Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto: Turkiye key to Hungary, EU security

Turkiye is key to the security of Hungary and the European Union, Peter Szijjarto, the foreign minister, said in Ankara on Thursday. "It would be impossible to overcome challenges" facing the bloc without Turkiye's input, Szijjarto told a joint press conference with Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan, listing challenges that were physical, economic and connected to energy.

Turkiye, he added, was especially important in handling growing migration pressure.

He said Europe would be lost if migration were not prevented, and he praised Turkiye for “doing everything possible to keep migration under control”.

He said both Hungary and Turkiye held the same position that migrants should return home, given the right security conditions.

He said that Turkiye was key to Hungary’s energy security, and it was a reliable transit partner, with the majority of imports passing through the country.

Szijjarto thanked his counterpart for not using energy as a “political or economic weapon”.

Turkiye’s handling of terrorism amid today’s threats on a global scale, he said, was highly important.

Meanwhile, the minister said Europe could regain its competitive edge lost in recent years, given closer cooperation with partners like Turkiye.

Szijjarto said Hungary’s EU presidency later this year would prioritise the upgrade and expansion of the customs union between the EU and Turkiye, and it would also take steps to advance a visa liberalisation accord. He added that the EU-Turkiye 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 Turkiye 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”.

Szijjarto said the only mediation effort to bring the war to and end had been on the part of Ankara.

He said Turkiye put “common sense first” and regularly promoted “NATO’s initial decision” to do everything possible to avoid direct confrontation with Russia.

Trade turnover record high in 2023

Trade turnover between Hungary and Turkiye reached a record high last year, Szijjarto said in Ankara, adding that the two countries had taken important steps in the interest of further boosting their economic relations. Given that Turkiye is one of the biggest economies in Europe, cooperation with the country is clearly in Hungary’s national interest, Szijjarto 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 percent from 2022, the minister said.

This has put Hungary and Turkiye 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 Turkiye increased by 29 percent to a record high, contributing to Hungary’s export record of 150 billion euros, Szijjarto 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.

Szijjarto, 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 Turkiye last year, and agribusiness Hunland sold 71,000 cattle.

Also, a Turkish-Hungarian defence 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 Turkiye’s biggest rail construction company to cooperate in as many projects in and outside Europe as possible, Szijjarto said.

Turning to energy cooperation, the minister welcomed that the text of the gas purchase agreement has been finalised, allowing Hungarian energy company MVM and Turkiye’s BOTAS to sign the deal that will enable the start of gas deliveries from Turkiye to Hungary in the second quarter. Hungary is set to receive 275 million cubic metres of gas from Turkiye this year, he added.

“This makes Hungary the very first country not directly bordering Turkiye to which Turkiye will export natural gas,” Szijjarto 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 Turkiye.

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, Szijjarto said.

Meanwhile, he said one of the priorities of Hungary’s upcoming presidency of the Council of the European Union will be to accelerate the modernisation and expansion of the EU-Turkiye customs union.

He also 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.

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