The odd man out in Europe: Viktor Orbán in Ankara

Turkey seems to hold a special place in Viktor Orbán’s heart. Ever since he became prime minister for the second time around in 2010, Orbán has gone out of his way to court the country he considers to be an important factor in world politics. From the very beginning, he supported Turkey’s membership in the European Union, an event that is not likely, especially in light of the domestic developments in Turkey over the last four or five years. By 2013, Orbán had succeeded in establishing a strong bilateral relationship between the two countries. In that year, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Budapest with 125 Turkish businessmen in tow. In 2012, the volume of trade between the two countries was only 1.7 billion dollars, which Orbán said he wanted to increase to 5 billion dollars by 2015. In December of 2013 Viktor Orbán visited Ankara. By that meeting it was eminently clear that these two men are soulmates. I covered that meeting at some length.

During the four years that have elapsed since Orbán’s visit to Ankara, Prime Minister Erdoğan amassed more and more political power until a military coup d’état in June 2016 gave him the opportunity to get rid of his opposition altogether. A year later he pushed through a number of constitutional amendments that awarded him sweeping powers. Democratic leaders looked upon the results of the referendum as a setback for Turkish democracy and were anything but enthusiastic. Not so Viktor Orbán, who phoned Erdoğan to congratulate him on his victory. Orbán genuinely welcomes the kind of system Erdoğan established as a consequence of these constitutional amendments.

A telling photo

Orbán’s second visit to Ankara this week highlighted the political friendship between the two heads of state. Orbán and about half his cabinet participated in a “joint Hungarian-Turkish cabinet meeting.” Holding such a meeting is a big thing in diplomacy and signifies especially close relations between the two countries. Before 2010 the Hungarian and Romanian governments used to get together quite frequently, but Orbán stopped the practice.

As is usual with such visits, the program is pretty tight. For instance, it is customary for the visiting prime minister to deliver a speech at a business forum. So, let’s start with this speech, especially since four years ago the plan was that by 2015 trade between the two countries would reach 5 billion dollars. As it turned out, the trade numbers came nowhere close to this goal. In the last four years there has been practically no growth in bilateral trade between Turkey and Hungary.

How did Orbán try to sell Hungary to the Turkish businessmen? Why should Turkey, a large and powerful country, care about small Hungary? There is one important consideration. Hungary “with a population of 10 million can produce 110 billion dollars’ worth of exports” while “Turkey with 80 million people generates 145 billion dollars’ worth of exports.” The manhandling of export figures is, I think, quite obvious. I also wonder how the Turks in the audience responded to the implication that their business abilities and economic successes were inferior compared to little Hungary’s. The second drawing point, in Orbán’s opinion, is the very low across-the-board business tax rate and government incentives given to investors that may mean an effective tax rate of less than 9%. Third, Hungary is part of the European Union, and “if someone enters Hungary he also enters a market of 500 million people.”

I found Viktor Orbán’s advice to the Turks on how to deal with Hungarian businessmen fascinating. It is important to know, he said, that Hungarians are very sensitive. “I suggest not provoking Hungarians when you want to have a business deal. It is very important not to lecture them [because] Hungarians are like the Turks. They don’t like to be lectured at.” Turkish businessmen ought to show them respect because “after all, Hungary might have a population of only 10 million but it has a thousand-year-old history.” Turkish businessmen also should praise Hungarians because that is very helpful in business. I found the whole speech bizarre.

Hungarian sources didn’t report on the speech of Binali Yıldırım, the Turkish prime minister, at the same business forum, but a summary of it is available in the English-language pro-government newspaper, Daily Sabah. He was less optimistic about Turkish-Hungarian trade relations than his Hungarian counterpart. He complained that although both Hungarian and Turkish incentives are attractive, the growth in trade hasn’t reached the desired level. Although the Turkish newspaper’s English prose is not the clearest, in my reading Yıldırım talked about 500 Turkish businessmen who have invested more than $100 million in Hungary while nearly 40 Hungarian investors have invested $10 million in Turkey. This is nothing to brag about. These are meager figures. I gained the distinct impression that the Turkish prime minister is not optimistic about the prospects of improving the current situation because he suggested that perhaps Turkish and Hungarian businessmen could cooperate in third countries instead. He was specifically thinking of African nations.

Binali Yıldırım and Viktor Orbán had an hour-long conversation, after which they gave a joint press conference. The Hungarian prime minister thanked Turkey for its struggle against terrorism and migration, by which it is not only defending Hungary but the European Union as a whole. Unfortunately, not too many people in Europe realize that, but Hungary definitely does. Turkey must remain a strong and stable country with a clear, unequivocal leadership, which in this case means an autocratic if not dictatorial regime under Erdoğan. We also learned that while the Hungarian government is doing its best to expel Central European University from Hungary, Orbán was negotiating with the Turks about a Turkish-Hungarian university. And while the Orbán government is trying to limit the number of Hungarian students attending gymnasium and wants to send them to trade schools instead, the two prime ministers were talking about establishing a Turkish-Hungarian bilingual gymnasium.

