Our hosts, Mr. Mikel Szegheõ, Mr. András Réti and Ms. Olga Réti, welcomed us on the afternoon of the 19th by offering us a very pleasant cocktail reception, which provided an ideal opportunity for the participants to catch up on all the news and exchange ideas and opinions.
The VII BGI Conference began the following day, taking place in the ´Magnolia´ Conference Hall at the Hotel ´Margetziget´. On the first day, the papers were mainly delivered by external guests. Following the welcome addresses by our hosts, Mr. András Réti and Mr. Attila Kovács, as well as by our President, Mr. Juan Luis Balmaseda de Ahumada, a series of papers commenced by focusing, above all, on the entry of Hungary into the European Union. Among the high-category contributions that were presented, we might highlight that of Dr. Miklós Kamarás, the Head of the Hungarian State Agency for Privatisation, who focused on the privatisation process in Hungary, as well as the paper delivered by Dr. Ottóné Brávácz, a high official at the Hungarian Justice Ministry, who tackled the consequences of Hungary's entry into the European Union and the implementation of both Hungarian and foreign sentences within the country. Dr. Lászlo Majtényi, a lawyer at Kóvacs Réti Szegheõ, delivered a paper on the theme of data protection. For further information regarding this matter, we refer all those who are interested to the publication by Mr. Javier Pascual (Balms Abogados Galicia) in the present edition of BGI News.
Following the first intensive day at the Congress, BGI's members got together with the guests and spouses at the hotel. The spouses had spent the day visiting "Budai Vár", Budapest Castle, a former residence of the Hungarian Monarchs, as well as "Országház", the famous parliament building, which was built at the end of the nineteenth century and constitutes one of the most emblematic sights in Budapest.
In the afternoon, a bus was awaiting to take us to the Opera Theatre of Budapest, one of the most beautiful opera buildings in the world, replete with its Neo-Renaissance style and astonishing interior decoration. First we saw the ballet, ´Scheherazade´. Both the set and the costumes presented an extensive range of colours, inundating the theatre with a sense of variety and good cheer, which, combined with the high quality of the dancing, made the show a truly magical experience.
During the interval, we were offered a reception on the Opera Palace Balcony. The good weather we were enjoying meant that this event could take place in the open air. Following the reception we went back inside the Opera Palace in order to enjoy the second part of the performance, a different ballet featuring music by the famous composer, Johann Strauss. Later on we rounded the evening off with dinner at the ´Shakespeare´ restaurant, where we ate extremely well and celebrated the fact that we were once again enjoying a marvellous time together.
The second day of the Conference was set aside entirely for internal matters relating to BGI. Our host, Mr. András Réti, and our President, Mr. Juan Luis Balmaseda de Ahumada, were entrusted with opening this second day of the Conference and the BGI General Assembly by welcoming all of the participants to the Conference. Subsequently, Mr. Iñaki Díez de Oñate presented the accounts for the year 2003 and the budget for 2004, both of which were unanimously approved.
Our President, Mr. Juan Luis Balmaseda de Ahumada, presented his report on the development of BGI, the development of activities carried out among BGI members and communication among members, among other channels, via the BGI Intranet system. He also welcomed all members to the Conference and officially named a new French member of Balms Group International, AVENS Lehman & Associés.
One of our members, Mr. Marco Rojas (Freeman, Haber, Rojas & Stanham LLP) proposed that the next BGI Congress in 2005 should take place in Miami. The proposal was welcomed enthusiastically and received the approval of all the BGI members present.
Following a visit to the offices belonging to our hosts, Kóvacs Réti Szegheõ, and an exquisite lunch made up of typical Hungarian delights at the ´Bourbon Garden´ restaurant, we proceeded with our traditional working groups in a highly relaxed ambience in the restaurant gardens themselves. Many ideas and new projects were exchanged among the participants, including a decision among the members to publish, on an annual basis, a book on practical and legal matters in all of the countries where BGI members can be found. The topic to be developed the following year, in 2005, would be Real Estate Law.
As the organiser of the BGI Congress in Miami the following year, Mr. Marco Rojas was chosen as a ´rotating member´ of the Executive Committee. His appointment was warmly applauded by all members of the Committee.
