Foreign Affairs

Hungary Sticks By Its “Friend” Turkey, PM Orbán Says During Ankara Visit

Hungary will stick by its friends and is on Turkey’s side, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in Ankara on Friday at the opening of a Hungarian-Turkish business forum.

Hungary will stick by its friends and is on Turkey’s side, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in Ankara (photo: Szilárd Koszticsák – MTI

Hungary’s backing of Turkey is not a one-off event but the consequence of a strategy, Orbán said. “Being a conservative country, it is human values that matter.” “Business is important, but what’s most important is that one should have friends,” he said. There are some obligations that result from this and Hungary will stick by its friends, “even when this is uncomfortable”, he added.

“No matter what anti-Turkish manifestations there are in important European countries, Hungary will never join these”, but will take Turkey’s side, Orbán said. Turkey is on the edge of Europe and it is protecting what is inside Europe, the prime minister said. Had it not fulfilled this obligation, Europe would have been flooded by many millions of migrants and “we would not be able to handle that”, he said. “Turkey deserves respect for this, which we will always give it.”

“If I were Turkish, at first sight I would not pay that much attention to the Hungarian economy because Turkey will soon become the largest country in Europe; much larger than Hungary,” Orbán said. “At the same time, Hungary, with a population of 10 million, is able to produce exports worth 110 billion US dollars compared to Turkey with a population of 80 million producing exports of 145 billion dollars,” he added. He said Turkish businessmen should look to Hungary as “Europe’s most secure country”. While public safety is deteriorating in Europe, Hungary is secure and predictable and its taxes are low, with a 9 percent corporate tax rate and one of Europe’s lowest personal income tax rates, while there is no inheritance tax, he added.

A visit by Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Budapest as prime minister in 2013 gave great impetus to cooperation and business links. The target set at the time was to boost Hungarian-Turkish economic relations to reach 5 billion dollars. There are multiple reasons why this has not happened yet. Notwithstanding some progress, no breakthrough has been experienced in business relations, he said. This is why political decisions and flagships are now being sought to achieve this goal, Orbán said.

Viktor Orbán noted Hungary’s membership of the Visegrad Group, saying that the V4 together provided a large contribution to European economic growth and the point of gravity of economic performance was shifting from the west to central Europe. He advised Turkish businesspeople “not to provoke or lecture” Hungarians if they want to make business with them because even if Hungary’s population is only 10 million, the country has a history going back to 1,000 years and this demands respect.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said at the business forum that last summer saw a “lowly attempt at a coup” in Turkey which was aimed at undermining Turkish democracy but the “the courage of the nation” and “the determination of the government” helped overcome this. The coup also revealed whose its true friends were, and Hungary was one such friend that clearly stood up for the Turkish nation and condemned the attempted coup, he added. He also said that Erdogan’s 2013 visit had given impetus to bilateral relations. Work on meeting the target must continue because both countries have the right conditions for success, he added.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó speaking at the Turkish-Hungarian Business Forum in Ankara (photo: Szilárd Koszticsák – MTI)

Péter Szijjartó, the Hungarian Foreign Minister, said that Hungary was clear that nobody expects it to solve the great global political crises, and for this reason its foreign policy focused on foreign priority tasks primarily of an economic nature. It is duty bound to recognise Hungarian national economic interests and to bring about decisions that serve these interests, he said, adding that it was not possible to do otherwise in the case of such an open economy.

The minister said that cooperation with the most important trade and economic partners seriously determines the performance of the national economy, and Turkey as Hungary’s sixteenth most important trading partner, has a fundamental role in the formation of Hungary’s economy. Last year bilateral trade was worth 2.8 billion US dollars and this year it is expected to exceed 3 billion, he added. Szijjarto noted that 72 Hungarian companies were being represented in Ankara from leading sectors such the water industry, farming and IT. Hungary has extended a 255 million euro credit line through its Eximbank in order to promote cooperation, he said.

In the course of its visit to Ankara, the Hungarian delegation takes part in a high-level strategic council meetings and the third Hungarian-Turkish “cabinet meeting”, an inter-governmental summit. In addition to several cabinet members, the Turkish program will also be attended by the delegation of 72 Hungarian business leaders. After meeting his counterpart, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will also be received by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Speaker of Parliament Ismail Kahraman.

During his visit to Ankara, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has held separate talks with his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim (photo: Balázs Szecsődi – kormany.hu)

On the sidelines of the Turkish-Hungarian business summit in Ankara, the two Premiers also held separate talks to discuss bilateral relations. Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, Viktor Orbán said that Hungary’s interests lie in a strong and stable Turkey with a clear leadership that is capable of enforcing the country’s interests. He also welcomed Turkey’s recent constitutional changes. Though this is a Turkish domestic affair, the changes improve Turkey’s ability to protect Europe and to be of help to Hungary, Orbán said.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told the same press conference that although Hungarian-Turkish political relations were good, trade relations could be further intensified. Orbán said in response to a question about the progress of Turkey’s European Union accession process that the EU needs Turkey. “Since we have started the negotiations, they must be properly carried through. Hungary does not support any form of suspension or cancellation; our position is that a historic agreement must be made with Turkey,” Viktor Orbán added.

via MTI and kormany.hu; featured photo: Szilárd Koszticsák – MTI