever we are back home. René is a great partner in strengthening our bilateral ties, once he even came from Hungary to Amsterdam to participate in a twin city conference with mayors of Hungarian and Dutch cities. And yes, once in a while we do share some private photos with each other.”

Economic partnership
One of the tasks of the Hungarian Embassy in The Hague is attracting Dutch capital to Hungary. In agreement with this, Ambassador Kocsis stresses that “focusing on trade is the number one item in the job description of every Hungarian ambassador. Economic cooperation has always been the cornerstone of our partnership since the Netherlands is among our Top10 trading partners and investors. In a post-pandemic world economy, there will be a bitter competition between countries so we don’t take anything for granted: the government works hard to keep our position as an ideal investment destination. Be it regional financial incentives or the availability of skilled labor workforce in every county, we have all the necessary information at our disposal thanks to our colleagues at the Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency (HIPA). I regularly meet the CEO’s both in the Netherlands and Hungary to ask them about the current state-of-play of their operation. I am glad to report that the Dutch companies are very satisfied with the Hungarian business environment and keep reinvesting.”

Farming and agriculture
Agriculture is an area where both The Netherlands and Hungary have great achievements. As to what joint benefit can the two countries gain from this cooperation, the Hungarian ambassador says “indeed, we can learn a lot from each other also when it comes to farming and agriculture. I could mention the close cooperation between Wageningen University and the Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences (MATE). Another prime example is Smartkas, an Amsterdam-based agri-tech start-up using AI and cutting-edge technologies. Its founder, the Hungarian Dávid Mészáros has recently featured on the Forbes Under 30 Europe list. The company develops greenhouses (‘kas’ means greenhouse in Dutch, hence the name) and vertical farms that are hermetically closed, with inputs automatically controlled, enabling a pesticide-free production line and stable, high yield year-around. Truly fascinating.”

A relevant message
In conclusion, Ambassador Kocsis mentions that “in the heat of the daily political fights it is sometimes easy to forget that we are friends and allies both in the European Union and NATO. Our bond is forged through centuries of friendship and mutual respect. United in diversity – reads the emblematic motto of the European Union. Its message is as relevant as ever. Our approaches might be different but our goal is the same: a strong and competitive Europe.”