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Hungary is on Turkey’s side

In his speech, the Prime Minister emphasised that Hungary’s loyal support for Turkey is not a one-off event, but a consequence of Hungary’s strategy, as a conservative country, of prioritising human values. Business and money are important, but the most important thing is for one to have friends, he said, adding that this gives rise to obligations, and Hungary stands by its friends – even if this is sometimes “uncomfortable”.

He stated that “Whatever anti-Turkish statements there are in important European Union countries, Hungary will never add its voice to them”, but will stand by Turkey.

Turkey is on the edge of Europe, protecting Europe’s interior, the Prime Minister said, and if it had not fulfilled its obligations, Europe would have been flooded with many millions of immigrants – which it would not have known what to do with. He said he thinks that Turkey deserves respect, which Hungary will always accord it.

Mr. Orbán said that “If I were Turkish, I would not at first pay too much attention to the Hungarian economy”, since Turkey will soon become Europe’s largest country – far bigger than Hungary – and is in a good location. While there are wars on its borders, it is in a strategically important position. At the same time, he said, Hungary is a country of ten million which is able to generate $110 billion in exports, while an 80 million strong Turkey has exports of $145 billion. He observed that Hungary’s export performance highlights that here there is something which Turkey can benefit from looking into.

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Photo: Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI

He stated that Turkish businesspeople could find Hungary worth paying attention to because it is the safest country in Europe: while public security in Europe is worsening, in Hungary there is order, security and predictability in every area of life. In addition, taxes are low: companies pay nine per cent on annual profits; support for investment reduces the tax burden; there is one of the lowest personal income tax rates in Europe; and there is no inheritance tax.

The prime minister pointed out that, as a member of the EU, Hungary is part of a market of 500 million people. Furthermore, he said, Hungary is part of a special international alliance system: the Visegrád Four (V4). He made it clear that the V4 countries are currently responsible for the great majority of Europe’s economic growth, with the EU’s centre of gravity in terms of economic performance moving from the West to Central Europe. “This is where the future lies”, he declared.

He recalled that Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Budapest in 2013 had hugely boosted cooperation and business relations between the two countries. At that time there was agreement on the goal of increasing the volume of Hungarian-Turkish trade to five billion dollars. For a number of reasons this has not been achieved, and although there is progress, there has still not been a breakthrough in terms of business relations. This is why, he explained, political decisions and flagship initiatives for the achievement of this goal are now being sought.

Mr. Orbán also said that Hungarians are “a sensitive species”, and so he advised Turkish businesspeople to show them respect, “not to provoke” and “not to lecture” them if they want to do business with them: although Hungary is a country of only ten million, it has a thousand-year history, which commands respect.

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Photo: Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI

Prime Minister of Turkey Binali Yildirim reminded his audience that last summer there was a “treacherous attempted coup” in Turkey, which aimed at eradicating Turkish democracy and destroying its future, but “the courage of the nation” and the “determination of the Government” had helped to defeat it. At that time, he said, it became clear who the country’s true friends were: one of these was Hungary, which stood firmly alongside the Turkish nation and condemned the coup attempt. He added that this will never be forgotten.

The Turkish prime minister also said that Mr. Erdogan’s visit to Budapest in 2013 had given great impetus to bilateral relations, but the target of five billion dollars has still not been reached. There is still work to be done, therefore, but in both countries all the conditions for success are in place, he remarked.

Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, explained that Hungary is well aware of the fact that nobody expects it to provide the solution to major world crises, and therefore the focus of its foreign policy is economic: the primary task and obligation of its foreign policy is to recognise Hungarian national economic interests, and take decision which serve these. For such an open economy there can be no other approach, he said.

The Minister pointed out that for this reason cooperation with Hungary’s most important trade and economic partners has a major effect on the national economy’s performance; Turkey – which is Hungary’s sixteenth largest trading partner by volume – therefore has a key role in the development of the Hungarian economy. Last year, the value of bilateral trade was $2.8 billion, and this year it is expected to exceed $3 billion, he said. He went on to say that 94 representatives from 72 Hungarian companies had arrived in Ankara, and these primarily came from those sectors in which the Hungarian economy excels, such as the water, agricultural and information technology industries.

Mr. Szijjártó said that it is the Hungarian government’s task to create opportunities for building business relationships, and so a 255 million euro credit line has been created at Eximbank to assist in this cooperation.

During his visit to Ankara, Mr. Orbán and several of his government’s ministers are attending a high-level strategic meeting, which is effectively a Turkish-Hungarian “cabinet meeting” or intergovernmental summit.