“They are also viewing the coming into office of the new European Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen with positive expectations in Germany”, Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás said on Thursday in evaluation of his negotiations in Düsseldorf, capital of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

“The expectations surrounding the coming into office of the new Commission in early November have given rise to change, as a result of which there is now a lot more hope and much less pessimism, while a few years or even just a few months ago, the situation was the opposite”, Mr. Gulyás said in a telephone statement to Hungarian news agency MTI.

He highlighted the fact that Germany fully understands the east-west differences within the European Union, since those are also apparent within its own borders, and accordingly in the person of Ursula von der Leyen “the whole of Europe will finally have a Commission President, not just Western Europe”.

With relation to his meeting with North Rhine-Westphalia’s Minister for International, European Union and Federal Affairs Stephan Holthoff-Pförtner, Mr. Gulyás told the press that they had specifically discussed possible EU enlargement, also in view of the fact that Hungary will be receiving that field, neighbourhood policy and enlargement, in the upcoming European Commission. The Minister and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politician agreed that it is important to provide a “real enlargement perspective” to the Balkan region, as a result of which Serbia and the other countries of the region that are ready for EU membership will be able to join the EU within a foreseeable period of time.

With relation to the European Union’s next seven-year multiannual financial framework, Mr. Gulyás said that while the Germans would like to come to an agreement at the earliest opportunity, to Hungary the timing is secondary, and the content of the agreement is paramount.

The Minister said that during the meeting he had explained that Hungary is unable to accept the budget proposal put forward by the exiting Commission headed by Jean-Claude Juncker. “Hopefully the next Commission will support changes that enable the adoption of the budget”, the Minister added, pointing out that the adoption of the budget bill requires the agreement of all member states.

Mr. Gulyás took part in an event at the State Parliament (Landtag) in the Düsseldorf to mark the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Hungarian-Austrian border. In his speech, he highlighted: “The Hungarians are still proud of the fact that the Pan-European Picnic in August 1989 and the opening of the border in September contributed to enabling Germany to become reunified in peace and in freedom”.

“At the time, we thought we were different, and were surprised to see how many things there are that connect us, and when we joined the EU in 2004 we thought we were the same, and are now surprised to see in how many things we differ”, the Fidesz politician added in his speech, a transcript of which was provided to MTI by the Prime Minister’s Office, and in which he explained: “As a result of Europe’s four decades of separation, in addition to common values there are also differences, and these are also evident in political opinions”.

“These days it is fashionable to interpret these differences as being anti-European, authoritarian or indicating a lack of the rule of law, which from our perspective is unfounded intolerance towards people who think differently”, Mr. Gulyás underlined, highlighting that only Germany can help Europe through this state of affairs, not only because it is the largest country on the continent, but also because it can understand this problem thanks to the east-west differences that also exist within its own borders.

According to a statement by the state parliament, President of the Landtag André Kuper emphasised, amongst others, that the opening of the Hungarian-Austrian border before East German refugees was a significant stop on the road towards German reunification, and Germany will always be grateful for the support provided by Hungary towards its reunification.

“Today, Germans and Hungarians live together in a united, free and democratic Europe, that we must protect”, the CDU politician added.

Mr. Gulyás told MTI that during their meeting prior to the event, he and the Landtag President had reviewed bilateral relations between Hungary and the German state, the significance of which is indicated by the fact that North Rhine-Westphalia is the most highly populated German state and Hungary’s third most important economic partner from among the 16 German states after Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.