France’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary H. E. Mr. Éric Fournier was awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit; the decoration was presented to the Ambassador on Friday in Budapest by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó.

At the event, the Minister said the world is changing rapidly and producing unexpected developments, citing as an example the continuous transformation of economic and physical security.

“Éric Fournier served in a period that was perhaps the most intensive in the global politics of recent decades. Old alliances have been dissolved and new ones have been forged, and it is realistic to expect the processes of the upcoming years to be no less deep”, Mr. Szijjártó stated.

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“In the ‘new world order’ it is the duty of every country to protect its own security, sovereignty and identity”, he declared.

The Minister noted that there are many disputes in European public life, explaining that this is essentially good news, because when is there a greater need for disputes if not when European integration is facing perhaps the greatest challenges in its history?

“The problem is with the fact that these disputes are not founded on common sense, but rapidly become emotional: they are kept in restraints by hypocrisy and political correctness”, he said. “We want those whose opinion differ even just a little from the mainstream to not immediately be stigmatised, and for differing opinions to have an equal right to exist”, he highlighted.

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Mr. Szijjártó said it was refreshing that there are diplomats who are capable of maintaining their common sense. “The whole system of liberal expectations is based on everyone being able to openly state what they think”, he pointed out.

“Amidst today’s European disputes we need friends, and Éric Fournier is just such a friend to Hungary”, the Minister emphasised.

“A good diplomat can be recognised by the fact that they consistently represent the position of their homeland, while still maintaining their common sense. Éric Fournier fully conforms to this expectation”, he explained.

The Minister said that the Ambassador had done much for the development of Hungarian-French relations, for which Hungary is grateful. “He played an important role in the process that has resulted in France now being Hungary’s seventh most important trade partner. Last year, trade flow exceeded eight billion euros”, he stated.

“Éric Fournier has maintained French investment appetite. Some six hundred French enterprises currently provide jobs to forty thousand Hungarians, and it is also no accident that the Hungarian Government has concluded strategic partnership agreements with six French companies to date”, he said.

Mr. Szijjártó highlighted the fact that similar awards have already been bestowed upon several outgoing ambassadors, but never before had so many guests attended the ceremony than when the award was presented to the diplomat “from the world’s number one superpower”.

“The Order of Merit is not only being bestowed with respect to the past, but also for the future: we are sure that Éric Fournier will remain a friend of Hungary in the upcoming period and facilitate the development of a genuine image of Hungary in Western Europe”, the Minister said.

The French Ambassador stressed that he had described Hungary as he gradually came to know it, and had tried to explain to his Government what the Hungarians are like and what Hungarian reality is like.

His goal was to dispel a host of misconceptions that surround Hungary like a “mystery”. He had to struggle to make people more aware of Hungary’s positon in an environment in which states are pigeonholed into strictly defined categories, Ambassador Fournier stressed.

The Ambassador said that in his opinion Europe is capable of standing up and exiting the crisis.

The French diplomat said receiving the decoration, which was presented two days before his departure, was a joyful occasion. He said he was sure he would be returning to Hungary, where he had forged true friendships.

Deputy State Secretary for security policy Levente Benkő from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade recalled that Éric Fournier has headed the French Embassy in Budapest since October 2015, and that during his period in office Hungarian-French relation had become more dynamic and political dialogue had been given a boost.

There is continuous cooperation between our countries’ two presidents with relation to solving climate issues, Mr. Benkő said, adding that cooperation has also improved with relation to certain EU-related topics. Economic relations have improved significantly and many French companies are performing mutually beneficial activities in Hungary, he said.

The Deputy State Secretary also praised the fact that Éric Fournier had learnt Hungarian.

The Commander’s Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit was bestowed on Ambassador Fournier by President János Áder in acknowledgement of his activities relating to the development of Hungarian-French relations, Mr. Benkő said.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister/MTI)