Hungary on Turkey’s side, says Orbán in Ankara
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Péter Szijjártó, the minister of foreign affairs and trade, 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.
Szijjártó 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 his visit, Orbán participated in various high-level strategic council sessions which officials said in effect amounted to a joint Hungary-Turkey government session.