Ambassador Czukor, Professor Masát, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to begin by saying that the Andrássy University in Budapest (AUB) is an institution I hold very dear. In early March this year I had another opportunity to visit the university and experience again at first hand the unique character, the significance and the quality of this truly European university project.
I was therefore happy to assume the patronage for today’s event alongside the Hungarian ambassador. The Andrássy Day is an opportunity to pass review together and to celebrate the achievements of this academic cooperation project, as well as to create new perspectives for the university’s future.
The university’s development over the past 12 years has been most encouraging.
When the AUB was founded in 2001, the partners involved were optimistic and positive. But the idea of a German-language university in Budapest first had to prove itself in the real academic world – and we have the evidence that it has succeeded!
High-ranking international visitors from the fields of politics, culture and business, external consultants and academics all agree that the AUB has carved itself an important niche in the Hungarian university landscape as a university with international character which has a positive impact on the region.
The institution’s use of the German language as its lingua franca is an important distinguishing factor. When we talk about European knowledge transfer within the framework of today’s conference, I immediately think of the AUB. In the Central and Eastern European educational environment it is a point of contact and reference for German-language university education. At the same time it strengthens the role of German as a language of academia. Budapest, with its historic role as the hub of the region and its traditionally strong cultural ties with the German-speaking world, is undoubtedly an ideal location which has played a key role in the AUB’s success.
Since the AUB was founded the Federal Foreign Office has provided funding on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany, together with its partners Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Austria, Switzerland and, of course, Hungary. Since 2011 the autonomous region of Trentino South Tyrol has also been a funding partner.
This institution is proof that academia is not restricted by national borders. This insight, which really goes without saying, forms the basis of research and academic relations policy.
If you take a look at the students’ and lecturers’ countries of origin, you can see that young people from states such as Croatia, Montenegro and Turkey make the university a place which embodies an international outlook. Those who study or teach there not only belong to a transnational academic network but are also people whose thinking transcends borders and who will shape our future at a broader international level.
The Federal Foreign Office supports international academic and research networks and cooperation of this kind in the context of its cultural relations and education policy.
For a high-tech country such as Germany, promoting international cooperation, particularly in the area of university education, is crucial.
We are pleased that Germany has become an attractive place for Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europeans especially to study and conduct research. Almost 100,000 young people, from Albania to Belarus, come to Germany to study each year.
The Federal Government and the Federal Foreign Office attach considerable importance to cultural cooperation with Central, Eastern and South-Eastern European countries. Hungary is one of our closest and most longstanding partners. The Andrássy University is part of the success story of German-Hungarian cooperation.
Another key characteristic of the AUB is the clear European focus of its research and teaching. From research on minorities, through transformation processes, to European integration, the present, future and history of Europe are at the centre of its study programmes.
The Danube Institute, which has been helping to define the university’s research profile since 2009, plays a key role in this area. It is now established as an interdisciplinary research institute in the region and has become a crucible for the development of a research network in the Danube area. The Danube Institute is now a hallmark of the Andrássy University and its European focus. At this point I would like to express my personal thanks to the Director of the Institute, Professor Bos, for her outstanding work.
In view of the high academic standard of tuition at the Andrássy University it comes as no surprise to me that its alumni are also filling international leadership positions, for example, in the institutions of the European Union. Its graduates are multilingual experts on Europe with intercultural experience – and that is what we need more than ever before.
Peace, solidarity, democracy and a culture of empathy and transnational interaction are pillars of the European idea – but they do not appear out of nowhere.
I therefore see the Andrássy University in one sense as a response from cultural relations and education policy to the question of what we can do to develop the European idea further and help people identify with it.
I see in the Andrássy University considerable long-term potential for supporting and initiating social transformation processes, particularly with regard to relations with the Western Balkan countries.
I therefore expressly welcome the university’s plan to focus more strongly on the Western Balkans and Turkey in future. We would be delighted to see more students from eastern partner countries come to the Andrássy University.
Those of you who know the AUB and its historic palace at the heart of Budapest will agree with me that this university is a wonderful place of learning and research, at which many of us no doubt would like or have liked to study ourselves.
Yet we must not forget that the attractiveness of the AUB as a study and research location is not something to be taken for granted. We must strive not only to preserve this, but to build on it.
The development of the Andrássy University has been successful, and the institution is moving in the right direction. However, the past years have shown that the university needs an adequate longer-term financial basis so that it can run its operations more autonomously than it has been able to do so far.
This university must be equipped to further stabilize and boost its quality as a teaching institution and above all its potential as a research centre. This involves strengthening non-professorial teaching staff at local level as well as sending out guest professors and lecturers.
Together with its partners the Federal Foreign Office is currently seeking answers to the structural and financial issues which will arise following the expiry of the joint financing declaration at the end of 2015.
This also involves looking for a way to provide the AUB with institutional support.
Side by side with our partners we want to ensure that, in Budapest, motivated and gifted people from the Danube area can continue to study in German, we want to open the door to a promising professional future for them, enable them to take important values into the world and equip them to shape a united Europe and show that it is viable.
The lecturers and administrative staff, too, should have long-term prospects so that they retain their motivation and commitment to driving forward this promising joint project.
I would like to thank the partners gathered here today and the university for all their support and efforts so far. I am convinced that this university’s success story will continue.
Thank you for your attention.