Remarks of Ambassador David Pressman Reception in honor of U.S.- Hungary Scientific Collaboration

Embassy of the United States of America  

Budapest, Hungary 

June 7, 2023  



Remarks of Ambassador David Pressman

Reception in honor of U.S.- Hungary Scientific Collaboration

June 07, 2023, 4:00 p.m.


Distinguished guests, dear friends of the United States, Hungary, science, technology and innovation, good afternoon and thank you all for gathering to celebrate scientific collaboration between the United States and Hungary.

I am particularly pleased that we can take a moment to celebrate collaboration and partnership.  Prime Minister Orban has recently spoken much of “connectivity.”  I must begin tonight by acknowledging the catastrophic events unfolding in Ukraine, as its people continue to grapple with Russia’s war, a country Hungary stubbornly continues to maintain and even deepen its “connectivity” with.

As Hungary expands its relationship with Moscow, a massive wave of water from the destruction of the Kakhova hydroelectric dam has just swept over and displaced tens of thousands of people in and around Kherson.

A few things are clear: it was Russia that started this war, it was Russia that occupied this area of Ukraine, and it was Russia that was in control of this dam.

Also clearly, just this weekend, the Foreign Minister of Hungary Péter Szijjártó described Russia as Hungary’s “reliable partner” on energy, and one that would not be replaced.

This is a moment of enormous consequence in the region and the world.  To continue to double-down on reliance on Russia while it attempts to decapitate your democratic neighbor is wrong.

Our thoughts tonight are with those in Kherson and across Ukraine who are suffering, and our focus is holding accountable those who enable that suffering.

In this stark moment, where we can seem worlds apart from the Hungarian government, there is another “space” in which the U.S. and Hungary is making some significant progress together. I am thrilled to be here tonight to celebrate a bright spot in the U.S.-Hungary relationship: space research collaboration.  Tonight, we mark the start of an Embassy Science Fellowship by distinguished Earth observation expert Dr. George Garik Gutman, who is the Program Manager for the Land-Cover and Land-Use Change Program at NASA.

Since the birth of the rocket age, Hungarians and Americans have worked together to explore the heavens.

Space exploration is truly one of humanity’s most inspiring endeavors. The United States is proud of the collaboration between Hungary and the U.S.-based company Axiom Space which aims send to send a Hungarian astronaut to the International Space Station in 2024.  This is an exciting endeavor, and it reflects the importance of continued collaboration amidst a time of accelerated interest in space amongst many nations.  In this spirit, the United States also invites Hungary to join us and our international partners in signing the Artemis Accords, which aims to promote the peaceful, civil use of space, including for research and exploration like Hungary’s mission to the International Space Station.

When we talk about NASA, people often think of missions to space and astronauts exploring new horizons beyond our planet.  But perhaps less celebrated is what is learned when we focus our attention not toward the stars – but back down upon our home, our shared Earth. Here too NASA is at the forefront and this research impacts each and every one of our lives.

Astronauts, witnessing Earth from space, report a profound sense of awe, transcendence, and connection to humanity and to our planet.  They see beautiful blue water, white clouds, and green lands – but no political borders.  They feel their personal, narrower perspectives begin to break down as well.  Retired NASA astronaut Ron Garan called this revelation the “orbital perspective, as opposed to the terrestrial perspective.”  Once they experience how profoundly finite and interconnected our shared planet is, our differences seem less significant.  We are in this together.

Thankfully, due to technologies and methods that the United States and our partners are developing, one does not have to be in space to experience this orbital perspective.  Earth observation is in a golden area, with thousands of satellites, operated by governments, alliances of nations, and private companies circulating around and above us taking measurements of the atmosphere, the land, and the oceans.  Improved weather prediction, crop forecasting, management of natural resources, addressing natural disasters like floods, droughts, and wildfire – all of this has been impacted by improvements in Earth observation.

We are pleased that Dr. Gutman will spend time in Hungary and the region alongside international partners researching the Water-Energy-Food Nexus through earth observation.

A recent research paper found that Hungary lost 3 percent of its GDP last year through crop loss due to the extreme droughts.  Agricultural systems in the Carpathian basin and the Balkans are among the most threatened by climate change in all of Europe.

The good news is that improvements in agricultural technology – including the use of earth observation techniques for precision agriculture – can have a significant and positive impact on water use and food production efficiency, leaving more water for communities, energy production, and nature – and contribute to long-term stability and economic growth.

I recognize many familiar names and faces of guests here from the government, the private sector and research organizations.  You have all worked tirelessly to help the advancement of science, and I thank you for supporting the United States in our efforts to engage with Hungary generally, Hungary’s scientific community specifically, and this most recent example of that collaboration.

I also want to thank you for your continuous efforts to advocate for science-based decision making and for top-quality education to train the next generation of scientists.

Thank you again for being here, and I’d like to invite Dr. Gutman to make a couple brief remarks.