Last updated in March 2015
The Federal Republic of Germany opened a trade mission in Budapest as early as 1964. The two countries established diplomatic relations on 21 December 1973, following the Federal Republic of Germany’s accession to the United Nations. Hungary set down an important marker for bilateral relations on 10 September 1989 when it opened up its border with Austria to refugees from the GDR. Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Federal Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher promised the “country that broke the first stone out of the Berlin Wall” active support in moving closer to the European Union.
Bilateral political relations are close. Different positions on domestic developments in Hungary or on the country’s financial and economic policy are discussed through dialogue. Relations between the two countries are also reflected in wide-ranging mutual visits.
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel last visited Hungary in February 2015.
Cooperation within the EU and NATO
The Agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Hungary on Friendly Cooperation and Partnership in Europe has formed a cornerstone of bilateral relations since 1992. At European and multilateral level, cooperation between Germany and Hungary was expanded and intensified by the Europe Agreement of 1994 between the European Union and Hungary, Hungary’s accession to NATO in March 1999 and to the EU on 1 May 2004. In addition to this, the two countries work together closely in numerous international organisations such as the United Nations, the OSCE or the Budapest-based Danube Commission.
The German-Hungarian Forum, which has been held on an annual basis alternately in Germany and Hungary since 1990 (most recently in September 2014 in Budapest), is the most important regular meeting of German and Hungarian experts from the realm of politics, the business community and the cultural sector. Discussions within the Forum are not confined to topics of a purely bilateral nature but include all issues relating to European integration and regional cooperation. To enhance the Forum’s attractiveness in the future, this established dialogue platform was broadened by the setting up of a Young German-Hungarian Forum in 2011.
Inter-parliamentary relations are developing positively. The Hungarian-German Parliamentary Friendship Group in the Hungarian National Assembly was one of the largest parliamentary friendship groups and was engaged in intensive exchange with the German-Hungarian Parliamentary Friendship Group in the German Bundestag. On 20 February 2012, the Hungarian National Assembly unanimously adopted a solemn resolution to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the German-Hungarian friendship treaty. Well over 100 young Hungarians have participated in the German Bundestag’s International Parliamentary Scholarship (IPS) programme since 1990. Since 2008, the Hungarian parliament has also run a scholarship programme specifically designed for young Germans who want to gain first-hand experience of the Hungarian policy-making process.
According to the 2011 census, the German minority numbers approximately 186,000, based on information provided by those surveyed, making it the country’s second largest minority after the Roma, though estimates put the number much higher. In the census, some 132,000 stated they possessed German nationality and around 38,000 said German was their mother tongue. Under the 2012 Rights of Nationalities Act, the “Landesselbstverwaltung der Ungarndeutschen” (Self-Administration of Ethnic Germans in Hungary – LdU) represents the political interests of the German minority, particularly in matters relating to education and culture. The Federal Government provides active support for efforts to preserve the heritage of the country’s ethnic Germans. In December 2012, the Hungarian parliament declared the 19 January a National Memorial Day commemorating the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Hungary.
Economic relations between Germany and Hungary are exceptionally close and intensive. In 2013, Germany remained Hungary’s most important trading partner by far, ahead of Russia, Austria, Slovakia and Italy. Approximately a quarter of Hungary’s foreign trade was with Germany. In 2012 bilateral trade was worth approximately EUR 38 billion. In 2013 it stood at approximately EUR 39 billion and, according to provisional figures, rose to around EUR 43 billion in 2014.
Germany is the principal foreign direct investor in Hungary. In 2013, German companies accounted for around a quarter of all foreign direct investment in Hungary with aggregate investments of about EUR 79 billion. There are some 4,000 companies in Hungary set up partially or wholly with German capital, which employ a total workforce of more than 300,000. As part of efforts to promote foreign trade, the Federal Government is actively seeking to ensure that the investment conditions for German companies operating in Hungary do not deteriorate.