Binali Yıldırım was preoccupied with Turkey’s gripes over the stalled negotiations with the European Union and its demands for visa exemptions. Turkey is obviously hoping to use Orbán to advance its own agenda. “Visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to Europe would make a big contribution to improving bilateral relations between Ankara and Budapest,” and in fact he called on Orbán to take steps toward instituting a visa-free status in the EU, at least for Turkish businessmen.

The Hungarian media didn’t spend much time on this trip. Most news sites were satisfied to reprint MTI’s factual description of the visit’s highlights. The only exception was a short editorial that appeared in today’s Népszava. The author, Mária Gál, points out that instead of forcing an unnaturally close, fruitless economic cooperation with Turkey, the government should encourage businessmen in Romania and Hungary to invest in areas where cooperation would help the lives of the local population. For example, in Gyula, only a few kilometers from the Romanian border, there are no job opportunities and a lot of people live just above the poverty line, whereas in Arad, less than an hour away, it is difficult to find employees for the new industrial parks. Romania has a large market and has been developing by leaps and bounds. Why not invest in and foster good relations with Romania? And “we wouldn’t have to be ashamed of that cooperation,” indicating that Hungary should be ashamed of cooperating with Erdoğan’s Turkey. But Budapest rejects Bucharest’s “request to renew the previous practice of joint cabinet meetings because the Romanians trample on the rights of the Hungarian minority. Turkey, I guess, became our friend because of their exemplary treatment of their Kurdish minority.” Biting sarcasm well deserved.

July 1, 2017
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Guest

Orbán’s obsession and ceaseless demand for “respect” is fascinating. I wonder if he is aware that knife culture and violence of disaffected youth in the UK and the USA is often committed in the name of “respect”.
And just like the gangs of youth on the fringes of society, he doesn’t seem to understand that respect has to be earned.

But unlike the gangs, Orbán is educated and has power, and has no excuse to pretend that he is speaking for all Hungarians by demanding respect. If he is so spiritually and emotionally impoverished as to feel constantly disrespected (which his continual demand for signs of it would imply) then he succeeds only in achieving the opposite by bringing into quesiton why he is so needy of it in the first place. A most undignified and unsophisticated way to go about state visits.

dos929
Guest

Indeed Orban is “… spiritually and emotionally impoverished…” and I may add that he is mentally unstable as well, just like all other dictator minded ‘leaders’ before him. For judging him and his political carrier is enough to see what company does he keep; Putin and Erdogan…. As to Erdogan, he has managed to destroy decades of hard work by Ataturk and his followers to bring the ex Ottoman empire into the 20th century and beyond, so no wonder that Orban follows his example to bring Hungary back to where it was 70 odd years ago. Despots like them may have very sad ending, and one doesn’t have to look farther than to the fate of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu…

Observer
Guest

Time4

Again, Orban has acute complexes (caused by consequencies of small stature paired with obnoxious impertinence, lowly and provincial social origin, abusive father, etc) which he obsessively compensates:
note the constant use of big, strong, historical, pride, claims for respect, allusions past rulers. Note his intolerance to criticism or humor, his personal vindictiveness.
He couldn’t outgrow the small, half gypsy boy from the end-of-the row mud house in Felcsut.

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘Hungarians are very sensitive’

Turks too. Back in May Erdogan’s security took matters into their own hands by going after some anti-Erdogan demonstrators outside the Turkish embassy in Washington. Even here the Turks believed they could shutdown protest violently as if they were back home on the old sod. Seeing glimpses of the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) made them nuts. The perpetrators never were arrested (diplomatic ‘concerns’ ) so Erdogan got away with one.

Orban and Erdogan… the ‘strongmen’ now of Europe. Being bold, provocative, autocratic and destabilizing at the same time are their calling cards. The two really ‘pack a punch’ too.

LwiiH
Guest

Charges were laid but it’s doubtful there will be a trial as all the thugs returned to Turkey and unless they return to the US….

wrfree
Guest

And not a peep from POTUS. Lately when dealing with autocrats he seems to have a habit of being a ‘shrinking violet’ considering the actions he has been privy to which are directly in opposition to precisely what the office he has taken up has a mandate to hold up. The ‘new’ brand in the White House is apparently marketing itself the wrong way.

