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 for refugees from the GDR who were in Hungary. Germany’s then 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 Steinmeier met Hungarian President János Áder most recently in Malta in September 2017 and again in Wittenberg on 31 October 2017 at the celebrations to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The last meeting between the Federal Chancellor and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán took place in Sopron (Hungary) on 19 August 2019. On 6 February 2017, Germany’s then 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.” Foreign Ministers Maas and Szijjártó last met on 10 September 2019 in Berlin, when they jointly opened the German-Hungarian Youth Forum at the Federal Foreign Office.
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 politics, business and culture. The forum has been held alternately in Germany and Hungary since 1990. 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 last German Hungarian Youth Forums took place in Budapest in December 2018 and in Berlin on 10 and 11 September 2019.
The Hungarian German Friendship Group in the Hungarian National Assembly is one of the largest parliamentary groups. It maintains regular and intensive contact with the German Hungarian Parliamentary Friendship Group at the German Bundestag. On 20 February 2012, the Hungarian National Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution to mark the 20th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship between Germany and Hungary. Since 1990, well over 100 young Hungarians have participated in the German Bundestag’s International Parliamentary Scholarship (IPS) programme. The Hungarian Parliamentary Scholarship programme was established in 2008 specifically for young Germans who want to gain first-hand experience of Hungarian politics. In September 2015, the German Hungarian Parliamentary Friendship Group at the German Bundestag paid a visit to Hungary, which the Hungarian German Friendship Group reciprocated in April 2016 with their visit to the Bundestag.
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. Since the elections in April 2018, the German minority has been represented in parliament for the first time by a deputy entitled to vote. 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 2018, more than a quarter of Hungary’s foreign trade was conducted with Germany. Germany’s main exports to Hungary are motor vehicles, car parts and machinery; Hungary’s principal exports to Germany are likewise motor vehicles and car parts as well as machinery and chemical products.
The German Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DUIHK) in Budapest represents the economic interests of more than 900 member companies from Germany and Hungary, as well as a number of Länder in the country. German enterprises can obtain up to date information on the Hungarian market and on business opportunities in Hungary from Germany Trade and Invest (gtai) in Budapest.
Cultural and educational 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), the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt DBU (German Federal Foundation for the Environment) 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 wide range of courses and cooperates closely with schools in Hungary. Across the country, 47 Hungarian schools participate in the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH), offering German Language Certificate examinations. At three German schools abroad in Budapest, Győr and Baja, pupils can obtain both the German and the Hungarian university entrance qualification certificate. A German Hungarian pilot project for the international dual system of vocational training is under way at the Audi Hungaria School.
Every year, thousands of Hungarians study and pursue research in Germany. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) supports such exchange by awarding scholarships and seconding 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. Germany is one of the most popular destinations for Hungarian students and researchers.
German Hungarian cooperation in the field of higher education can look back on a centuries-old tradition and plays a significant role. The German Rectors’ Conference lists more than 600 university partnerships. Hungary is also an attractive location for German students. In 2018, more than 3000 Germans were studying in Hungary, with the medical faculties being the most popular. At several universities in various cities it is even possible to study medicine in German (human medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and, for the past few years, pharmacy).
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 supported and funded by several German-speaking partner countries and regions. The AUB is accredited according to German regulations and criteria. In 2013, it was included in Hungary’s National Excellence Programme.
There are some 250 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 for evolving German Hungarian relations in science and research.
Against this backdrop, the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft (FhG) and the Max Planck Society are cooperating with Hungary’s largest scientific organisation, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) as well as with the National Research, Development and Innovation Office (NKFIH). One example of this cooperation is the founding in 2010 of the Fraunhofer Project Center for Production Management and Informatics (PMI) in Budapest and the resulting joint project firm EPIC InnoLabs in 2018. In 2017, the Hungarian pillar of the European laser research project Extreme Light Infrastructure – Delivery Consortium (ELI DC), set up in Szeged with German participation, was inaugurated. In early 2018, the first international research groups began conducting experiments there.
German companies 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. For example, Audi Hungaria, MTA and the Széchenyi István University in Győr are engaged in cooperation, providing dual degree programmes in automotive engineering, mechanical engineering and mechatronics along German lines. German companies no longer regard Hungary merely as a production site, but are relocating more and more activities with a higher added value, such as research and development centres, to the country (e.g. Bosch, KnorrBremse and Continental).
The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020, launched in 2014, offers 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 networking among German and Hungarian scientists, researchers and academics.