Réka Szemerkényi

Executive Vice President, CEPA

Réka Szemerkényi is executive vice president of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). From 2015 to 2017, Szemerkényi was Hungary’s first woman ambassador to the United States. Before this, she was chief advisor in foreign and security policy to the prime minister of Hungary (2011-15); state secretary for foreign and security policy in the prime minister’s office (1998-2002) and senior advisor to the state secretary in the Ministry of Defense (1991-94), at the time of Hungary’s efforts to join NATO and later the Kosovo war in the Balkans.


From 2004 to 2011, Szemerkényi was head of international, public affairs, senior advisor to the chairman and CEO of MOL Group, the Hungarian oil and gas company. Her job there was to ensure the input of regional energy policy priorities into European Union energy policy as well as the establishment of regional energy cooperation among Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. She provided key input for executive decisions on a wide range of issues in international energy policy.


Szemerkényi was a lecturer at Milan University’s ASERI Center of International Relations in Italy (2006-08), where she taught master’s courses on various topics in security policy and European foreign and security policy. She was a foreign affairs op-ed writer, covering global foreign and security policy developments for the Hungarian weekly magazine Heti Valasz (2004-11); director of foreign policy programs of the 21st Century Research Institute in Budapest (2002-06) where she organized conferences and roundtable discussions on key global international and security challenges; and senior researcher at the Hungarian Institute for International Affairs (1996-98). Between 1995 and 1996, she was a research associate at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, where her paper, “Central European Civil-Military Reforms At Risk,” was published by Oxford University Press in 1996.


Szemerkényi was a consultant at the World Bank Economic Development Institute in Washington, D.C. (1994) where she participated and contributed to an EDI research project on the transformation of public administration in Hungary from the pre-1990 socialist era to the post-1990 structures.


Szemerkényi earned her PhD summa cum laude in economic history from Hungary’s Pázmány Péter Catholic University (2006). Her thesis was “Energy Security: Western European and Warsaw Pact Energy Strategies Between 1945 and 1990.” She earned a master’s degree in strategic studies from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C. (1993-95). She also has a master’s in international relations from the Institut Européen des Hautes Études Internationales in Nice, France (1990-91), and from ELTE University Budapest (1985-1990). She received the title of honorary doctor of humane letters from Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia (2017), and from the National Public University of Hungary (2016).


Szemerkényi is an elected member of the European Council on Foreign Relations since 2016 and serves as vice president of the Hungarian Atlantic Council. The mother of four children ages 17, 15, 14 and 9, she is fluent in English, French and Italian.