Michal Lőrincz is the Danish Honorary Consul in Slovakia, and the President of the Slovak Honorary Consular Corp
Denmark is located at the southernmost part of Scandinavia, in a large peninsula (Jutland), two larger (Sjaelland and Flynn) and several smaller islands. Wherever we go to here, we’re no more than one hour from the sea. The almost flat little country is mainly covered by an agricultural landscape. In the calm and rich Denmark, there has been a constitutional monarchy since 1849 and it is one of the world’s oldest monarchies. Denmark is a member of the European Union, one of the states of the Nordic welfare model. In the Slovak Republic, Denmark is represented by Michal Lőrincz honorary consul who is also the president of the Slovak Honorary Consular Corp. While having a nice melange in Bratislava, we talked to him about the relationship of the two countries and the mission of the consul.
Tell us about yourself. What did you study and how did your career start?
I studied foreign trade at the University of Economics and graduated in 1970. At that time it was still Czech and Slovak federations. I started to work in Bratislava for a foreign trade company which was mainly dealing with cultural things: books, newspapers, export and import. Our work covered the various areas of arts, painting, sculpture and films. It was Czechoslovakia at the time. It was great that we had a printing background. I worked a lot in this area too and not only for home but also abroad, including Denmark as well. When Czechoslovakia ceased to exist, and Slovakia emerged as an independent state, all embassies were recalled. Denmark did not want to have a separate embassy in Slovakia, the Danish ambassador in Prague wanted to establish a Danish honorary consulate and Bratislava. I was also among the candidates; it was seven of us all together. Eventually, the choice fell on me.
How long have you been representing Denmark and how were you chosen?
I’ve been representing Denmark since 1993. The principal countries seeking honorary consuls to represent their countries mainly choose reliable well-off business man. At that time I had remarkable economic background and connections, perhaps this is the reason why I was chosen.
What economic and cultural relationship have you managed to establish between Slovakia and Denmark?
My first major task was to take part in the organization of the reception of Queen Margarethe II. when she visited Slovakia in October 1994 as protocol did not really use to work here at the time. Before the visit the Danish and the Slovak Minister of Foreign Affairs had had conciliation meetings with each other. During her visit, Queen Margarethe II. spent two and a half days in the Czech Republic and two and a half days in Slovakia. In Prague, 15 people organized her visit to the Danish Embassy whereas here, in Slovakia I had to do it all on my own. There were 17 people in the delegation I had to make arrangements for. After all, the visit went very well, and everyone was satisfied with the organization. Therefore, I also received the honour of the Queen. I made several investments for Denmark. Currently there are more than sixty Danish companies, for example, Am fost, Grundfos and Falsk. And there is the large Ecco shoe company in Martin where 25,000 pairs of shoes are produced daily. I also wanted to take Slovak companies to Denmark but did not succeed in it. Maybe the reason is that Slovak companies cannot pay as much as the Danish companies. It was the biggest problem why Slovakia could not come to the Danish market.
Could you also speak about progress in the field of culture?
With the participation of 10 countries, supported by the European Union, in December 2004 in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark I organized the concert of the Slovak Symphony Orchestra, where the best Danish violinist, Nikolaj Slider, also unveiled his virtuosity. I organized exhibitions for Scandinavian artists in major cities in Slovakia mainly in the field of sculpture and painting.
Do you often travel to Denmark?
In Denmark, there is a consular consultation organized for the honorary consuls every year. Denmark has 450 honorary consuls in the world. I attend these consultations every year.
What do you think the challenges are for the honorary consuls in the 21st century? For cost cutting reasons, smaller countries have fewer and fewer embassies and therefore honorary consuls have more and more responsibilities.
If countries can cooperate well, smaller countries do not necessarily need embassies. Instead, they open towards Asia and Latin America where the future and the development strongly requires the presence of embassies. Therefore, Slovakia also abolished the embassy in five smaller European countries and at the same time opened in Asia. Of course, the closures of the embassies are usually of economic reasons.
Next year, Slovakia will fill the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union. What challenges do you think it means to Slovakia? As we know, Denmark filled this role in the first half of 2012. What can the Slovaks learn from this?
The cooperation between Denmark and Slovakia is very good. Our population tends to be similar as well. Denmark is a role model for us. As it is known, the population of Denmark benefits from the Scandinavian social system which finances the social security, health services and education for the citizens. Like other Scandinavian countries, Denmark also occupies a prominent place in many international surveys. It is also noteworthy that per capita income here is one of the highest ones in the world. After the Danish Presidency of the EU Council, there were several conferences held in Slovakia. We, Slovaks learned a lot from them, and most probably we will be able to utilize a lot of it from June 2016. A lot of experts came from Denmark not only from the Foreign Ministry, but other ministries and organizations who gave a lot of information and shared their experiences through the conference. These conferences helped us learn the preparations for the Presidency. During the Presidency we will continuously have Danish experts who will constantly help our work during the six months.
You are also the president of the Slovak Consular Corps. What kind of work does it mean?
I have great colleagues and we have a very good relationship with the ministries. We have a meeting once a month where we invite politicians, members of the government and business professionals. There are 60 honorary consuls from various countries in Slovakia, 50 of which are permanent members of the Consular Corps.
What is the relationship like between the Slovak and other European Consular Corps?
I have known and have been in contact with the President of the Austrian Honorary Consuls, Wolfgang Breitenthaler for a very long time. He is also the president of the European Honorary Consular Corp. Our primary duty as honorary consuls is to do a good job here, in Slovakia and get acknowledgment to our country. Later we can become members of the Honorary Consular Corp of the European Union. Our main task is to operate in Slovakia and to strengthen the relationship between the Consular Corp and prominent local and foreign economic actors and politicians.
What duties do you have as president of the Consular Corp?
My task is to establish a relationship between the appropriate and important parties, which in the future may help the consuls and corps in their work. I am responsible for organizing and conducting a variety of events with some help of course.
How can the work of the European honorary consuls positively affect the improvement of political and economic relations?
There has been a trend in the last 10 years that the honorary consuls can bring a lot of economic relations into their countries as the majority of them are the leaders of large economic associations. Economy is a very important part of diplomacy, and we are taking an increasing part in it.
This article was originally published in the print version of the European Diplomacy & Economics Magazine (Vol. 3 | 2 Issue)