FM: Hungary’s EU presidency will prioritize customs union between EU and Turkey

Minister Szijjártó said trade turnover between Hungary and Turkey reached a record high last year.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said Hungary’s EU presidency later this year would prioritize the upgrade and expansion of the customs union between the EU and Turkey, and it would also take steps to advance a visa liberalisation accord. He added that the EU-Turkey Association Council should meet again during Hungary’s presidency.

Regarding the war in Ukraine, the minister said the “transatlantic world suffers from a kind of war psychosis, and only very few have the courage to argue for peace”. Within NATO, only Hungary and Turkey took this position, he added. “There’s no solution to the war on the battlefield,” he said, adding that the longer the war lasted and the more weapons were delivered, “the more people will die”. Szijjártó said the only mediation effort to bring the war to an end had been on the part of Ankara. He said Turkey put “common sense first” and regularly promoted “NATO’s initial decision” to do everything possible to avoid direct confrontation with Russia. Meanwhile, Szijjártó said trade turnover between Hungary and Turkey reached a record high last year, adding that the two countries had taken important steps in the interest of further boosting their economic relations. Given that Turkey is one of the biggest economies in Europe, cooperation with the country is clearly in Hungary’s national interest, Szijjártó said after a meeting of the Hungarian-Turkish Joint Economic Committee. Bilateral trade turnover came to a record 4.3 billion US dollars last year, up 18% from 2022, the minister said. This has put Hungary and Turkey closer to the goal set by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of reaching a trade turnover of 6 billion dollars, he added. Hungarian exports to Turkey increased by 29% to a record high, contributing to Hungary’s export record of 150 billion euros, Szijjártó said. Also, Hungary’s 9.3 billion euro trade surplus means that the country had made up for the losses incurred in 2022 due to the rise in energy prices, he added. Szijjártó, whose delegation included 11 Hungarian business executives, said 2023 had been about the successes of Hungarian businesses on the Turkish market. He noted that medical equipment maker Medicor will soon start production at its plant in Ankara and that the State Printing Company is involved in the printing of the new Turkish passport.

Meanwhile, soft drink maker Hell Energy sold 19 million cans in Turkey last year, and agribusiness Hunland sold 71,000 cattle. Also, a Turkish-Hungarian defense industry joint venture has been established to fulfil the Armed Forces’ order of 400 armoured vehicles, while Hungary’s V-Hid has entered into an alliance with Turkey’s biggest rail construction company to cooperate in as many projects in and outside Europe as possible, Szijjártó said. Turning to energy cooperation, the minister welcomed the finalisation of the text of the gas purchase agreement, allowing Hungarian energy company MVM and Turkey’s BOTAS to sign the deal that will enable the start of gas deliveries from Turkey to Hungary in the second quarter. Hungary is set to receive 275 million cubic metres of gas from Turkey this year, he added. “This makes Hungary the very first country not directly bordering Turkey to which Turkey will export natural gas,” Szijjártó noted. The minister also announced that Hungarian oil and gas company MOL and Turkish peer TPAO will begin preparations for the joint extraction of oil and gas fields recently discovered in south-eastern Turkey. The two countries are also set to start cooperating in the area of nuclear energy, given that they are both building nuclear power plants with the same technology, Szijjártó said. Meanwhile, the minister welcomed that the two countries are close to modifying an air transport agreement that will enable an increase in the number of direct Budapest-Istanbul and Budapest-Ankara flights.