The International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy 2009

"The Role of Soft Power in the International Environment"

Berlin, 27th - 31st July 2009

Andras Simonyi

Former Hungarian Ambassador to the US

H.E. Mr. András Simonyi was born 16th May 1952 in Budapest. Having remained under communist rule since the end of the Second World War, Hungary has suffered a turbulent history. Simonyi has commented before on the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, which appeared to be the first cracks in the communist regime. In 1961 Simonyi’s family moved to Copenhagen, Denmark, where they lived for 5 years. It was here where his interest in the West developed. He grew up living under communist rule for the larger part of his life, but being exposed to a democratic way of life, he never gave up on the hope of Hungary one day becoming an ally of the West. Not only did this become realised, but Hungary now enjoys EU membership and is also part of NATO.

After having returned to Budapest, Simonyi majored in transport economics at the Karl Marx University of Economics in Budapest. He graduated in 1975, writing his thesis on Denmark’s security policy in the 20th Century. He then obtained his PhD in political science. After university, Simonyi participated in many youth exchange programs. This brought him into contact with the American Council of Young Political Leaders. Between 1984 and 1989 he worked for the Socialist Workers Party in Hungary in the foreign relations departments.

From 1992 until 1995, he served as deputy chief of Mission at the Hungarian Mission to the European Community and NATO in Brussels. He was then head of the Hungarian NATO Liaison Office in Brussels for the next four years and with that he played a pivotal role in preparing Hungary’s NATO membership. From 1991 to 2001, he served as Hungary’s first permanent representation on the NATO council. Simonyi also ran his own consulting company, Danison Ltd.

Between 2002 and 2007 Simonyi served as the Hungarian Ambassador to the US and NATO. Simonyi was appointed ambassador under Prime Minister Péter Medgyessy’s cabinet and succeeded H.E. Ambassador Géza Jeszensky. One of his prime goals was to work with the US administration, Congress and the private sector to advance bilateral relations and EU-US relations. Some of his other goals included working with the US administration and congress on anti-terrorism and energy security issues.

In 2007, Simonyi was appointed chairman of Korda Film Studios, in Hungary.

He has also been the Vice President of the Hungarian Atlantic Council and is a member on the executive committee for the centre for Democratic Transition. Additionally, he is a frequent lecturer on security issues, transatlantic relations and the problems of military reform and NATO enlargement.

He has also previously stated the importance he believes music has on bridging the gap between cultures and that this, he believed, was a great influence in diminishing the power of Communist rule. Simonyi plays the guitar, concentrating especially on jazz and bluegrass genres. In 2006 and 2007, Simonyi appeared on the American satirical news program “The Colbert Report”. The video clips of his appearances can be viewed at the links below: