Friday 2 May 2008
The Speaker’s delegation, which arrived home this morning after 11 days in Europe, observed first-hand a change to a minority government in Hungary.
The Speaker, Hon Margaret Wilson, said there was much interest and discussion about New Zealand’s minority governments and electoral systems in general.
The delegation was keen to learn more about the new enlarged Europe and understand the role of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary in it. The Czech Republic assumes the presidency of the EU next year and Hungary follows in 2011.
As a trading nation, New Zealand’s relationship with Europe was very important, Ms Wilson said. The relationships formed on these visits could be very rewarding.
‘Because we were a parliamentary delegation, we were given access at the highest level including meetings with the Presidents of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Their interests and concerns were remarkably similar including electoral systems, climate change, sustainable development and green initiatives.
Members of the delegation also met Speakers and Deputy Speakers from the three countries, the Czech Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister of Poland, select committees and parliamentary friendship groups. When appropriate they were accompanied by New Zealand Ambassadors Philip Griffiths in Poland and Alan Cook in the Czech Republic and Hungary, NZ Trade Commissioner and Consul-General Jennifer Scoular in Poland and Hungary and Honorary Consul Vera Egermayer in the Czech Republic.
Ms Wilson said she saw the cross-party delegation’s role to open doors, help establish relationships and work together in the interests of New Zealand – leaving it to the professionals to advance economic relationships. A good example was a New Zealand project at Várpalota, an industrial town about two hours drive from Budapest where delegation members took part in a ceremony to lay a foundation stone for a new roofing plant.
The investment by Fletcher Building through its subsidiary AHI Roofing was the largest New Zealand investment of its kind in Hungary and was also New Zealand’s largest investment in a manufacturing facility in Europe for many years.
‘When looking for a plant site, Hungary stood out as the favoured location based on the technical knowledge and skills of the local workforce and Várpalota’s excellent infrastructure and links to the rest of Europe,’ she said.
‘This is just the sort of project to take advantage of the growing relationship between New Zealand and Hungary.’
After the ceremony, members of the delegation met with the Mayor of Várpalota and local officials to discuss further opportunities for investment in the region.
In Poland, the delegation visited the former concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Warsaw Uprising Museum. Ms Wilson laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw and visited New Zealand war graves at a military war cemetery at Cmentarz Rakowicki.
On Anzac Day, in what is believed to be a first, representatives of the Czech Republic joined New Zealanders, Turks, Americans and British at a ceremony in Prague to remember those who gave their lives in service of their country.
Ms Wilson led the service and relayed greetings from the Governor-General, Hon Anand Satyanand, and Prime Minister Helen Clark. About 60 people gathered in light mist to pay their respects and then queued to sign the memorial book.
The working holiday scheme between the Czech Republic and New Zealand, which enabled young people from each country to travel and work in the other, has been welcomed. Ms Wilson said she would like it to be extended to Poland and Hungary.
Overall, the high level of the meetings demonstrated the value of cross-party Speaker’s delegations, she said.