Video message from Foreign Minister Heiko Maas for the opening of the German-Hungarian Forum

12.11.2020 - Speech

(Live video link)

Thank you very much, and all the very best from me, too, Péter! I really do wish you the speediest possible recovery. Get well – completely well – soon! I hope you get over it all well.

The fact that you are nevertheless with us at the conference here today speaks for itself. For that, too, I thank you most sincerely. I hope it will be possible for us to meet in person again soon. All the best, Péter!

Professor Meyer,

Ms Schoening,

Ladies and gentlemen,

“Jobb adni, mint kapni.”

I don’t know whether anyone will have understood that. I hope my pronunciation of this Hungarian proverb wasn’t too terrible. It translates as “it is better to give than to receive”.

And as obvious as that might sound, I think the COVID‑19 crisis has shown us that giving and receiving isn’t as straightforward as all that.

Back in the spring, it was mainly the countries of southern Europe that were dependent on our solidarity. Today the second wave of the virus has also hit the north, centre and east of Europe hard.

To me, this reflects the essence of European solidarity: namely that it is not a one-way street.

Whoever helps their neighbour today can be confident that their neighbour will in turn help tomorrow.

These are not empty words – as I think we have demonstrated quite well in the European Union over the past few months. Because – unlike the euro and financial crisis, or the question of how we deal with refugee flows and migration – the COVID‑19 crisis has not divided Europe into different camps.

Instead, we have come up with the biggest financial package in the history of the European Union.

This will enable us to support businesspeople who are fearing for their economic survival and also people who have lost their jobs.

Whether in Budapest, or Berlin, or Barcelona.

However, ladies and gentlemen,

let’s not be under any illusions here. We will be working towards economic recovery for a very long time.

And at the same time, we have to shape the future, safeguard social cohesion, push on with climate change mitigation, ensure Europe’s digital sovereignty, and strengthen our role in the world.

And no one European country can do that alone.

So, European cohesion is the only way out of this crisis and into the future that is likely to be successful.

However, European cohesion derives first and foremost, ladies and gentlemen, from exchange.

This is particularly true, as Péter has already said, when it comes to Hungary and Germany.

  • Our countries’ economies are very closely intertwined. Around 3000 companies have been set up in Hungary in part or entirely with German capital. 27% of Hungarian foreign trade is conducted with Germany.
  • In terms of cooperation in higher education, we can look back on traditions dating almost from centuries ago.
  • And we share memories of many turning points in our history – not least the end of the Iron Curtain 30 years ago. An event we owe, by the way, to the courage of the Hungarians, who were the first to cut through the barbed wire. And that is something we in Germany will never forget.

All these connections are embodied in the German-Hungarian Forum. The Forum’s broad membership – from the business, academic and scientific communities, the media, politics and the cultural sphere – opens up new prospects, not least for our bilateral relations.

It is nothing less than a joy that so many young people are engaged in furthering Hungarian-German relations. Because young people are not only the guarantee that the Forum will talk about the issues of tomorrow. They are also the generation that grew up in a unified Europe; this “Europe United” is, I believe, very safe in their hands.

And so I should like to extend particular thanks to everyone who has made this meeting possible, despite the difficult circumstances – especially Andrássy University and the German-Hungarian Youth Office.

The role you play as bridge-builders is more important than ever at this time – a time that is difficult for us all, when international travel has become so complicated, and we have to take the approach we have taken here today to make sure we can still get together and exchange views, albeit only online.

So I wish you all the very best for this somewhat special meeting today. May your discussions be interesting and fruitful.

A meeting in the spirit of European friendship and solidarity –

for which giving and receiving are not opposites.

But rather two sides of the same coin.

Let me end on that note. Thank you, and stay healthy!


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