Kicking off his joint press conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan this afternoon in Budapest, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that today’s meeting is an outcome of a 2013 agreement that established a Turkish-Hungarian strategic council on the highest level. Since then, PM Orbán said, the leaders of the two countries have come together each year to discuss an array of topics of critical importance to both countries.
“Hungary exists within a geographic space that has been marked out by three capitals: Istanbul – or Ankara – Moscow and Berlin,” Prime Minister Orbán said, reminding listeners that Russian President Putin visited Budapest a few days ago (read more here and here), while the German foreign minister also visited recently (read more here).
“Turkey is a strategic partner for Hungary in terms of both migration and security,” the prime minister said, because – as a fundamental premise of Hungarian foreign policy thinking – “without Turkey, it is not possible to halt migration to Europe.”
“This year alone,” PM Orbán added, “Turkey has intercepted 350 thousand illegal immigrants. Had Turkey not done so, they would have already been here in the vicinity of Hungary’s southern border.”
While cooperation in the areas of migration and security dominates bilateral relations, there are other fields, such as energy and culture, where Turkey plays a significant role in Hungarian national interest. “If Hungary wants to achieve energy sovereignty, then we need strong cooperation with Turkey,” PM Orbán said. The PM highlighted that Turkey has already done its part in terms of the construction of a new natural gas pipeline that will bring supplies from Central Asia to Central Europe.
Before giving the floor to President Erdoğan, Prime Minister Orbán said that they aim to increase annual bilateral trade volume to USD 6 billion and have established joint aid projects in Kenya and Ghana.
Asked about what would happen if Turkey decided to “open the gates” and let all migrants move toward Europe, Orbán said that “Hungary is a country that is able to protect its borders,” adding that Hungary has all the personnel, defense capability and technology required at its disposal for protecting the border, which is an external border of the Schengen Area.
On Hungarian Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi officially acquiring the European Commission’s enlargement portfolio, the prime minister said that the fact that Hungary has committed itself to taking on the enlargement and neighborhood policy portfolio shows that Hungary is not around for the easy win.
Among the questions that will need to be answered in the coming period, Prime Minister Orbán mentioned the EU stance on enlargement, including long-standing questions about Turkish EU accession. New times are coming, Orbán said, “we cannot continue to ride the same old bicycle. We need a new vehicle.”