Last updated in October 2017
The German government opened a trade mission in Budapest in 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 who were in Hungary. Germany’s then Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl and 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 and wide-ranging. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with Hungarian President János Áder in Malta in September 2017 and again in Wittenberg on 31 October 2017 at the celebrations to mark the 500th anniverary of the Reformation. The two countries’ Foreign Ministers met in Berlin on 4 April 2016. There are also intensive contacts at regional and local government level as well as between the respective party families. On 6 February 2017, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and his Hungarian counterpart Péter Szijjártó issued a Joint Statement on the 25th Anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship between Germany and Hungary, reaffirming that “German-Hungarian relations are deep-rooted and multifaceted. On this basis, we want to keep working both bilaterally and in the European and international context to maintain and deepen the European Union as a community of shared values and a peaceful order for the future and for coming generations.”
Cooperation within the EU and NATO
The Treaty 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, and by Hungary’s accession to NATO in March 1999 and to the EU on 1 May 2004. In addition, the two countries work together closely in numerous international organisations such as NATO, the United Nations, the OSCE and the Budapest-based Danube Commission.
The German-Hungarian Forum is the most important regular meeting of German and Hungarian experts from the government, business and cultural sectors. It has been held on an annual basis since 1990, alternately in Germany and Hungary. The most recent meeting took place in Budapest in October 2016. Forum discussions are not confined to topics of a purely bilateral nature but include all topical issues relating to European integration and regional cooperation. The German-Hungarian Youth Forum was last held in November 2017.
The Hungarian-German Friendship Group in the Hungarian National Assembly is one of the largest parliamentary friendship groups and is engaged in regular and intensive exchange with the German-Hungarian Parliamentary Friendship Group in the German Bundestag. On 20 February 2012, the Hungarian National Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the German-Hungarian Treaty of Friendship. Well over 100 young Hungarians have participated in the German Bundestag’s International Parliamentary Scholarships (IPS) programme since 1990. Since 2008, the Hungarian National Assembly has also run a scholarship programme specifically designed for young Germans who want to gain first-hand experience of the Hungarian policymaking process. The German Bundestag’s German-Hungarian Parliamentary Friendship Group visited Hungary in September 2015. This was followed by a visit to the German Bundestag by the Hungarian-German Friendship Group in April 2016.
According to the 2011 census, the German minority in Hungary 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 people stated that they possessed German nationality and around 38,000 said German was their mother tongue. Under the 2012 Act on the Rights of Nationalities, 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 German minority is represented in the Hungarian National Assembly by a (non-voting) spokesperson. The German Government provides active support for efforts to preserve the cultural heritage of the country’s ethnic Germans. In December 2012, the Hungarian National Assembly declared 19 January a national Memorial Day commemorating the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Hungary.
Economic relations between Germany and Hungary have traditionally been very intensive. Germany is Hungary’s most important trading partner: in 2014 more than a quarter of Hungary’s foreign trade was conducted with Germany. Bilateral trade stood at approximately 46 billion euros in 2015. Germany’s main exports to Hungary are motor vehicles, vehicle parts and machinery. Hungary’s main exports to Germany are also motor vehicles and vehicle parts as well as communications, radio and television technology. There are some 5000 companies in Hungary set up partially or wholly with German capital, providing nearly 300,000 jobs.
The German-Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Budapest represents the economic interests of more than 900 member companies from Germany and Hungary as well as a number of German federal states in the country. German companies can obtain up-to-date information on the Hungarian market and business opportunities in Hungary from Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI) in Budapest.
Cultural and education exchange
The Goethe-Institut, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA), the Educational Exchange Service (PAD), the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa) 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-Institut in Budapest offers a comprehensive range of courses and cooperates closely with schools in Hungary. Across the country, 43 Hungarian schools participate in the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH). Hungary is also one of the project countries in the German Language Certificate (DSD I, DSD II and DSD Pro) programme.
The Deutsche Schule Budapest –Thomas-Mann-Gymnasium 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 Abitur and its Hungarian equivalent at the Ungarndeutsches Bildungszentrum in Baja, which is recognised as an Excellent German School Abroad. The Audi Hungaria Schule in Győr is the third school in the country to be officially recognised as a German school abroad.
The Hungarian Government is open to the idea of expanding the dual system of vocational training based on the German model. The ongoing German-Hungarian project on international apprenticeships and vocational training is important in this context.
The ifa has currently seconded a cultural manager to Pécs.
The German-Hungarian cultural agreement entered into force on 7 June 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, and there are two supplementary agreements to the cultural agreement relating to the teacher secondment Programme.
Every year, thousands of Hungarians study and pursue research in Germany. The DAAD supports such exchange by awarding scholarships. The DAAD has currently seconded 13 German-speaking lectors to Hungarian universities and other higher education institutions. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awards research scholarships to Hungarian scientists and academics, supports higher education conferences and donates technical equipment to higher education institutions.
The Andrássy University Budapest (AUB) was founded in 2001 and is the only exclusively German-language university outside the German-speaking countries. As a European university in Hungary, it is jointly funded by five partners (the Federal Republic of Germany, the Free State of Bavaria, Land Baden-Württemberg, the Republic of Austria and Hungary) as well as the Swiss Confederation and the Autonomous Region of Trentino-South Tyrol. The AUB is considered a lighthouse project in German-Hungarian relations and was the first university outside Germany to be accredited according to German regulations and criteria. In 2013, the AUB was included in Hungary’s National Excellence Programme and has since been entitled to call itself a University of National Excellence.
There are some 220 students as well as 50 Erasmus scholarship holders and numerous academics and researchers from more than 20 countries studying, teaching and pursuing research at the AUB. Its interdisciplinary range of programmes with a focus on Europe include dual Master’s and postgraduate programmes in history, culture, politics, law, economics and administration as well as an interdisciplinary PhD programme in history, politics, law and economics.
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 National Research, Development and Innovation Office (NKFIH), and between the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (FhG), the Max Planck Society and the MTA. One example is the founding in 2010 of the Fraunhofer Project Center for Production Management and Informatics (PMI) in Budapest. Also of significant importance is German-Hungarian cooperation in the academic sector, which can look back on a centuries-old tradition. There are currently more than 500 partnership agreements between universities and other higher education institutions on both sides. The large number of Hungarian students, professors and researchers receiving 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. Hungary is also a popular study destination for German students. In 2015, more than 3000 German nationals studied in Hungary, with the medical faculties being the most popular. 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, computer science and the natural sciences. One example here is the cooperation agreement between Audi Hungaria, MTA and the Széchenyi István University in Győr, which was signed in the summer of 2015 and which provides for dual degree programmes in automotive engineering, mechanical engineering and mechatronics along German lines.
The EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development and the Horizont 2020 programme launched in 2014 offer additional 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.