by Vince ZSIGMOND, President of the Hungarian Association of Arboreta and Botanic Gardens
Dear Colleagues and Friends, dear Guests,
I welcome you all in Hungary at the 9th European Botanic Gardens Congress!
It is a great honour and pleasure for us, that we host EuroGard IX in Budapest and participants attend it from near all over Europe, what’s more, from over the sea.
In fact, I am not the perfect person, who should talk here now.
When we applied for and obtained the possibility for hosting EuroGard 9, our decision was made together with late President of the Hungarian Association of Arboreta and Botanic Gardens, Mr. Géza Kósa. As several of you know, he passed away a year ago, leaving a huge loss for the botanic garden community in Hungary and internationally as well. His intellect, wide knowledge and broad experience will be certainly missed for a long time.
Now, I kindly ask you to honour his memory together with a short silent standing up.
Perspectives and circumstances were quite different in 2018, when we qualified for organizing the Congress. At the beginning of 2020, Europe suddenly found itself in a world pandemic situation, similar happened 100 years ago last. This February, Russia invaded Ukraine. We do not know, how significant episodes are COVID pandemic and the war in Ukraine from a historic viewpoint, but we have been living through troubled times, with much more uncertainties and fears than hardly anytime in our life.
While pandemic and reactions have caused different situations all over the world, impacts of it on botanic gardens have been quite diverse. In many cases, their role and value as qualified outdoor attractions increased, with special focus on positive mental effects for human psyche (saikii). In other cases, closing for long periods have resulted financial problems because of low makings.
War in East-Europe, in our neighbourhood, and its direct and indirect impacts are severe, and we can hardly estimate the real consequences. Firstly, it’s a tragedy, secondly it has severe negative results on economic process. Looking back to history, fates of botanic gardens have never been a priority in these troubled times, it is understandable.
On the other hand, botanic gardens passed the test of time. The first botanic gardens were founded about 500 years ago, and not just the first gardens, but this institution type survived half a millennium of history with several wars and crisis, world wars amongst them. The original function as scientific collections of living plants has remained besides education and science. Today they are gene banks with strategic significance, refuges for endangered species, savers, and developers of our natural and cultural heritage, and last but not least, important eco-touristic attractions. Our diverse activities altogether stead the common weal and attract yearly millions of visitors to approximately 800 botanic gardens all over Europe.
A community belongs to each of the important issues. Number of members and cohesion amongst them
- depends on the importance of the given issue,
- depends on the mission and mindset,
- depends on how they understand each other,
- as well as depends on personal relationships amongst members.
When I see, that even though world pandemic and war in our neighbourhood we host more than 170 participants from 28 countries at EuroGard 9 congress with contribution by several bodies, enthusiastic colleagues and friends, seeing your enthusiasm and efforts to manage and develop our profession and our gardens, as well as seeing your responsivity for helping each other, I am sure that botanic gardens have been and remain the perfect place “where people and plants meet”.
The word “meeting” has several meanings, much more than a discussion to solve problems. In case of a true meeting, participants have interest to know and understand each other. One of the most important roles of conferences for professionals of botanic gardens community is to foster these not only within our community, but, at least on the same level, to foster the true meeting amongst humans and plants as well as all the living beings in our gardens, to foster amongst visitors, as a public place, furthermore as places of peace and harmony, silence and calmness, facilitating visitors meeting themselves.
With these thoughts I wish ourselves a successful week mainly by true meetings, full of discussions, valuable thoughts and inspiration.
Hereby I open the 9th European Botanic Gardens Congress.