On November 6, 2018, Dr. Laszlo Szabo, Hungarian Ambassador to the United States, visited Utah Valley University to speak to the students and faculty in attendance about “Hungary and the Geopolitical Importance of Central Europe: What’s in it for the United States?”
Ambassador of Hungary to the United States, Dr. Laszlo Szabo speaks at UVU
After his introduction, Ambassador Szabo briefly explained his background in the pharmaceutical industry and his experience as vice president of fortune 500 company, Eli Lilly, and as the CEO of TEVA Hungary until 2014. To transition into his current role in diplomacy, Szabo joked that he now works in a world where he does twice as much work for a fraction of what he used to earn. From 2014 to 2017, Szabo served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, and from 2017 to now has represented as top envoy of Hungary in the United States.
Ambassador Szabo briefly touched on Hungary’s history since its establishment in 896 AD. Because of Hungary’s geographic position, it has been subjected to many great empires throughout time, including the Ottoman Empire and the Soviet Union. Szabo explains that the Hungarian people draw much of their national identity from their years of living under different foreign powers. Ambassador Szabo then spoke on the Hungarian economy and how Hungary currently has the lowest tax rate in Europe. Szabo referenced the global economic crisis and said that Hungary had almost gone bankrupt during this time, and that it has been able to survive due to its early repayment of International Monetary Fund loans and also in part due to its partnerships with several countries throughout the world, including the United States. Mr. Szabo then talked about many of the inventions that have originated from Hungary, ranging from electrical engines to ballpoint pens to the Rubik’s Cube. He explained also that due to Hungary’s inventive capacity, it has become a technological gateway into Europe for the United States. Ambassador Szabo described Hungary’s economic relationship with the United States as a symbiotic one, where Hungary can provide a product and the U.S. can effectively market the invention. From Ambassador Szabo, we learned that there are nearly 1,700 American companies that have centers in Hungary and there is an unseen Hungarian influence in the American entertainment industry, Hollywood, specifically.
Following a presentation that depicted Hungary’s role in Hollywood to help Utah Valley University students find common ground with Hungary, Ambassador Szabo began to dive into Hungary’s geopolitical situations, citing that one of the largest challenges for Hungary is illegal immigration. According to Ambassador Szabo, Hungary deals with approximately 10,000 illegal entrance trials every day. Hungarian official addressed his country’s rich Jewish culture and their good relations with Israel, stating that the current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, labelled Hungary as “the best country in Europe for the Jewish people.” Ambassador Szabo also spoke about Hungary’s humanitarian efforts to aid Christians that are being persecuted in countries located in the Middle East and North Africa.
Audience during Ambassador Szabos presentation
Ambassador Szabo then opened up for questions. One event attendee asked about Russia’s influence in Hungary’s trade economy and education. In response, the Ambassador said that while it is true that Russia is a large gas supplier for Hungary, Hungary has followed and supported the sanctions against Russia. In regards to education, Szabo stated that Russia did not have any influence in the Hungarian education system, despite being under the U.S.S.R. decades ago. Another attendee asked Ambassador Szabo about the negative depictions on some aspects of life in Hungary, including extremism and state sponsored media. Ambassador Szabo responded to this question by addressing that every country and every political ideology has extremists. The Ambassador Szabo then spoke regarding news agencies by saying that even in the United States, there are news agencies such as Fox or CNN that are partial to a specific political party and that state-sponsored media is not exclusive to Hungary. As Utah Valley University student, I was grateful to Ambassador Szabo for taking the time to visit and provide an inside perspective on the country of Hungary.
Matthew Brady Simon, UVU student
STUDENT REFLECTIVE ESSAYS