To paraphrase the Bard… what a tangled web POTUS weaves. The more he gets involved in the ‘grey’ areas the less POTUS shows his skill in maneuver in relationship to those who appear to never like to cede the initiative when promoting their ‘interests’.

exTor
Guest

I am often confused when I read about countries (such as Hungary, France, Poland, Turkey) that have both presidents and prime ministers. I can never tell which position is more powerful just by reading articles. Sometimes the prime minister [eg: Viktor Orbán of Hungary] is more powerful, sometimes the president [eg: Emmanuel Macron of France].

In Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the president and Binali Yıldırım is the prime minister. Erdoğan, the head of state, is seen as the prime mover in the encumbrance of democracy in Turkey, hence likely the defacto power in Turkey. President Erdoğan, the political equivalent of President Áder, is the power equivalent of Prime Minister Orbán, the political equivalent of Prime Minister Yıldırım. Confused yet ???

As for Viktor Orbán not promoting ultimately more fruitful endeavors with Romania, perhaps he can again return to Băile Tuşnad [Tusnádfürdő], where he made his ‘illiberal’ speech in 2014, this time to kick off his reelection campaign for 2018. That might constitute an attempt at improving relations with Romania.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Istvan
Guest
Orban’s discussion of Turkey’s export figures are correct from my quick look at the data. Turkey’s economic performance is simply not sufficient for it to become a strong competitive power, compared with the Chinese economy which is the growth model for the world of non-core nations. Hungary can’t compete with China either simply based on population and natural resources alone. China has linked its wage growth to the productivity growth of non-tradable goods by following export-led growth strategies in the 1990s that contributed to its trade surplus, but Turkey kept wage growth at above the productivity growth of export goods, which reduced its competitive power and deepened its trade deficit. Turkey’s trade deficit widened sharply by 43 percent to USD 7.3 billion in May 2017 from USD 5.1 billion in the same month a year earlier. It was the biggest trade gap since December 2014, as imports jumped 21.7 percent from the previous year to USD 20.9 billion, while exports increased at a slower 12.5 percent to USD 13.6 billion. The jobless rate in Turkey increased to 12.6 percent in February of 2017, up from 10.9 percent a year earlier. Economically Turkey is not doing well and Hungary will not… Read more »
Member

Orbán looks completely pathetic in that photo, has he has done in the ones with Putin and the famous one when Trump ignorantly pushed to the front. He looks like a teenage groupie finally got to meet their hero…except both the groupie and Orban dont realise that they are held in contempt by the *star*. Little boy thinking he can in the big boys leaguie… completely and utterly out of his depth.

Member

Erdogan’s live blackmail and Kadhafi’s revenge from his [non-existent] grave:

Sea arrivals
From January 1 through June 25, 2017

in Greece : 8,975
in Italy: 83,650

https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/mediterranean

comment image

“Europe migrant crisis: Italy threatens to close ports ”
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-40470102

Member

Two anti-Soros billboards were put up next to the non-functioning House of “Sorsok” (a Holocaust museum that was built in 2014-2015, but has never been opened since then)

comment image

https://vastagbor.atlatszo.hu/2017/07/02/tokeletes-plakatelhelyezes-ketto-sorosos-a-sorsok-haza-mellett-ami-2-eve-zarva-van/

Member

Half of the best math high school class in Hungary will leave Hungary (mainly for England) to study at universities.

http://www.delmagyar.hu/szeged_hirek/zseniosztaly_a_radnotibol_-_irany_cambridge_oxford_146_erettsegi_jegyukbol_csak_harom_volt_negyes/2524633/

Member

Umberto Eco: Ur-Fascism (1995)

1. cult of tradition
2. rejection of modernism
3. action for action’s sake, irrationalism
4. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason
5. fear of difference
6. appeal to a frustrated middle class
7. obsession with a plot, possibly an international one.
8. by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak
9. pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare
10. contempt for the weak.
11. everybody is educated to become a hero
12. machismo
13. selective populism. individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will
14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1995/06/22/ur-fascism/

It is worth reading the whole essay.

Member

” Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier, for us, if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, “I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Black Shirts to parade again in the Italian squares.” Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances—every day, in every part of the world. “

Observer
Guest

I first called Orban a fascist* in 2007, and was confronted by many from the democratic side, who thought this opinion baseless, gross exaggeration, etc. even G. Bolgàr politely objected as late as late 2015. Unfortunately there is little doubt in this matter now.
* I call this type an “accidental fascist” since he adopted fascist methods and structures for expediency not by some ideological bias or theory.

Member

“Fascism was a fuzzy totalitarianism”

jopa
Guest

To those Hungary haters, you can kiss Mr. Victor Orban ass he is the best RETARDS!!!!!!

Member

The hater of Hungary is Viktor Orban, its klepto-tyrant.

The destroyers of Hungary are his minions.

Observer
Guest

Жопа,

I see you are ass focused, but people use their heads for thinking.

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