President of the Bundestag,
Ladies and gentlemen,
By opening the Hungarian-Austrian border for GDR citizens in 1989, Hungary made a historic contribution towards ending the division of both Germany and Europe.
Our Agreement of 1992 on Friendly Cooperation and Partnership in Europe, whose anniversary we’re celebrating throughout this year, rests on this foundation and on our centuries-old ties. In this anniversary year, we can look back on successful bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
Germans and Hungarians are close partners in NATO as well as in the European Union.
We shoulder joint responsibility for European integration and the defence of fundamental democratic values. We are engaged in an intensive, broad-based and – where necessary – critical dialogue in which our parliaments, the German Government as well as the Länder all take part.
The German-Hungarian Forum, held annually since 1990, provides an additional and very special dialogue mechanism for discussing political, economic, cultural and media issues. Since last year it has been expanded to include the future-oriented Young Forum.
When the Treaty was signed in February 1992, ending the division of Europe and fostering the democracy movement in Eastern Europe were the focus of attention. The eastward enlargement of the European Union has been a success, both politically and in economic terms. Germany was a close partner of Hungary on its way into the European Union. Since then, Hungary has had a successful EU Presidency despite it taking place under difficult conditions.
I’d like to thank the Hungarian National Assembly for the resolution it unanimously (!) adopted on 20 February to mark the 20th anniversary and say that I share its view concerning the key areas of cooperation between Germany and Hungary, namely “the deepening of the European Union, the creation of a value-oriented, strong and competitive community with economic and political influence on the global market as well as the resolute continuation of the enlargement process”.
Recently, there have been several unresolved issues between Hungary and the European institutions.
The German Government can only advise the Hungarian Government to steadfastly continue the results-oriented dialogue based on trust in which it is already engaged.
As Hungary’s most important trading partner and foreign investor, German business has played a prominent role in the development of Hungary’s economy. Some 7000 companies with German participation are operating in Hungary and have created around 300,000 jobs to date.
In addition to major German companies such as Deutsche Telekom, RWE, Bosch, Audi, Mercedes, Siemens and Lufthansa Technik, a large number of small and medium-sized enterprises are doing business in Hungary.
The opening of new plants such as the Mercedes factory which began operations recently in Kecskemét in central Hungary and created 3000 new jobs, or the expansion of Audi’s production in Győr to include a complete production chain with 2500 new jobs are impressive. However, the car industry only represents one quarter of investments, with commerce and the services sector accounting for half.
German companies are keen to establish the longest and most sustainable cooperation possible with Hungarian partners. They therefore contribute not only capital and know-how but are also engaged in the social and education spheres, for example in vocational training and numerous cooperation partnerships with Hungarian universities.
During the last few months, German as well as other foreign investors have indicated that the investment climate in Hungary is worsening. In particular, the predictability of Hungary’s economic policy is judged to be deteriorating.
It’s essential that the dialogue begun with companies is continued, for the Hungarian Government needs successful cooperation with business and thus also with foreign partners. Investors’ concerns that the special taxes introduced in 2010 and the recently adopted taxes in the telecommunications and banking sectors will place an excessive burden on them have to be addressed.
Culture and science play an important role in the German-Hungarian Friendship Treaty. The Treaty is being successfully translated into action by numerous schools, universities and research institutes, by cultural organizations as well as by the German-language Andrássy University in Budapest, the beacon project of German-Hungarian cultural cooperation. Together with State Secretary Prőhle, I was able to secure another five years of funding for the Andrássy University last year, something which gave me great satisfaction.
In cooperation with the German Embassy, the Andrássy University is organizing a series of lectures this year focusing on business and finance. Many other events are taking place there, organized in collaboration with the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, to mark the anniversary of our Treaty.
The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is especially active in Hungary. In per-capita terms, Hungary has the largest number of this Foundation’s scholarship holders and award winners.
Direct personal contacts play a crucial role in German-Hungarian relations.
They reinforce the feeling that Hungary and Germany might actually be neighbours. Despite all that has been said about institutional ties, it’s this network which has had a lasting impact. People have contributed very successfully towards it within the scope of town twinning arrangements. Pécs and Fellbach, for example, have already celebrated the 25th anniversary of their twinning.
Such partnerships bring people closer together and enable them to get to know about each other’s lives at first hand. Countless family ties have already resulted from them. You meet people from your own country in tourist destinations as well as in more remote areas.
Thousands of students, academics, artists and personnel from commercial companies are to be found in Hungary and Germany.
Last but not least, the German minority has to be mentioned in this context. The Friendship Treaty calls for the minority’s active cultivation of its tradition and numerous fruitful ties with Germany to be granted special promotion.
To sum up, it can be said that German-Hungarian relations have deep roots, they are as diverse as they are vibrant.
We can continue to work both bilaterally and in the European and international context on this basis. There is no shortage of challenges.