In recent years, the Hungarian government under the leadership of Victor Orban has been controversial with some members of the European Union and civil society organizations and domestic and international media groups due to its policies limiting press freedoms and the independence of its judiciary.
The Hungarian parliamentary election in April, however, provided Prime Minister Orban with a landslide victory, realized in part by the country’s economic vitality and political stability.
Katalin Nemeth, director of the Hungarian Investment and Trade Agency, brought to Atlanta on June 6 an upbeat, enthusiastic message about her country’s economic recovery after earlier visits to New York and Washington along with her appreciation for increased investment from the U.S. as well as from Germany and Russia.
Instead of having to take her word for it, the dozen attendees at a breakfast meeting at the World Trade Center Atlanta in Buckhead learned that the Financial Times Group’s fDI Magazine named Budapest, Hungary’s capital, as the most attractive Central and Eastern European city for foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2014.
Wroclaw and Katowice, Poland, were ranked second and third in the category.
The group invites submissions for its list “European Cities and Regions in the Future” biennially. It received 468 submissions for the 2014 rankings.
In addition to its first place honor for FDI, Budapest was ranked ninth on the overall list of the most popular investment destinations across Europe behind Brussels at eighth, but ahead of Moscow, 10th, as the only city in the top 10 from Central and Eastern Europe.
Budapest also was ranked eighth among the top ten in Europe for cost effectiveness behind Kiev, Ukraine, (seventh), but above Tibilisi, the Republic of Georgia, (ninth).
When Gyorgy Szapary, Hungary’s ambassador to the U.S., was in Atlanta in March he spoke with alarm about Russia’s push into the Crimean peninsula and its threats elsewhere in the Ukraine. He also criticized the U.S. for its lack of willingness to flex its military muscles elsewhere in the world such as in Syria to keep Russia in check.
But Ms. Nemeth revealed her economic focus by saying that Russian investment was very welcome in Hungary and that she expected more to come from the East.
Meanwhile, however, she made it clear that Hungary’s main economic partner was to the West with 60 percent of the country’s exports going to Europe.
“We are an exporting country. Hungary relies on exports,” she added, citing more than 80 percent of the country’s gross national product tied to its exports.
Hungary has been successful in attracting major international companies due to its location, its skilled workforce and its quality of life, she said.
She cited, AGCO Corp., United Parcel Service Inc. and NCR Corp. are examples of Georgia companies that have a presence in Hungary.
In addition, she pointed to Hungary’s strengths as a producer in the automotive, electronic, renewable energy and agricultural sectors as well as life sciences, logistics and information and communication technologies.
According to Ms. Nemeth, Hungary also benefited from its membership in the European Union in 2004 due to the reconstruction and development funds it received over the past 10 years. Hungary’s decision to delay its entry into the eurozone gave its currency greater flexibility during the economic downturn thereby keeping its exports highly competitive, she added.
She also said that Hungary expects its GDP to grow at a rate of more than 3 percent this year and she extolled its new business registration forms that enable new companies including foreign companies to be up and running within five days of registering.
And she cited new language policies requiring university studenets to learn a foreign language before they can graduate, which, she said, facilitated foreign investment and reinforced the quality of the country’s workforce. English and German are the preferred languages, she said.
Russian, which used to be required but with the collapse of the Soviet Union was unpopular, is gaining some ground due to growing economic prospects.
Ms. Nemeth’s optimistic view was reinforced at the breakfast meeting by David Bruce, a professor at Georgia State University‘s Robinson College of Business, who traveled with a dozen students to Budapest earlier this summer.
Dr. Bruce and Pedro Carrillo, his colleague on the Robinson staff, were most impressed, he told Global Atlanta, with the operations of the Hungarian axel manufacturer, Raba Automotive Holding Plc, and the Danish industrial pump manufacturer Grundfos Holding A/S/, which they visited.
Ms. Nemeth was accompanied by Judit Czako, head of HITA’s knowledge-based industries and services department, during her visit to Atlanta.
To learn more about the visit of Ms Nemeth, call John Parkerson, the honorary consul of Hungary, based in Atlanta, at 404-954-6970 or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org