Oct 8, 2015 Event Time: 2:30PM
1740 Massachusetts Ave NW Washington, D.C. 20036
The EU Migration Crisis
President of Refugees International
Ambassador Reka Szemerkenyi, S’95
Ambassador of Hungary
Ambassador Peter Wittig
Ambasador of the Federal Republic of Germany
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Institute
Michel Gabaudan became president of Refugees International in September of 2010, leading RI forward in its mission to bring attention and action to refugees and displaced people worldwide. Prior to his role with RI, Michel served as the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) Regional Representative for the United States and the Caribbean. Michel’s career with UNHCR spanned more than 25 years, including international service in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific.
Trained as a medical doctor in addition to holding a master’s degree in tropical public health, Michel spent a decade working in Guyana, Zambia, Brazil, London and Yemen before joining UNHCR as a Field Officer in Thailand in 1978. His UN career took him to field operations in Cameroon and Pakistan as well as several years at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva, where he served as the first public health advisor to the organization.
Subsequently, he served as a Secretary to CIREFCA, the International Conference on Refugees in Central America, where he led a joint UNHCR- UNDP team for a year and a half, supporting peace processes in Latin America. He was then assigned as Charge de Mission in Guatemala where he negotiated the first phases of the return of refugees. In 1995, he was appointed as the Regional Representative in Mexico responsible for all Central American countries. That same year, Michel was the recipient of the Order of the Quetzal, Guatemala’s highest honor. The award was bestowed upon him in appreciation for his involvement in the country’s peace process.
He then went on to become head of UNHCR’s funding and donor relations service at headquarters in Geneva. Between 2001 and 2004, Michel was the Regional Representative in Australia. Prior to coming to Washington, he served as the Regional Representative for UNHCR in Beijing.
Ambassador Reka Szemerkenyi was appointed Ambassador of Hungary to the United States in 2015. Previously, from 2011 to 2014, she was Chief Advisor on Security Policy to the Prime Minister of Hungary.
Working at the Prime Minister’s office she covered Trans-Atlantic issues, Central European regional relations, the Balkans, Russia, with a particular emphasis on energy security and cyber security. Between 2006 and 2011, she was Head of International Public Affairs and Chief Advisor on International Relations to the Chairman of the Board of MOL Group, the Hungarian Oil and Gas Company. In this capacity, her role was to cover European Union energy policy and security developments and the establishment of the Central European regional energy cooperation, as well as to provide professional support for executive decisions on a wide range of issues in international affairs.
Between 1998 and 2002, she was State Secretary for Foreign Policy and National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Hungary. From 1991 to 1994, she was Senior Advisor to the State Secretary of the Ministry of Defense of Hungary.
She completed her Master’s Degree in Strategic Studies as a Fulbright Fellow at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC (1993-5). She earned her Doctoral Degree at Péter Pázmány Catholic University of Budapest in 2006, her PhD Thesis being: Energy Security – West European and Warsaw Pact Energy Strategies between 1945-1990.
Ambassador Peter Wittig has served as German Ambassador to the United States since April 2014.
Prior to this, he was German Ambassador to the United Nations in New York and represented Germany during its tenure as a member of the UN Security Council from 2011 until 2012. There, he drew on his wide expertise in United Nations matters, having previously served as Director-General for United Nations and Global Issues at the German Foreign Office in Berlin and having been posted to the German Permanent Mission in New York in the late 1980s.
Wittig joined the German Foreign Service in 1982. He has also served in Madrid, at the headquarters as the private secretary to the Foreign Minister, and as Ambassador both in Lebanon and then in Cyprus. He was the German Government Special Envoy on the “Cyprus question” (the division of Cyprus). He has acquired extensive knowledge of the Middle East.
Before starting his career in the German Foreign Service, Wittig studied history, political science, and law at Bonn, Freiburg, Canterbury, and Oxford universities and taught as an assistant professor at the University of Freiburg. His wife, Huberta von Voss-Wittig, has worked as both a journalist and a writer. The couple has four children: Valeska, Maximilian, Augustin, and Felice.