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LE MONDE HUNGARY | INTERVIEWH.E. Andor Nagy“Austria is strategically important for Hungary.“The Ambassador of Hungary to Austria comments on the political situation in Hungary, the relationbetween Hungary, Austria and the EU and measures against Covid-19.Interview: Robert WinterPHOTO: RALPH MANFREDACD: Like almost every country around the globe,Hungary is also under the spell of the Coronacrisis. How is Hungary coping with it and whichmeasures have been successful?Andor Nagy: Hungary, just like Austria,took the situation very seriously and actedresponsibly right from the start. The situationwas under control all the time, the figuresare good, as in Austria. Thanks to thetimely reaction we were able to avoid therapid spread of the virus in Hungary. Ourcountry has an overall prevalence of 0.3 perthousand of the resident population. By theway, our constitution regulates in great detailwhat the government has to do in sucha dangerous situation. The government hasadopted several measures in good time toprotect human lives, jobs and businesses,such as tax breaks, short-time working,loan guarantees and deferral of paymentsfor credit liabilities. The measures are similarto those in other countries.Will the Hungarian healthcare system, which hasbeen classified as in need of improvement sincethe fall of communism some 30 years ago, bereformed?Reforming a healthcare system is a difficultand complex task. Since the fall of theBerlin Wall, at the beginning of the 90‘s,every Hungarian government has startedto reform the healthcare system and it isstill not finished. We have a very good educationalsystem, with well qualified doctors,nurses, many of them working in Austria.In December last year, the Governmentpublished a government decision on thecomplete reorganisation of the financingsystem and the structure of healthcare provision.It was announced earlier this yearthat it would provide financial support tohospitals for the reform costs in order torenew the system. The Corona crisis hasrewritten some things. But the health systemhas shown excellent performance inthis critical situation.Covid-19 has a massive impact on the economy.What steps are planned in Hungary to reduce theconsequences?As in Austria, the government is grantingan aid package. There are aid measuressuch as wage subsidies through short-timework, tax cuts and zero-percent credits.Even loan repayments are suspended. TheHungarian government is making 26 billioneuro available for economic development.“We are creating as many new jobs asthe virus has destroyed“, is the primeminister‘s motto.From 2013 to 2019, Hungary‘s GDP growth wasabove the EU average. What development can beexpected for the current year and the next years?We must first get out of the crisis in orderto be able to observe the consequencesclosely. All EU countries are of course affected,we will experience a recession. Thesectors that are less dependent on foreigntrade and tourism will also experience mildereconomic downturns. According to theEU pre-year forecast, Hungary‘s GDP isexpected to fall by six percent in 2020/2021.Which sectors are most important for Hungary‘seconomy?Due to its geopolitical position in CentralEurope, Hungary plays an importantrole in logistics, as a hub connecting Eastwith West, North with South. But Hungaryoffers much more than just being a transitcountry. We have taken on a pioneeringrole in the automotive and e-mobility sectors,and have, for example, developed aunique test track called Zalazone for autonomousvehicles, so that we can ensure thestrengthening of innovative research anddevelopment capacities. Other strengthsare electronics and mechatronics, structuraland civil engineering, pharmaceuticals,agriculture and tourism, of course. Hungaryhas always been a popular destinationfor Austrians, and hopefully it will remainso. And just as gladly, Hungarians come toAustria to spend their holidays here.How do you rate the political and economicrelations of Hungary with the European Union andin particular with Austria? Are there areas whereimprovements are desirable?Austria is a strategically important partnerfor Hungary. 150,000 Hungarians liveand work in Austria. Every 5th employee inAustria is a foreigner. This includes manyHungarian guest workers and many commutersas well, in healthcare, tourism, gastronomy,trade and the construction industry.They earn good money and workdiligently and reliably. Hungary is Austria‘smost important export partner in Centraland Eastern Europe and Austria‘s sixthmost important export market in the EU.Hungary is also one of the top 10 countrieswith the strongest export increases, comparedto the same period last year. But Austriais also very important for Hungary.Austria is Hungary‘s second most importanttrading partner after Germany. Withmany Austrian companies and over 70,000employees. That means: 70,000 families receivetheir living directly from Austrianowners.Hungary is one of the largest net beneficiaries ofthe European Union. Nevertheless, voices criticalof the EU can be heard time and again fromBudapest. How does that fit together?Hungary is one of the four largest netbeneficiaries. That is correct. But we are tal-H.E. ANDOR NAGYis the Ambassador of Hungary to Austriasince 2018. He graduated at the EötvösLoránd University in Budapest at theFaculty of Law and holds a MSc. in legaland political studies. He is married andthe father of four girls.28Cercle Diplomatique 2/2020Cercle Diplomatique 2/202029