Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to the Nordic Business Forum! And a special welcome also to ambassador Sikó, Hungary’s ambassador in Oslo, who is present here tonight.
Quite a few of us met last October in the Finnish embassy, on the theme “Transparency as an asset in business in Hungary”. The intention was for us in the Norwegian embassy to host a business event in the spring. We missed that target. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade hosted the very successful Hungarian-Nordic Green Light Business Forum which brought us together in May. Gyöyrgy Urkuti and other colleagues from MFAT are here this evening. Thank you very much!
The present Nordic Business Forum tries to pick up some of the threads from last year in the Finnish embassy and the Green Light business forum. And we have some interesting news, brief interventions by the ambassadors and a key note presentation by Paul Pahil, director of Positive Interventions, Hungry 4 Learning. But mainly the forum is intended as a platform for meeting, contact between Nordic related businesses in Hungary, on issues of common interest. Connecting people, businesses, mingling...
We meet tonight in the reconstructed Lóvasút, the horse tram station. The original building dates from 1868. There is a Nordic connection! If you look up and around, you will see cultural heritage restored with the financial support of Norwegian and Icelandic – and Liechtensteiner – taxpayers. This is one of the more than 600 EEA and Norway grant projects implemented in Hungary under the now expiring 2009-14 financial mechanisms. Our contribution according to the approved budget was 850.000 EUR, of an initial total project cost of slightly more than 1.2 million EUR.
And we are in fact a “historical gathering”, since this is the very first event held here in the beautifully restored building. The local city administration in the 12th district, Hegyvidék, led by mayor Zoltán Pokorni, is very happy that we have chosen this venue for such an important gathering. We are of course, glad to be here!
The main theme today will be creativity and innovation and the factors behind the Nordic countries’ successes in many fields, political, social and economic.
Just as a start, here (slide) is some of the rankings which describe very well the standing and success of the so-called Nordic model. The Nordic cooperation aims at making us strong and successful together. It clearly works! You can also see that Hungary in many fields has a way to go.
We will start, as you have seen from the invitation and programme, with a brief overview of some current issues, information by the four ambassadors.
But before that, I think I should mention that the four embassies has received a grant from the secretariat of the Nordic Council of Ministers in Copenhagen, to profile Nordic strenghts, Nordic cooperation, Nordic values and success factors. In short: to inform the Hungarian audience a little better about the Nordic region and what makes us function and tick. The project is in its final preparation phase.
We have selected non-profit association Bridge Budapest as main project operator. I think this is a very good selection. Bridge Budapest has since 2013 promoted awareness of Hungarian business successes and promoted contact and synergies between innovators, upstart companies, young individuals, - bridging various ideas and capacities in the Hungarian society. The chair of the association is Péter Árvai, CEO and co-founder of Prezi.
We will try and do something similar to the Bridge Budapest idea, by bringing a group of Hungarians in closer contact with the trends and strengths which we in the Nordic region believe are important for successful and balanced development. We will call this project “Nordic Bridge” and Veronika Pistyur, CEO of Bridge Budapest will in practice be the project leader. We are not launching the project yet, so this is mainly for information. The four embassies in Budapest are working closely on this.
As for Norway, bilateral trade with Hungary remains fairly limited. Telenor is still the largest Norwegian investor, I am sure. There is now also agreement to expand the Sapa, or now Hydro aluminium extruding plant in Székesfehérvár. The plant employs about 1500 and will receive Hungarian state aid (assessed to be 8 million EUR) to complement an almost 22 million EUR expansion of the plant and production for the automotive industry. Managing director Frank Iepema is present here tonight. We also note interesting and positive developments in other areas, including defence technology. And last year in Oslo a Hungarian-Norwegian chamber of commerce was established, with at the start some ten member companies. The Hungarian embassy has been instrumental in this regard. There is now also the suggestion to launch a kind of Norwegian business cluster in Heviz. Tamás Marothy of company Eydescreen is the point man for that prospective idea.
On 16 November the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office will host a ceremonial closing conference for the EEA and Norwegian financial mechanisms 2009-14 in Hungary. 153 million EUR was made available by the three donor states. A preliminary assessment is that Hungary unfortunately will not have used all the available funds. We are in the process of negotiating the next cycle, on how to deploy 214 million EUR in different cooperation sectors. It is very likely that almost half of the available funds will be allocated to projects of particular relevance to business, including SME development, business entrepreneurship, green innovation, renewable energy, energy efficiency, research. We’ll see.
After having visited places and taken part in many events under this umbrella, it is perfectly clear to me that the EEA and Norway grants are an important – and underutilized - platform for Norway - and Iceland in this context - to increase business contact with Hungary. Our aim is to strengthen the links and build on the successes also in the next grant programme cycle.
Thank you for the attention.