EUROPEAN PARTNERS

Kuwait 2017 | DIPLOMACY | B2B

New paths are opening up between Eastern Europe and the region, bringing with them diverse opportunities for both sides.

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovi
KOLINDA GRABAR-KITAROVI
President
Croatia
Andrea GulyÁs
ANDREA GULYÁS
Minister of State
Hungary

After opening the Croatian embassy and the Hungarian visa center, respectively, what improvements do you expect to see in your bilateral relations?

KOLINDA GRABAR-KITAROVI It is important to have an embassy in this part of the world. During the two days that I spent visiting Kuwait, I saw what possibilities exist for the development of business relations between Croatia and Kuwait and the broader region. It is of pivotal importance to encourage concrete projects that we discussed in Kuwait, especially regarding tenders to which Croatian companies have applied. Our business delegation had the opportunity to meet their counterparts, and also spoke with the Chamber of Economy. For the last four years, we have been working on the establishment of this embassy, and we are pleased to have done so with a fully fledged presence including staff on consular, economic, diplomatic, and political departments.

ANDREA GULYÁS Kuwaiti people are open to exploring new destinations, and Hungary certainly is a very attractive alternative to many popular European countries. A lot of elderly Kuwaitis can recall personal stories about family trips to Hungary by car in the 1970s and the 1980s and how much they enjoyed the time they spent in Hungary. Although the political and security situation has dramatically changed in the Middle East and it is no longer feasible and safe to travel from Kuwait to Hungary by car, we are determined to do our best to encourage the people of Kuwait to visit Hungary. The opening of the visa center is an important step in this regard. We aim to facilitate visa application procedures to meet the expectations of our Kuwaiti applicants, while we also strive to better accommodate their needs in terms of flexible opening hours and availability and swiftness of service. Since its opening, we perceived a marked increase of interest and attention toward Hungary, which is also reflected in the number of visa applications submitted through our new visa application center. There is a noticeable increase in the number of applications, especially for tourism purposes. Also, based on data from the main carriers the sale of airplane tickets to Budapest has increased to 7.3% this year. We believe that the number of Kuwaiti tourists who visit Hungary this year will be around 3-4,000.

What are the pillars of trade and industry that connect business between your two countries and Kuwait?

KGK Croatia is a relatively small Mediterranean country, but with a powerful culture. Especially as a tourist destination, we have much to offer given the fact we have 1,200 islands, a 1,200km coastline, and already around 17 million tourists visit us annually. The Adriatic Sea is around 24 degrees in summer, which is wonderful for swimming. Croatia has been awarded for its clean seas, on which we pride ourselves over neighboring Italy. Reversely, we have a strong shipbuilding tradition and along our coastline we have numerous shipyards and wharfs. Croatian companies have already participated in several Kuwaiti tenders for the construction of yachts and ships, and we hope to increase our economic relations here. Kuwait has shown great interest, and we do believe our quality surpasses offerings from China and South Korea. Other areas include the food and beverage industry, as there is potential for Croatian exports of fresh consumer goods. Croatia has a long history of producing military equipment and we have exported to many regions of the world. There is a company that has already delivered to the National Guard of Kuwait, for which it also has the maintenance contract.

AG Hungary had a trade mission in Kuwait already in 1966 and since then Kuwait has remained an important partner for our exports. The volume of bilateral trade has been fluctuating during the last few years between USD40 and 55 million with a significant surplus of Hungarian exports. The most important fields of our export are still related to the Hungarian engineering knowledge, which was well known in Kuwait even back in the 1970s. Approximately 80% of it is made up of power generating and electrical and industrial machinery equipment and road vehicles. Here I would highlight again the role of the ICT and the pharmaceutical industry, which could serve as potential fields of cooperation between our countries. There is also potential in the field of agriculture, as agricultural technologies related to animal breeding or the dairy industry may be of particular interest for Kuwait.