Following an ecumenical worship service held in Sopron earlier today, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Pan-European Picnic (read more about the picnic’s history here), German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán addressed the celebrating crowd.
“Freedom fighters like us always knew, even at times of division, that there was only one, single Europe,” Prime Minister Orbán said adding that Europe reunited because we had faith in it. According to the PM, Hungarians always sided with German reunification because that was our only way out of the Soviet bloc.
“We Hungarians have always held our relationship with Germany in special regard,” the prime minister said. “It’s older than the picnic in Sopron, older than our mutual 20th-century defeats,” he said reminding that Hungary’s first king, Saint Stephen I, brought his crown from Rome but chose a wife from Bavaria.
“State foundation, border opening, extraordinary German-Hungarian relations – all of these point to the direction of a strong Europe,” the PM concluded before giving the floor to Angela Merkel.
“Sopron is a standing example of what we are capable of achieving if we keep ourselves to our values,” the German Chancellor began, thanking Hungarians for their courage thirty years ago. Back in 1989, according to Merkel, everyone knew well how Soviets trampled over freedom. “But the Hungarian border guards did not shoot, and therefore demonstrated such courage that put humaneness over duty and regulations,” she said.
“Sopron is the symbol of a humane Europe,” Merkel said and reminded that a nation’s welfare always depends on Europe’s welfare. This is why “Europe can only be as strong as we are capable of compromising over disputes.”
In the Chancellor’s view, today, “Hungary and Germany shape the future of a unified Europe together.” She suggested that Europe follow the path of freedom and unity, a direction reinforced by the memory of the Pan-European Picnic.
“It means a lot to me that I can be here now in a place where history was written thirty years ago,” the Chancellor said, concluding her remarks.
The two heads of government then turned to contemporary issues at a press conference following the event.
"Thirty years ago, we broke down the walls so that we could live in freedom and security. Now, we protect the borders so that we can continue to live in freedom and security," PM Orbán said, adding that because Hungary is protecting the Schengen border, it would be fair to expect the European Union to cover at least 50 percent of all border protection costs.
Chancellor Merkel complimented Hungary on its use of the EU’s cohesion resources, saying that they are properly invested to ensure "the country keeps developing". On migration, the German chancellor said that border protection remains a top priority, as the only way to preserve the Schengen Area.
Returning to the topic of bilateral relations, PM Orbán said that "there are no conflicts on the German-Hungarian political horizon."