It is true that Ecuador is far away from Hungary, but we will see that there are important links that can benefit both countries. José Luis Salazar, Ecuador’s ambassador to Hungary, was interviewed by Daily News Hungary:
Daily News Hungary (DNH): Hungary and Ecuador are more than 10,000 kilometres apart. What did you know about Hungary before you were appointed ambassador to our country?
Ambassador H.E. Mr. José Luis Salazar: Although I had never been to Hungary before, I knew that your country was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire under Emperor Franz Joseph I until the end of WWI and then at the end of WWII was invaded by the Nazis until 1945 when the Soviets arrived and stayed until 1990. As I am a history lover, I had learned a lot about your country before assuming the Ambassadorship of Ecuador in Hungary which also oversees 4 countries from Budapest: Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria.
DNH: In our previous discussion, you have already made it clear that you came here not as a career diplomat but as a businessman. Tell us a little about yourself and your previous professional experience.
Ambassador Salazar: After graduating from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. in 1977, I started working for Citibank in Ecuador and in 1980, I moved to a local Bank that was being founded under the name of Banco Bolivariano in Guayaquil and I worked there until 1997 and resigned to open McDonald’s in Ecuador as CEO/Joint Venture Partner where, after 18 years and 24 restaurants, I decided to sell my shares to the Corporation. Since then, I have been participating in several Boards of Directors and closely involved with the largest non-profit organization in Ecuador (Junta de Beneficencia) as a volunteer.
DNH: How do you see the Hungarian market as a potential export destination for Ecuadorian products?
Ambassador Salazar: Without any doubt, Hungary is a very attractive market for Ecuadorian products and at present, Hungarian importers are already buying bananas, roses, cocoa, and black pepper from Ecuador, but there is also an excellent potential to export shrimps, tuna fish, teak wood, coffee, broccoli, to name a few products.
DNH: And what Hungarian products are worth bringing to Ecuador?
Ambassador Salazar: At this time, all of the Suzuki vehicles that are imported from Ecuador are produced in Hungary and I also see the opportunity for other products like, for example, wines.
DNH: What kind of cultural and educational cooperation can the two countries engage in?
Ambassador Salazar: Since the year 2015, Ecuador is an important partner of the Stipendium Hungaricum Scholarship Program and every year, 75 Ecuadorean students come to Hungary to pursue their Master or PhD degrees. I also see that there are many other fields where Ecuador and Hungary can establish cooperation agreements like water treatment, medicine, and forestry to name some, where we can learn from Hungary’s best practices in those fields.
DNH: What is the number of Ecuadorians currently living in Hungary?
Ambassador Salazar: At the present, we estimate that there are over 300 Ecuadorean nationals living in Hungary, the majority of them students but there are also a good number that have settled here permanently and have started their families and are very happy to live in this beautiful country.
DNH: What are the major upcoming events happening at the Embassy?
Ambassador Salazar: On August 31st, we will inaugurate a painting exhibition at Instituto Cervantes and it will be there for 3 full days. The paintings belong to our famous artist Servio Zapata who is very well known in Ecuador as he is one of the most prestigious painters.
DNH: Since your appointment, you have met a lot of people. What is your impression of the Hungarian people?
Ambassador Salazar: My wife and I are very happy to be here in Budapest and we have found that its people are very friendly and educated. I must admit that we were impressed by the excellent level of security the city has.
DNH: You must have familiarised yourself with Hungary to some extent by now, so you may know many attractions outside of Budapest. Which is your favourite rural town?
Ambassador Salazar: So far I have only visited Eger, Balaton and Gödöllő and hopefully, in a few more weeks, I will have the opportunity to visit the Tokaj region and as my wife and I are very fond of wines, I have high expectations to visit this famous region.
DNH: Hungary has a rich gastronomy, full of culture and flavour. What are your favorite local foods and drinks?
Ambassador Salazar: My wife and I love the Goulash both as a soup and as a stew.
DNH: Finally, what message do you have for those who have not yet been to Ecuador? Why should one visit this beautiful exotic country far away from Hungary?
Ambassador Salazar: Ecuador is a land of contrast, very natural and with all kind of attractions as we have 4 regions that are completely different, the coastal region with its pristine beaches, mangrove trees and rivers and mild/hot weather, the Andean region with its volcanoes, green valleys and with a cold/mild weather, the Amazon region with its world-class diversity and virgin jungles with mild and humid weather and last but surely not least the world-famous Galápagos Islands with its unique animals and volcanic landscapes. All of this magical paradise is only 12 hours away on a direct flight from Amsterdam (KLM) or Madrid (Iberia).
The full interview in Hungarian HERE.