Speaker of Parliament and patron of the event László Kövér said in his opening remarks that the event is an important chapter in increasingly stable Hungarian-Arab relations. Hungary's relations with the Arab countries are improving "at times when Europe's southern and south-eastern neighbours were hit by worse crises than ever before ... which in turn pose serious challenges to the European continent itself," he said.

Mutual respect for the other country's culture, religion and traditions is the basis for Hungary in its relations with other nations, Kövér said, adding that Hungary has had Arab ties for decades but the intensity of these links has been "fluctuating".

He noted turning points after 2010 and 2014 when "Hungary became strong enough both politically and economically to build intensive ties with Arab countries". "Hungary's opening to the Arab world politically and economically, as well as in education and culture, has been a success despite a number of challenges including humanitarian disasters arising from armed conflicts, terrorist attacks and military intervention, all further deepening the economic and social crisis," Kövér said.

The migration crisis of 2015 had not only impacted ties between countries of origin and transit states, "a different approach to handling the situation has also led to serious tensions within Europe". Hungary had held the position from the beginning that "the problem should be resolved locally, and assistance should be delivered to the needy where they are so they can again prosper in their homeland".

Kövér said Hungary has helped the residents of crisis zones in Arab countries with millions of euros, and is aiding several countries in Africa with developing border control capabilities.

He highlighted Hungary's Stipendium Hungaricum programme, under which 1500 Arab students are granted scholarships at Hungarian universities.

Gábor Sonkoly, head of Eötvös Loránd University's Faculty of Humanities, said ELTE had been the first institute of higher education to host the Arab Day of Culture. He said the faculty is the cradle and an important hub of oriental studies in Hungary.

Sonkoly highlighted his faculty's role in building educational, scientific and cultural ties with the Arab world. "Scholars today are tasked with helping social players and decision-makers develop cultural dialogue based on mutual respect and understanding rather than on fear," he said.

The event was held by the Council of Arab Ambassadors in Budapest in co-operation with the ELTE Faculty of Humanities. This third consecutive annual event coincided with the birthday of widely acknowledged poet Attila József (11 April 1905-3 December 1937), and the celebration of the Hungarian Poetry Day. The aim of the event is to increase knowledge of Arab-rich culture and to promote meaningful, constructive intercultural dialogue between Arab-Muslim and Hungarian cultures.

Two panel discussions were held on the contribution of Arabic culture to world civilisation.


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