Hungarian Ambassador Attila Pinter speaks about the fact that the image of Serbia in Hungary has long been radiating positive, political, economic and cultural interstate relations nave never been better, and that the Serbs in one front are the only ones in the world more relaxed than Hungarians.
Budapest and Belgrade are historically linked in many ways. What is the common view of Belgrade in Budapest?
For many years after the unfortunate events/civil war of the 1990’s, many citizens of Hungary have had the misperception that Serbia is a war torn country. This has changed for the better in the last 10 years. Due to the reconciliation process between our two countries Serbia and Belgrade have a very positive view in my country. In Hungary approximately 10 thousand Serbs have been living. They are respected members of our society, having elementary and high schools, cultural centre and theatre. Hungarian Government has allocated 1 billion HUF (appr. 3 million EUR) for supporting of the education of Serbs.
Belgrade is now an attractive destination, among all generations. Every year we have more and more tourists from Hungary.
What were your first impressions of Belgrade? Did they differ from what you have expected?
This is not my first mandate in Belgrade. I have been working in Serbia – in fact back than to Serbia and Montenegro – from 2003 until 2007 at the Embassy. The city has only developed and changed to the better since then. When I am telling you this to you, you have to know, that I have truly enjoyed my years in Belgrade back in the day. Therefore, my expectations were high when I came back in 2014 and Belgrade did not let me down.
What are your favourite parts of Belgrade – those that in some way remind you of Budapest or some other areas?
I have a lot of favourite places in Belgrade. I prefer walking on the bank of Danube in New Belgrade and in Kalemegdan. If I have guests I have never missed to show them Zemun and Saint Sava Church. Tasmajdan and Topcider park have always been among my beloved places to spend free time and Ada Ciganlija also deserves attention. I am a great fan of the Serbian Cuisine and I must tell you that Serbs are the best in hospitality all over the world. In Belgrade there are a lot of excellent restaurants. If I want to go a romantic place I choose Frans or Madera, the best place for fine dining is Terminal and for Serbian foods is Lovac. I prefer trying cuisine of other nations as well, I like Milagro in Zemun very much.
How is Serbia touristically represented in Hungary? Is there any room for adjustment, from your experience?
Indeed, there is always room for development. I believe that getting to know the citizens of a neighbouring country is the vital interest of all nations. As you can see at several locations in Belgrade (billboards) Hungary in actively advertising herself as a touristic destination. I believe that this shows an excellent possibility and example for Serbia as well.
What are the main similarities and differences between Hungarian and Serbian mentality and culture of living?
We are from the same region and we all had – among others – cultural influences on one another in the last couple of hundreds of years we have lived together, and beside each other. I believe this explains why there are so many similarities. For the differences, I would give you one point that we regularly face during our work. It is often challenging to understand for someone who has never lived here that the locals are even more easy going than us Hungarians. Do not get me misunderstood. I believe that this is a great character. You should continue to value even after Serbia has joined the EU. Although Serbia geographically has belonged to South-East Europe, I prefer to see your country as the Southern part of Central Europe connecting to this region through Hungary.
How would you evaluate current relations between Hungary and Serbia – economically, culturally, politically?
At a historical high in all aspects. Both Budapest and Belgrade has worked a lot to keep it this way and we will continue to do so in the future.Our bilateral relations have never been so good as today. We don’t have open, unsolved questions. In past couple of years we have reached 5-6% growth in our bilateral trade, but last year the growth was 32%. Since 2014 every year we have had at least one Hungarian investment in Serbia. Due to the acquisition of the Vojvođanska Banka the biggest Hungarian bank, OTP Bank has entered among ten biggest financial institutions in Serbia.In 2014 we opened Cultural Centre in the heart of the capital. Since then due to the programs it has become a well known brand of culture. When I started my mandate as Ambassador 4 years ago my idea was to present culture and cultural life of Hungarians, Hungarians living in Vojvodina and Serbs living in Hungary. It was my firm conviction that our Cultural Centre could be successful only if we could solve this question. I suppose we have succeeded, since we had a lot of great events including the Evening of Serbs living in Hungary last November.