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Statement by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán following the 5th meeting of the Turkey–Hungary High Level Strategic Cooperation Council

Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Hungary is a state with a history of one thousand one hundred years. In that amount of time much can be learned. One of the most important geopolitical lessons that we Hungarians have learned is that we need to look to three countries forming a triangle within which we live our lives. Our forefathers used to talk about Moscow, Berlin and Istanbul, but now we must replace the latter with Ankara. This is the triangle within which Hungarians live; and it is important for us to be in a friendly, strategic alliance with the Ankara side of this triangle. This is an old lesson. When I first had the opportunity to do so, in 2000, I came here to Ankara to dynamise relations between our two governments at the highest level. At that time Mr. Demirel was President of the Republic of Turkey. That is when I began to work on a system of friendly – and if possible even fraternal – Turkish-Hungarian relations. I have observed this process over the course of more than twenty years. A new chapter was opened in 2013, when President Erdoğan honoured us with his first visit to Budapest, and from that time on this relationship has been developing with great dynamism. The momentum that President Erdoğan gave to the relationship in 2013 is still there today, illustrated by the fact that during the pandemic the volume of Turkish-Hungarian trade relations did not decline, but increased significantly, perhaps by more than 30 percent. According to our calculations it is worth around 4 billion dollars. Gestures are important, and this is why we have returned cultural treasures to Turkey. We liked them very much, but unfortunately they are not ours. And Hungarians say that what is not yours must sooner or later be returned to its rightful owner. That is what we have done.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There are four major crises tormenting us in Europe today: a health crisis, an economic crisis, a migration crisis and an energy crisis. Every leader – individually and in cooperation with others – is now looking for answers to these big questions. Turkish-Hungarian cooperation has helped to contain all four crises.

I would like to remind you of the period at the beginning of the pandemic, when the world was in its greatest distress and we did not have protective equipment, or even simple things like face masks. Back then, without a second thought, our Turkish friends delivered to us the materials from which we could make masks in Hungary. And now we are at the point at which tomorrow Hungary will be able to contribute a significant amount of vaccine, which will be jointly sent to Africa by the Turkic Council.

As far as the economic crisis is concerned, Hungarians have decided that they can overcome the economic crisis caused by the pandemic with investment. So the focus of our economic crisis management is the stimulation of investment. For this we also need foreign investors; and I consider it a great success that the biggest ever Turkish investment in Hungary is one of 70 billion forints for a factory near Kaposvár. This will be for one of the world’s largest packaging materials companies.

As far as the migration crisis is concerned, we Europeans are now under pressure from three directions: from the Mediterranean; through the Western Balkans; and now also from Belarus. In this situation Europe needs allies. It needs allies which can extend the ring of defence around Europe as widely as possible. If Europe has no ring of defence surrounding it, Europe will collapse. Turkey is providing Hungary with such a ring of defence by stopping migrants, and for this we cannot thank them enough. We have now agreed that our Turkish friends will send fifty border guards to take part in the defence of the Hungarian border. And within the European Union we are arguing that Turkey should be given as much help as possible: we are urging the European Union to provide Turkey with as much financial support as possible in the fight against migration – not indirectly, but directly to the Turkish government. Let us support them financially. Our proposal is that the European Union should provide financial support for the southern and eastern border defence line. The European Union should not only pay the costs incurred by the Hungarians, Poles and Lithuanians in border defence and the building of fences, but also the costs incurred by Turkey – because this is in the interest of Europe. And Hungary is urging the European Union to provide substantial funds to help Turkey stabilise the northern Syrian region, so that Syrians can return home. This is extremely important for Europe.

With regard to the energy crisis, we are working together in two areas. One is a gas pipeline system that has been established to transport gas with complete security from the South to Hungary, which is only possible with Turkey’s cooperation. We thank the President for the energy cooperation that has been established between us through TurkStream. And we will continue to invest in nuclear energy. We are cooperating in science, research and training, and we hope that in the coming period the volume of this will increase by orders of magnitude. We have therefore increased the number of scholarships made available by Hungary to Turkish students. This year we are providing 150 scholarships. So the Hungarian state is funding scholarships for 150 Turkish students, out of 1,824 applicants. We are now increasing the number of scholarships to 200, and I have asked the President to make a certain ratio within this available specifically for nuclear specialists – for those pursuing studies related to nuclear energy.

Finally, I can tell you that we have discussed the issue of military cooperation, which is opening up completely new perspectives. We have discussed economic cooperation in joint work in Africa, and we have also discussed the issue of Bosnia: for understandable reasons, both of us are concerned about peace, stability and security in Bosnia. Recently we have both met President Dodik, the leader of Republika Srpska in Bosnia, and we are both convinced that everyone wants stability, peace and balance in the region. In the final analysis, one should not be talking about the people living in the Balkans, but talking with them; because the Balkans can only be stabilised together with the people who live there. It is not possible to stabilise the region with agreements between “great powers” from which the people of the Balkans are excluded. And we agreed that Turkey and Hungary will continue to engage in cooperation stabilising the future of Bosnia.

Mr. President, I am grateful for these opportunities.