Hungarian delegation traces history of relations with Palestine, strengthens academic cooperation in visit to Birzeit

Dr. Erzsébet Rózsa, head of the Department of International Relations and Diplomacy at the National University of Public Service in Hungary, gave a lecture organized by the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies and facilitated by Dr. Abderrahman Haj-Ibrahim, a professor of political science at Birzeit University, on the historical relations between Palestine and Eastern Europe, on Thursday, November 8, 2018. 

Accompanied by His Excellency Csaba Rada, head of the Representative Office of Hungary in Ramallah, Rózsa traced the history of Eastern Europe’s support to Palestine from the Cold War era until the establishment of the European Union. 

Rózsa began by explaining that Eastern Europe, or Central Europe, is not an agreed-upon term; that is, there are several definitions for that area and what it includes. Some definitions, Rózsa said, include all the countries that previously formed the Soviet bloc; others add to that definition the Visegrád Four - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. 

“We cannot agree on one definition because of the fragmented ethnic nature of Central Europe,” noted Rózsa. “But the region has a common history of being locked in wars between global powers.” 

After a brief historical introduction, Rózsa moved to the economic and political relations that exist between Palestine and Central Europe. She said the countries in that area always had good relations with Palestine, from the Cold War era, during which the Soviet Union had a stance friendly to the Palestinian cause, until the days of the European Union, which pursues a more “balanced approach.” 

As for Hungary itself, Rózsa added that the country had been one of the earliest, and longest, supporters of Palestine. “Hungary was one of the first countries to acknowledge the Palestinian declaration of state, and established a Palestinian mission in Budapest in 1989,” she remarked. 

As part of the European Union, Hungary - and Central Europe - continue to support and assist Palestine, Rózsa commented. Hungary offers emergency aid in Palestine, international development programs, scholarships for Palestinian students to pursue higher education, and protection and maintenance of Christian heritage. 

After the lecture, the Hungarian team visited Dr. Asem Khalil, the vice president for community affairs at Birzeit University, along with Dr. Amir Khalil, the external academic relations officer, Dr. Lourdes Habash, director of the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies, and a number of other university faculty members to discuss channels of academic cooperation and faculty and student exchange opportunities. 

Khalil gave Csaba and Rózsa a brief overview of Birzeit University’s history, from a small school for girls to the foremost Palestinian higher education institution and explored with the visiting delegation ways to strengthen cooperation between the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies, the Birzeit School of Government, and their Hungarian counterparts. 

Csaba highlighted the increased number of scholarships offered by the Hungarian government to Palestinian students this year, for a total of 60, including opportunities to pursue master’s and Ph.D. degrees.