Hungary became a Christian kingdom in A.D. 1000 and for many centuries served as a bulwark against Ottoman Turkish expansion in Europe. The kingdom eventually became part of the polyglot Austro-Hungarian Empire, which collapsed during World War I. The country fell under Communist rule following World War II. In 1956, a revolt and an announced withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact were met with a massive military intervention by Moscow. Under the leadership of Janos KADAR in 1968, Hungary began liberalizing its economy, introducing so-called "Goulash Communism." Hungary held its first multiparty elections in 1990 and initiated a free market economy. It joined NATO in 1999 and the EU in 2004.
Hungary has made the transition from a centrally planned to a market economy, with a per capita income nearly two-thirds that of the EU-25 average. The private sector accounts for more than 80% of GDP. Foreign ownership of and investment in Hungarian firms are widespread, with cumulative foreign direct investment totaling more than $60 billion since 1989. Hungary issues investment-grade sovereign debt. International observers, however, have expressed concerns over Hungary's fiscal and current account deficits. In 2007, Hungary eliminated a trade deficit that had persisted for several years. Inflation declined from 14% in 1998 to a low of 3.7% in 2006, but jumped to 7.8% in 2007. Unemployment has persisted above 6%. Hungary's labor force participation rate of 57% is one of the lowest in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Germany is by far Hungary's largest economic partner. Policy challenges include cutting the public sector deficit to 4% of GDP by 2008, from about 6% in 2007. The government's austerity program of tax hikes and subsidy cuts has reduced Hungary's large budget deficit, but the reforms have dampened domestic consumption, slowing GDP growth to about 2% in 2007. The government will need to pass additional reforms to ensure the long-term stability of public finances. The government plans to eventually lower its public sector deficit to below 3% of GDP to adopt the euro.
This is the country
- which boasts one of the world's most beautiful capital cities: Budapest, the "Pearl of the Danube", whose wonderful panorama is on UNESCO's World Heritage list,
-where, despite repeated historical disasters which devastated both the people and their heritage, much remains of great value that is worth visiting and getting to know,
- where 2000-year-old Roman ruins and 400-year-old Turkish monuments can be found side-by-side, not to mention beautiful churches from the Romanesque period in Já?k, Lébényszentmikló?s, and Pannonhalma, or one-time stately castles in Eger, Sümeg, and Sikló?s,
- where magnificent palaces functioning as hotels await tourists in Szirá?k, Seregélyes, and Nagycenk, to mention only the most famous,
- where Lake Balaton is located, Central Europe's largest lake, providing a natural paradise for families with small children,
- where hundreds of therapeutic mineral springs gush up from the depths, helping many thousands to recover their health,
- where the rich Hungarian folk art and the horse shows which introduce the lifestyle and traditions of the "puszta" (Great Hungarian Plain) attract tens of thousands.
And there's something else that keeps bringing visitors back to us - the legendary Hungarian hospitality.
This small country is one of the great survivors of history: states and empires emerged, expanded or disintegrated and disappeared around it. Hungary and the Hungarian nation survived the devastation of the Tartars and Turks, Habsburgs and Russians in the Carpathian Basin; survived the fact that it belonged among the losers of both world wars. A stormy history? The national anthem describes the Hungarians as "people torn by fate".
So we are not extraterrestrials. We learnt and became tempered in the tormenting storms of the world: you can experience a particular organic link between the old and new, between history and the present-day in this country, which is still keenly safeguarding its traditions, culture and arts, but was always perceptive to what is new, different and the future.
Do you know that one of the centers of the Renaissance was here in the 15th century? That the Hungarian statehood is 1,000 years old? That after 1945, the first armed revolution against Stalinism took place in Hungary? That the iron curtain was dismantled on the frontier of Hungary and Austria?
In Hungary, you can see regions with a particular atmosphere, fabulous villages, churches and castles. You are welcome in Budapest, which many consider to be one of the finest cities of Europe. If you are fond of tasty food, and exclusive wines, this is the place that you will like!