The German-Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Budapest represents the economic interests of some 900 member companies from Germany and Hungary as well as representing a number of German federal states there. German companies can obtain up-to-date information on the Hungarian market and business opportunities in Hungary from Germany Trade & Invest (gtai) in Budapest.
Science and research
The Joint Declaration on the Further Development and Intensification of Cooperation in Scientific Research and Technological Development, which was signed in September 2004, forms the basis of evolving German-Hungarian relations in science and research.
Major cooperation projects have been launched between the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) and the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund (OTKA), and between the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (FhG), the Max Planck Society and the MTA. One current example is the founding of the Fraunhofer Project Center for Production Management and Informatics in Budapest. Also of outstanding importance is German-Hungarian cooperation in the academic sector, which can look back on a centuries-old tradition. There are currently more than 300 partnership agreements between universities and other higher education institutions on both sides. The large number of Hungarian students, professors and researchers that receive German scholarships and research awards, e.g. from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, is also an indication of the traditionally good cooperation between Germany and Hungary and their mutual recognition of education and research activities.German companies, too, are keen to take advantage of the traditionally good training of Hungary’s skilled workers and are seeking to establish cooperation partnerships, particularly in the engineering disciplines (especially mechanical engineering, automation and electronics), computer science and the natural sciences.
The EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development and the Horizont 2020 programme launched in 2014 offer new instruments for implementing shared objectives and developing a competitive European research landscape, thus also extending the opportunities for major multinational projects. The Knowledge and Innovation Communities established by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), which has been based in Budapest since 2010, are designed to further intensify the networking of German and Hungarian scientists, researchers and academics.
German-Hungarian cooperation in the field of environmental protection and nature conservation is wide-ranging. This is evidenced by numerous joint projects based on the relevant intergovernmental agreement between the two countries, e.g. in the fields of wastewater treatment, sanitation, sludge disposal, flood protection, solid waste management, sustainability research, renewable energy use and climate research.
Cultural and education exchange
The Goethe Institute, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Central Agency for Schools Abroad, the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations and numerous other institutions are engaged in cultural and education exchange. The focus is on promoting the German language, academic and school exchanges and cultural events.
The German language plays an important role in Hungary in education, society and business. The Goethe Institute in Budapest offers a comprehensive range of courses and cooperates closely with schools in Hungary. Across the country, 44 Hungarian schools participate in the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH). Hungary is also one of the project countries in the German Language Diploma programme.
The German School Budapest (Thomas Mann Grammar School) has been operating since 1992. It is an International School that is also attended by many Hungarian students. Under the terms of a special agreement, it is also possible to complete the German university entrance examination (Abitur) and its Hungarian equivalent at the Ungarndeutsches Bildungszentrum (Education Centre for Ethnic Germans in Hungary) in Baja, which is recognised as an Excellent German School Abroad. The Audi Akademie Hungaria in Györ is the third officially recognised German School Abroad in Hungary.
The Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations has currently seconded a cultural manager to Pécs.
The German-Hungarian cultural agreement entered into force on 18 April 2005 and the film agreement on relations in the audiovisual sector on 6 December 2008. In addition, a German-Hungarian agreement on cooperation in youth policy has been in place since 18 October 1993.
Every year, thousands of Hungarians study and pursue research in Germany. The DAAD supports such exchange by awarding scholarships. The DAAD has currently seconded 12 German-speaking academic teachers and two language assistants to Hungarian universities and other higher education institutions. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awards research scholarships to Hungarian scientists and academics, supports scientific conferences and donates technical equipment to scientific institutions.
Every year, the Andrássy Gyula German-Language University of Budapest (AUB) offers some 190 elite students German-language teaching in Comparative Political Science and Law, International Relations and Central European studies. The AUB has evolved into a lighthouse project in German-Hungarian relations. In November 2009, the Danube Institute for Interdisciplinary Research was established at the AUB. A postgraduate school was also set up at the same time. On 5 September 2013, the AUB was awarded the title of University of National Excellence by the Hungarian Ministry of Human Resources.