Azerbaijani-Hungarian diplomatic ties at 30: Time-tested ties cemented with interminable friendship
By Laman Ismayilova
As Azerbaijan and Hungary are marking the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations, it is the right moment to look back at various stages of long-term friendship, cemented through high-level and multifaceted ties of partnership.
While the formal 30-year-long history of diplomatic relations is more about statistics, the actual history of relations between the two nations goes beyond this mere 30-year-long period.
Founded on the centuries-old common historical roots, the Azerbaijani-Hungarian ties have made rapid strides towards progress and have been heralded as exemplary. The two nations have succeeded in building a strong partnership in many sectors, including political, economic, cultural, and education.
Azernews - the nation's first English language newspaper, invites its most avid readers to explore bullet point moments of the multifaceted development of the long-standing and time-tested friendship.
Q: When did Baku and Budapest establish diplomatic relations?
A: Although the factual Azerbaijani-Hungarian relations are 30 years old, the two countries share a number of common historical, linguistic and cultural features.
It is believed that three of ten tribes that formed the Hungarian nation are of Turkic origin.
Hungary recognized Azerbaijan's independence on December 26, 1991, and diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on April 27, 1992.
Since the opening of the embassies, the Azerbaijani-Hungarian relations have progressed and been boosted by mutually beneficial steps.
Around 50 documents have been signed between the two countries. Azerbaijan and Hungary have also had fruitful cooperation within international and regional organizations, especially within the Organization of Turkic States.
Hungary signed a strategic partnership agreement with Azerbaijan on November 11, 2014.
Besides the main agreement, the parties signed a cooperation agreement in the aviation sphere that envisaged restarting direct flights between Budapest and Baku, a scholarship agreement for Azerbaijani students, and agreements on sports, youth, and tourism.
During the meeting between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the sides pointed to Hungary's support for the expansion of cooperation between Azerbaijan and the European Union and exchanged views on the issues of cooperation in the economic, trade, energy, and other spheres.
Q: What is the Hungarian approach to Azerbaijan's territorial integrity?
A: Hungary has always backed Azerbaijan's fair position on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
In the post-conflict period, the Hungarian companies are ready to participate in the restoration of Azerbaijan's Karabakh region.
"After the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, we have now discussed how Hungarian companies can participate in the reconstruction of areas previously affected by the war," Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in a Facebook post after speaking with Azerbaijani Minister of Labour and Social Protection of Population Sahil Babayev.
In 2021, Azerbaijan and Hungary discussed Hungarian companies' participation in the restoration of Azerbaijan’s liberated territories. The discussion took place during the meeting of Azerbaijan Labor and Social Protection Minister Sahil Babayev and Hungarian Ambassador to Viktor Szederkenyi on February 23.
Hungary’s Exim Bank opened a $100 million credit line for companies who want to be part of the reconstruction program. The Hungarian government offered a €25,000 ($30,380) grant for demining the region.
Q: What is the current level of economic relations between the parties?
A: Over the past years, Azerbaijan and Hungary have significantly enhanced economic ties. Baku and Budapest co-hosted over 10 business forums and meetings including the Azerbaijani-Hungarian business forum and the 8th meeting of the Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation.
The Azerbaijani-Hungarian business forum is part of the two sides' efforts to explore the prospects for cooperation in expanding bilateral trade and business networks. The forum created important conditions for both countries to share best practices in agriculture.
Speaking at the business forum, Azerbaijani Minister of Agriculture Inam Karimov stressed that the tax exemption of the country's agricultural activities, the liberalization of the market for the sale of agricultural machinery, and pedigree animals provide broad investment opportunities for foreign companies, including Hungarian companies specializing in agriculture.
The minister also drew attention to the policy of agricultural development in Azerbaijan's territories liberated from the Armenian occupation.
"These areas have great agricultural potential, and liberated lands have been declared as green energy zones. The development of villages and cities in these areas will be based on the concept of Smart City and Smart Village. With this in mind, Hungarian companies can share their best technology and experience with Azerbaijan," he said.
During the 8th meeting of the Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation, Azerbaijan and Hungary also signed a number of bilateral cooperation agreements. The opening of the Hungarian Trade House in Baku in 2012 is another key event that can have a significant impact on the expansion of mutual trade.
The trade house focuses on the development of current economic relations and contributes to the expansion of relations among the countries' businessmen. Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani-Hungarian trade turnover totaled $35.1 million in 2021, with exports amounting to $1.7 million and imports to $33.3 million.
In 2021, Hungary mainly exported beverages, livestock, and medicines to Azerbaijan.
Q: What is the role of energy in relations between Baku and Budapest?
A: Several agreements have been reached for the realization of energy projects. The second meeting of the Working Group on Energy highlighted the current state of energy cooperation between the two countries.
The meeting covered a wide range of issues such as the Azerbaijani-Hungarian cooperation in the field of renewable energy, the partnership within the Southern Gas Corridor, natural gas transportation opportunities for Hungary, including cooperation in the transportation and distribution of LNG and CNG, and the activities of Hungarian group MOL in Azerbaijan, etc.
Following the meeting, a protocol on the results of the second meeting of the Working Group on Energy was signed between the two countries.
Q: What do we know about cultural ties between the two nations?
A: Azerbaijan and Hungary enjoy a long and rich history of cultural ties. The bilateral relationship has continued to strengthen and cover a broad range of spheres, especially culture and education.
In 2019, the House of Azerbaijan opened in the Hungarian capital of Budapest through the support of Azerbaijan's State Committee on Diaspora Affairs.
Azerbaijan's then Ambassador to Hungary Vilayat Guliyev described the opening of the House of Azerbaijan on the eve of the World Azerbaijanis Solidarity Day as a milestone event and a great gift for Azerbaijanis living in Hungary.
The countries also expressed their desire to open the Culture Centers in Baku and Budapest. It is also planned to open a center of the Azerbaijani culture in Budapest. A project "Parallel Worlds" has been launched this year at the Azerbaijan State University of Culture. The first event within the project was dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Azerbaijan and Hungary.
The event started with a lecture by the Counselor for Education and Culture of the Hungarian Embassy in Azerbaijan Mihaly Gruber. The lecture "Legends of Hungary" explains the mythological aspect of Budapest's famous and interesting monuments, while the photo exhibition presented by photographer, art curator, and traveler Aydin Sadikhov demonstrated the images of monuments from unique angles.
The Hungarian government highly appreciated the role of the Azerbaijani public and cultural figures in strengthening the Hungarian-Azerbaijani cultural ties. In 2020, the photographer was awarded the Hungarian Bronze Cross of Merit for strengthening the Hungarian-Azerbaijani cultural ties.
The resolution on the decoration was signed by Hungarian President Janos Ader. The principal conductor of the Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater was also awarded the Golden Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit for special services in the field of culture and contribution to Baku-Budapest ties.
Hungary takes a special place in the life of Ayyub Guliyev. Over the past years, the national conductor has successfully cooperated with multiple Hungarian cultural figures. Many Hungarian musicians are frequent guests in Baku.
In 2019, the Hungarian pianist Tamas Erdi performed at a charity concert co-organized by the Hungarian embassy in Baku and Nargis Fund. Peter Bence, an incredible Guinness World Record-breaking pianist with the fastest fingers on the planet, continues to fascinate the Baku audience.
The pianist that achieved sensational success with his edgy, percussive, and expressive playing style, performed in Baku for the third time. All these factors prove that Azerbaijan and Hungary are committed to further strengthening bilateral ties.
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Laman Ismayilova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Lamiva993