Since his appointment as Hungary’s honorary consul for Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas in 2007, John Parkerson has hosted many Hungarian ambassadors and officials, often introducing them to Georgia companies, academic institutions and economic developers.
On March 29, however, Dr. Laszlo Szabo, the current Hungarian ambassador based in Washington, came to Atlanta to honor Mr. Parkerson with the “Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit” the highest honor which can be bestowed on a non-Hungarian citizen.
“We came to celebrate John” Dr. Szabo told Global Atlanta shortly before a ceremony in the Atlanta offices of the law firm Hall Booth Smith PC where Mr. Parkerson is a member of its international practice group.
“He is a great pioneer for Hungary in Atlanta,” he added, “working together with our technical universities, bringing MBA students to Hungary every year developing marketing strategies, helping start-ups and overseeing bilateral trade and investment portfolios.”
Prior to the official knighting, a slideshow of photos of Mr. Parkerson’s many visits to Hungary, of meetings with Hungarian officials and business associates, and of generally enjoying himself was shown to invited guests including members of Atlanta’s Consular Corps, fellow attorneys, local officials and long-time friends whom he thanked for their support and friendship over the years.
Among his guests at the ceremony were fellow members of the Consular Corps, Ambassador Detlev Runger, consul general of Germany, Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer, Israel’s consul general based in Atlanta who previously served as Israel’s ambassador to Hungary, Miguel Aleman-Urteaga, consul general of Peru, and Aadu J. Allpere, the honorary consul of Estonia.
Mr. Parkerson’s relationship with Hungary dates back to his days from 1993-2008 as a member of Delta Air Lines Inc.’s law department when he helped Delta fly into Budapest, Hungary’s capital, in 2006.
His tenure as honorary consul experienced turbulent economic and political times in Hungary, which he successfully navigated to be elevated to the posts of Honorary Foreign Economic Counselor for Hungary as well as Honorary Consul General.
Mr. Parkerson told Global Atlanta that his service is primarily geared to promote business-trade-economic relations between Southeast U.S. and Hungarian businesses.
“Hungary, an important member of the European Union with a robust economy and favorable business environment, is the site of many U.S. companies’ European investment,” he added.
Prior to the ceremony at Hall Booth Smith, Dr. Szabo visited Clayton State University where Mr. Parkerson previously served as the university’s director of international programs and assistant professor of international business and global logistics.
They also visited the Department of Economic Development where they met with Abby Turano, Georgia’s deputy commissioner for international relations and chief of protocol, and Dee Ford, the department’s deputy chief of protocol.
Dr. Szabo told Global Atlanta that Hungary looked more favorably on Georgia than economically and financially well-established areas such as Silicon Valley in California and the Northeastern seacoast, which he called overpriced and already saturated with international projects.
Georgia was especially attractive, according to the ambassador, because of the opportunities for two-way investments, technical ties between universities and their mutual interest in promoting start-ups.
Hungary should be attractive to Southeastern companies, he said, because of its low corporate tax rate — 9 percent, “the lowest in Europe,” — and the speed of its digital network, — “the third fastest in the world and by the end of next year to include all households throughout the country.”
As in previous trips to Atlanta, he underscored Hungary’s tradition of innovations both at home and in the United States. He rattles these off such as the development of Hollywood, the computer, sparkling water, electric engines, carburetors, and others, almost as a mantra.
He also said that it was important for the U.S. to strengthen its ties with Hungary as a means of providing stability between Russia and the EU.
When asked if he was concerned about current Russian policies toward the EU and its neighbors, he quickly responded, “A lot, quite simply,” and pointed to its participation in the Visegrad Group, a cultural and political alliance that dates back to 1991, including besides Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia
As primary evidence, he cited his country’s current activities to reduce Hungary’s dependence on Russian energy by developing new infrastructure primarily for liquified natural gas (LNG) between Hungary, Romania and Croatia and an interconection between Slovakia and Poland.
In addition to his legal practice and teaching contracts drafting at the Emory University School of Law, Mr. Parkerson is extremely active locally with internationally focused organizations as former president of the World Trade Center Atlanta, a board member and secretary of the Atlanta Consular Corps, a board member of the Georgia Council for International Visitors, a member of the Board of Councilors of the Carter Center, and a board member of the Global Partners Council of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.
Mr. Parkerson may be reached by calling 404-954-5000 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org