German-Hungarian relations are especially good “despite a smear campaign” in the German press against Hungary, ruling Fidesz group leader Gergely Gulyás said on Thursday.
Hungary-Germany relations are “alive and functioning”, he told an event organised by the Nézőpont Institute and the Hungarian bureau of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. Germany is Hungary’s most important partner, and economic relations coupled with unique cultural and person-to-person ties are exceptionally strong, he added.
At the same time, a large portion of the German press is pursuing a smear campaign against Hungary, he insisted. “If you look at Hungary and compare it to the image drawn by the German press, then it is obvious that the two are not even distantly related,” he said. Attempts to discredit Hungary started as long as seven years ago and the issue of migration has only served to intensify them, he added.
He insisted that German press was not free but “partially free at best”.
Gulyás said that “much of the hatred of Hungary present in the German press” stemmed from differences in how the two countries’ values have progressed over time. He argued that differences in social development in the two countries had brought about differences in values.
“In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with this,” Gulyás said. “The question is whether we take on an exclusionary attitude [towards these differences], as the German press has, or whether we are capable of accepting that worlds that are different from ours can also be complete and functional.”
Gulyás said this was also at the heart of the dispute surrounding the issue of migration.
Hungary and Germany will never agree on whether immigration is good or bad, he added.
Gulyás said the German economy was in need of immigration, which, he added, leads to certain social consequences that can be viewed in a variety of ways. “I don’t believe that we in Hungary have any right to judge this, especially at government level,” he said. “We are on the side of tolerance as opposed to exclusion,” Gulyás added.
He said Hungary and Germany should both aim to broaden social support in their countries for Hungarian-German relations. Despite the problems, disputes and difficulties bilateral ties have had to overcome, Hungarian-German relations have a future, he added.
Gulyás said in response to a question that he expected the new German government to carry on pursuing the migration policy of its predecessor. The Hungarian government’s position has not changed, he said, expressing hope that the new German government, too, would pay close attention to the protection of Europe’s external borders.
Frank Spengler, head of the Hungarian office of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, said it was surprising that Hungarian and German youth held significantly more favourable views of the other country than their elders.
He also said Hungary and Germany could better use their respective German and Hungarian minorities to act as bridges between the two countries.
Spengler said press freedom in Germany was “a one hundred percent given”. He said the two countries should aim for positive media coverage of each other and focus on the fact that their relations are good.