At a meeting in Budapest last Thursday, the defense ministers of Hungary and Turkey discussed ways to strengthen cooperation between their respective countries. Mass illegal migration and the ‘accompanying dangers’, including terrorism, were highlighted topics at the talks, Hungary’s István Simicskó told a press conference after the meeting.
He expressed thanks to his counterpart for Turkey’s efforts to improve security in Europe and Hungary in recent years. Turkey is looking after some four million migrants. Since the start of the crisis, around 270,000 Syrian children have been born in Turkey, he added. Turkey has considerable experience in fighting terrorism and it is therefore in Hungary’s interest to strengthen cooperation between the secret services of the two countries, Simicskó said, adding that that there was an agreement to enhance army cooperation by organising joint military exercises and training sessions.
Simicskó briefed his counterpart on a ten-year development plan which incorporates important defence industry developments. Turkey has a major defence industry and Hungary plans to rely on Turkish know-how and experience, he said.
The Hungarian government apparently views Turkey as close partner, despite the controversies that accompany President Erdogan’s government, including silencing critics by, for example, imprisoning a number of journalists who are critical of him, as well as his detaining of nearly 50,000 people since 2016’s thwarted coup, including many soldiers, journalists, lawyers, police officers, academics and Kurdish politicians.
Back in 2015, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó claimed that Hungary would back speeding up talks on Turkey’s EU accession and lifting its European visa requirements. Hungary then firmly condemned the attempted coup d’etat in 2016, and PM Orbán was the first European leader to openly congratulate president Erdogan on a referendum which has granted him sweeping new powers by eliminating the office of the Prime Minister and transforming the country into a presidential republic, thereby clearing the way for Erdogan to remain in office as late as 2029. Turkey plays an essential role in handling the migration crisis as well, and the country is an important NATO ally.
image via Bruzák Noémi/ MTI