Turkey and Hungary

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Tuesday called for efforts to ensure gas transports to central Europe, including Hungary, via Turkey. “We need to work to get the gas from Turkey to central Europe and Hungary” via Serbia among other countries, Mr Orban told a press conference after talks with Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu. He said this would make “us able to ensure Hungary’s gas supply after 2019-20″. Mr Orban said that with South Stream pipeline project aborted and Russia not planning to supply Europe with gas through Ukraine by the end of the decade, alternative routes will be needed. He added that “Hungary is in fact blocked” by Romania and Croatia, as those countries have not completed the necessary interconnectors. “Russia has decided to channel its gas to Turkey,” Orban said, insisting that Hungary has very limited room for maneouvre. He mentioned the training of nuclear energy experts and technical development in nuclear energy industry as possible fields of energy cooperation between Hungary and Turkey. He said they were in agreement that growing tension in Eurasia was undesirable. “Instead of facing a permanent pressure of answering the question of East or West, our interest lies in being able to say East and West,” Orban said, and called for a cooperation in which both Europe and Asia are involved on a basis of mutual benefits. Among the Hungarian-Turkish economic achievements the prime minister highlighted the opening of an Eximbank branch office in Istanbul and record-high Hungarian exports to Turkey totalling USD 2bn last year. The goal was to increase that total to 5bn, he said. A USD 170m credit line has been opened for small and medium-size enterprises, and an investment fund set up with both sides contributing USD 25m, Orban said. Mr Orban also noted the cooperation of Hungarian and Turkish companies on third markets, among them joint oil production in Russia and the Black Sea, could be extended to other countries. Mr Orban thanked his counterpart for ensuring visa-free travel for Hungarians to Turkey. He also accepted an invitation to Turkey. Answering a question, Orban suggested that Hungary should “study Turkey’s formula for success” and mentioned for example the high birth rate of that country. Turkey’s demographic figures show that “it is in Turkey that the family has the highest esteem in Europe”. Turkey’s lesson is that “if we strive for success we must take the family seriously”, he insisted. One should be cautious about following examples of other countries, he said, when asked about his remarks about illiberal democracy last summer when he mentioned Turkey among examples for Hungary. Successful Turkish people are needed to build a successful Turkey, and a successful Hungary requires Hungarians, he said. He added, however, that the EU’s position as the most successful economic zone has changed in the past years and other countries, with different mentality, such as Turkey, the Russia before the Ukrainian war or China and Singapore have produced significant success. Mr Davutoglu told the press conference that ties between the two countries were rapidly developing and Ankara is ready to give all the support it can in energy supplies to central Europe and Hungary. He welcomed Hungary’s decision to attribute outstanding importance to Turkey in foreign policy and thanked Hungary’s lasting support for Turkey’s EU accession aspirations. Before the press conference, the two premiers signed a declaration of intent to jointly renovate a 16th-century Turkish shrine in the Buda hills, as well as accords in several areas including social security, the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, consumer protection and market control cooperation.