During this second day of the Conference, the guests followed a ´parallel´ programme, visiting Szentendre, a beautiful Baroque town featuring a large number of architectural sights, museums and galleries just 20 kilometres away from Budapest. In the town itself, the participants were able to visit the open-air ethnographic museum and tour the old quarter of Szentendre in horse-drawn carriages.
In the evening, the Conference participants and their guests once again got together at the hotel, where there was time to visit the hotel's thermal baths, stroll in the park close to the hotel or simply relax, before embarking on a cruise along the Danube River in the good ship ´Attila´. During the cruise, we were able to admire the Hungarian capital lit up at night. First we were given a royal welcome with a cocktail on board the ship, and then we enjoyed some live jazz and a delicious dinner. During the cruise, we passed under the bridges flung across the Danube with their thousands of lights, as well as admiring the magnificent castle sitting atop the hill of Buda, the Parliament and the famous Hotel Gellért, among other interesting sights.
After dinner, we left the ship in order to attend, upon the false announcement of the sinking of the good ship Atilla, a surprise organ concert at the Calvinist Church in the Square of Szilágyi Dezsö. When the concert was over, we returned to the ship, which took us back to the hotel. In short, an extremely memorable day!
On Saturday 22nd May, we all travelled to Visegrád, a town located some 50 kilometres from Budapest, which was the seat of Hungarian Monarchs during the Middle Ages. We visited the Royal Palace there, located on the banks of the Danube. After this visit, we continued our excursion in order to see Solomon's Tower, a construction that is eight hundred years old. When we entered the tower we were overcome by a feeling that we had gone back in time to the Middle Ages. When the gates of the Tower were opened, we were welcomed by a series of pages, who offered us a glass of wine from the region. We were accompanied to the courtyard of the Castle in order to enjoy a Medieval jousting tournament offered by the Order of Knights of ´St. George´, featuring battles with swords, archery and crossbow demonstrations.
Some of the members of BGI were invited to take part in the tournament as spectators of the ´Royal Court´. Everyone was agreed that Mr. José Serrao (Amaral, Serrao & Associados) should be the King and Mrs. María Miranda Valencia (the wife of Mr. Javier Pascual) should be the Queen. Mr. Iñaki Diez de Oñate was chosen as the court jester and Mr. Antonio Heredero (Balms Abogados Galicia) was made a prisoner. We had a very pleasant and enjoyable afternoon. The ´actors´ even dressed up to play their role, taking their parts in the performance extremely seriously. After the show we enjoyed a ´royal banquet´ at the ´Renaissance´ restaurant, set within an ambience inspired by the Renaissance Period, including the decor, the costumes worn by the waiters and waitresses and the food.
When the meal was over, we took the bus back to the hotel. Most of us took this opportunity to make a final visit to the thermal baths before preparing ourselves for our last night in Budapest.
In the evening we went to the ´MTA Academy Club´, the Concert Hall in Budapest, which is located on the banks of the Danube, where we held our traditional Balms Group International (BGI) Gala Dinner. In addition to the members of BGI and their companions, a number of friends and clients from the law firm, Kóvacs Réti Szegheõ, were present. Before, during and after the meal we were able to enjoy some marvellous performances. First, Mr. András Batta, a Senior Lecturer at the Liszt Ferenc Music Academy, announced a performance by two violinists. A harp accompanied us throughout the course of the dinner and finally, after the meal, we were treated to a performance of "klezmer" music (a type of folkloric music of Jewish origin), which was performed with virtuoso skill and considerable enthusiasm by the ´Budapest Klezmer Band´.
Although there was no way of expressing our gratitude for the affection, dedication, effort and magnificent work displayed at this Seventh BGI Congress Budapest 2004, our thoughts were symbolically represented by the presentation of bouquets of flowers to our hosts Olga, Anita and Kati, as well as a BGI plaque that was handed to Mr. Atilla Kovács and Mr. András Réti, representatives of the law firm, Kovács Réti Szegheõ.
On Sunday morning, most of the members of BGI and their companions left the hotel in order to return to their respective countries.
It only remains for us to state that we had a truly marvellous time in Budapest, a stay that became a unique experience thanks to the excellent organisation of our Hungarian hosts, Kovács Réti Szegheõ.
We hope to see you all at the next BGI Conference, which is due to take place in May next year in Miami.