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Visit from Hungarian Ambassador, His Excellency Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky & TALK: In the Spirit of Rubik’s Cube – Hungary’s Smart Transition to a Knowledge Based Economy, Cardiff University School of Business, 23.11.18

His Excellency, Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky, is the ambassador to the court of St James. His background is in finance, industry, publishing, armed forces and politics. His hobbies include polo, showjumping, shooting and sailing. Kristóf was pleased with the attendance of his lecture. He enjoyed the fact that so many people had gathered to hear about his ‘strange little country’. Hungary covers 93000 square kilometres and has a population of 10 million which when you include the diaspora of Hungarians living abroad in neighbouring countries, reaches 15 million. In Hungary they are concerned for their survival. Hungarians are non-Slavic, non-Germanic and non-Latin. Their language is a secret code, although increasingly in his travels across Britain, Kristóf is always meeting fellow Hungarians, be it in hotels or posh private clubs. Hungary is in a strategic location. There are opportunities and advantages in this location but equally it can be like sleeping next to a motorway. The Magyars originally invaded, coming from the East on horseback in the 800s around the time of the Vikings. Mongols and Ottomans were camped out on their doorstep and Hungary has only recently shaken the yolk of occupation from the Soviet Union. In modern times Hungary is at a commercial crossroads and it benefits from being central to the energy pipelines running across from Russia into Europe. In 2010 a new government came into power and it is this government’s mission to focus on economic stability. In 2010 it was indebted 86% of GDP and had to be bailed out by the IMF. This figure is now 73% and dropping. 12% unemployment has, by publics works schemes, dropped to an excellent figure of 3.6%. There had been stagnant economic growth but now, for the last quarter this year, growth is at 5%. There is comfortable regular growth of 3.6%, 3.8% and 4%. Corporation tax has been increased and there is a policy of strict financial vigour. The Maastrict criteria has been fulfilled although the government do not wish to currently take on the Euro. There has been a change in the tax system with a revolutionary flat tax system being introduced. Income tax is fixed at a universal 15% and corporation tax is at 9%. VAT is 0% for food and 27% for luxury goods. The economy is now more sustainable and stronger. A new ministry has been created of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. Hungary is looking…

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The Invisible Line of Migration – A Conversation with Multi-Award Winning Photo-Journalist Danilo Balducci, Cardiff University 04.10.18

La Linea Invisibile is a discussion by guest speaker Danilo Balducci which brings together the Translation, Adaptation and Performance, Picturing Others, and Conflict, Development and Disaster research themes at the School of Modern Languages. This lecture was broken up into 3 separate video displays of Danilo’s work. The above video is available on youtube and is the first in the series of photo presentations that we watched. Most of it is in Lesbos although some of the migrants were in Calais. Danilo travelled with migrants from Rome to Germany, very often fleeing the police alongside them. He continued to work on the situation in Italy which was a dramatic situation. In 2015 and 2016 the Balkan route was picking up and he followed this. In Lesbos the numbers were immense with 1000s gathering there. By travelling with migrants Danilo produced photography that wasn’t sterile. He was pulling people out of the sea, crossing rivers and crossing mountains. He made connections with people that he still maintains. On occasion the camera had to stay put where Danilo made the decision not to take pictures. For example when a woman was giving birth on the shore, he felt that it was too intimate a moment. However, there were some controversial images that he felt he needed to take. The dead young girl which was just a string of 14 dead migrants found that day, illustrates how difficult the migration passage could be. The problem with these deaths was that they were selling fake life jackets. They were full of absorbent material and had no buoyancy. Those who had money could buy authentic, proper ones. These deaths were the result of human, criminal folly. With regard to photography, it’s not about technique but more about empathy. It’s the ability to connect with people and to have boundaries. If somebody says: “Please do not take a picture” you must respect that.In a camp of 12000 people there can be much crying and screaming in distress. This affects you and Danilo found that he required psychological treatment. He recorded the sounds of the camps on his phone – he even captured the shots – the rubber bullets that were fired. The bloody face in the photographs comes from the shootings. On one day alone, 160 tear gas canisters were fired. They were Soviet-era Russian canisters that were out of date. Danilo had no gas mask and…

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Review: The Will to Survive. A History of Hungary

The Will to Survive. A History of Hungary by Bryan Cartledge My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is a daunting book in terms of size yet at the conclusion of it, I feel its in depth detail and full historical coverage make it a definitive volume of those interested in the country of Hungary and its environs. I travelled through Hungary in 2005 and spent some tie in Budapest and was quite surprised by the capital’s affluent nature despite it being my first glimpse behind the Iron Curtain. The author was a British ambassador to Hungary in the early 1980s, at the dawn of the modern political era. If I had any criticism of this work it is that it sometimes gets a little overbearing politically with less emphasis on general history. I found the ancient history amazing and was fully intrigued by the Habsburg monarchy. The twentieth century brought a new angle on bot World Wars and the subsequent peaces. I was surprised at the impact Trianon has on Hungary and the key revolution in 1956 exposed some of the feelings of true life behind the Iron Curtain. I think that Hungary’s history as a central European nation has been troubled due to its geography yet the continuation of the Hungarian people and language demonstrates that this struggle has succeeded. I feel that Hungary invokes romantic notions in how it is generally perceived in the West. That is despite, allying itself with the losing side in both World Wars, its location on the Danube at where East meets West, means that it has a unique position in terms of world heritage. After reading this book I feel more enlightened about Eastern Europe and feel that I would like to further my study on the region by visiting it once more. View all my reviews

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