Germany and Hungary still have plenty of common ground despite their differences, said both countries’ foreign ministers after meeting in Hungary on Nov. 4.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas made his first official visit to Hungary in six years to meet with his Hungarian counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártówas. Despite the two countries’ diverging opinions on a range of topics, including migration, both foreign ministers underlined that economic cooperation has remained the foundation for a good relationship.
Originally planned for the summer, the visit had to be postponed until November, but this also meant that the meeting coincided with the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which happened nearly thirty years ago on Nov. 9.
Maas expressed his country’s gratitude for Hungary’s contribution to the historic event. A few months before the Berlin Wall fell, in August 1989, Hungary opened its borders, allowing East German refugees massed in the country to leave to the West. Maas also paid tribute to the fallen heroes of the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising in Hungary.
The meeting, in which the two foreign ministers addressed each other on a first name basis, was focused on the major points of agreement between the two countries.
Szijjártó stated during the press conference that Hungary has been the largest single buyer of military equipment from Germany this year, including tanks, howitzers and helicopters, partly to affirm Hungary’s commitment to NATO to increase its defense spending to two percent of its GDP.
He also said the two countries are partners in several peacekeeping operations and infrastructure projects from the Middle East to Africa. Last year, Hungarian-German bilateral trade amounted to €55 billion, and based on data for the first eight months, that figure will probably be surpassed this year.
Maas did not hide the fact that there are “difficult issues” among the two, such as the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, but stressed that dialogue must be maintained despite the differences.
Szijjártó pointed out that Hungary was firmly against illegal migration while Maas said there is room for compromise. Maas cited the example of countries that are unwilling to take in refugees may contribute in other ways, such as providing funding for the defense of the European Union’s outer borders.
Title image: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (L) and his Hungarian counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó (R) at a press conference after their Budapest meeting. (MTI/Zoltán Máthé)