The conferences of Hungarian Honorary Consuls - a concise history
The first conference of Honorary Consuls took place in Budapest between 1 and 3 July, 1996, under the auspices of the Foreign Ministry when Árpád Göncz was President of the Republic, Gyula Horn was Prime Minister and László Kovács was the Foreign Minister. There were several aims in initiating the conference: on the one hand, the leadership of the Foreign Ministry was thus able to introduce themselves to the honorary consuls, whose institution had been re-established in 1989. The number of Honorary Consul representatives was fast approaching 100 by 1996. On the other hand, with the aid of presentations, it was possible to provide them with an overview of Hungary. It was important that in order to make their work more efficient, they should be given an opportunity to share their opinions, proposals and any criticisms, and debate such points together. Last, but not least was the goal of getting to know each other personally beyond the leadership of the Foreign Ministry.
The arriving guests were entertained at an evening dinner organised by the Elek Honorary Consulate Foundation in Gundel restaurant. Each morning during the following three days, participants heard presentations. Among the speakers were the prime minister, the foreign minister, the cultural and education minister, state secretaries from the Prime Minister’s Office, leaders of the Finance Ministry, the Industry and Trade Ministry, as well as the Foreign Ministry. Speeches were given by the chairman of the State Privatisation and Holding Company, the chairman of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the managing director of the Hungarian Tourist Office, the chairman of the National Sports Office, the chief secretary of the Hungarian Olympic Association, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, the head of the Consular Department and the chairman of the board of the “Helping Hand” Foundation (“Segítő Jobb Alapítvány). The programme was given added colour in the form of a boat trip along the Danube in Budapest, a Hungarian evening – with food and wine tasting, horse show and folklore programme – in Lajosmizse farm guesthouse. The conference’s participants were cordially invited as guests of the President of the Republic in the “Hunting Room” of Parliament and of the Foreign Minister in the Folklore Museum. Various programmes were available to participants’ accompanying family members at their own expense: a bus tour of the capital, a round of visits to Budapest’s most important museums as well as a walking tour of the Danube bend.
At the second meeting in Budapest three years later, between May 31 and June 2, 1999, Árpád Göncz was the President of the Republic, Viktor Orbán the Prime Minister and János Martonyi the Foreign Minister. Out of more than 130 consular officials 113 participated at the conference. Over three days there were 12 hours of presentations, speeches and contributions on the ongoing situation in Hungary. The prime minister, the foreign, interior and economy ministers as well as the minister of national cultural heritage personally outlined the new government’s goals to participants. The last speech dwelt on the approaching millennium and the countless cultural programmes, conferences, events, memorials and publications to be presented for the occasion. Among the other lecturers were the heads of departments of the Foreign Ministry, the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the managing director of ITDH, together with the deputy chairman of the Consulate World Association. The programme was complemented by a dinner at Gundel’s restaurant organised by the Elek Honorary Consular Foundation, a boat trip to Szentendre with lunch and evening receptions, which the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister gave in honour of the conference’s participants and guests.
After the successes of the 1996 and 1999 conferences, the third conference of the Honorary Consular Officials of the Republic of Hungary was organised in Budapest between May 25 and 28, 2003, when Ferenc Mádl was the President of the Republic, Péter Medgyessy the prime minister and László Kovács the Foreign Minister.
The conference programme was of unparalleled richness, and among the speakers were the prime minister, the foreign and interior ministers, the minister of national cultural heritage, the justice minister, the state secretary at the interior ministry responsible for international affairs, the parliamentary state secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office responsible for Hungarians beyond the border, the Foreign Ministry’s parliamentary, public administration and integration state secretaries, the Finance Ministry’s deputy state secretary, the head of the Consular Department, the Chairman of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Rector of Semmelweis University. The two-and-a-half-day event closed with a lunch and horse show together with a countryside walk in Lajosmizse, where the political state secretary in charge of tourism gave a lecture. Participants visited Sándor Palace, viewed the Crown of King Saint Stephen in Parliament and were hosted by the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. This event was particularly imbued and enhanced by Hungary’s impending membership of the European Union.
On the occasion of the third conference, the foreign minister presented the honorary consuls with the memorial plaque „Pro auxilio civium Hungarorum” in recognition of ten years of uninterrupted and successful service. A total of 51 honorary consuls were given this recognition. In the years following the inaugural ceremony, the award was presented through the foreign representations.
In 2003, there were 167 honorary consular officials from 82 countries in office. At the conference were 151 consuls and their colleagues participating, with the majority of them accompanied by their partners – who had at their disposal a colourful programme: a tour of Budapest’s architecture, a wine and sparkling wine tour in Budafok and an outing to Szentendre. On the basis of the number of participants and their feedback, the May meeting delivered the best results and paid testament to the usefulness of the by-now traditional expert forum with which with the government and the heads of the foreign ministry secure developing relations.
The fourth Honorary Consular conference is to be held in Budapest between May 25 and 27, 2008 is in keeping with the noble traditions and the further tightening of relations. The Foreign Minister once again, in a celebratory framework, will hand over memorial plaques to the conference’s entitled participants of consular officials.
(May 20, 2008)