Prime Minister Orban flies to Ankara for Erdogan’s swearing-in ceremony

Prime Minister Orban flies to Ankara for Erdogan’s swearing-in ceremony
Caption from Viktor Orban's Facebook page on the swearing-in ceremony of the Turkish President. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews June 4, 2023

Prime Minister Viktor Orban attended the inauguration ceremony of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on June 3, the only representative of an EU member country to do so.

Neither Orban’s press office nor Hungarian media released any information on the informal talks between the two leaders.

Sweden’s Nato membership was likely discussed by two leaders. Budapest and Ankara are the two Nato members that have yet to ratify the country’s membership. The Orban government announced its support of Finland joining the military alliance an hour after Turkey made its positions clear.

After meeting with the incumbent Turkish leader, Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the next round of talks between officials from Finland, Sweden and Turkey would be in the week of June 12, but did not specify when.

The Hungarian PM was swift to congratulate the Turkish President’s third straight victory as he sent his wishes even before the polls closed.

"The decision of Turkish voters and Turkey’s stability is good news for the whole of Europe," he posted on social media, adding that the EU "needs a strong and reliable Turkey".

In an interview with state media on June 2, Orban said it would have been a travesty if the incumbent had lost the Turkish elections because his opponent was pro-war and a "man of George Soros", the Hungarian-born Jewish billionaire-philanthropist, who has been used by Orban for years as a scapegoat. The opposition’s victory would have led to millions of refugees fleeing Turkey for Europe, he said.

Hungary’s gas supply through the TurkStream would have been jeopardised had a pro-US leader won.

Analysts have pointed out the similarities between the elections. Opposition parties from left to right joined forces but they faced a headwind from media and slander campaigns that accused them of being puppets of Western governments. This chimes perfectly with Orban’s tactics.

As in Hungary, the core base of the Turkish governing party lies in the countryside with older, religious voters. Ethnic and sexual minorities were targeted in Turkey, just as in Hungary, and cultural issues were brought to the forefront.

The election victory of Erdogan is a great relief for Hungary’s strongman, who has lost nearly all his allies in Europe and in the region. The V4 alliance is teetering on the brink of collapse. Hungary’s strongman is looking for allies in the Balkans, with leaders on cosy terms with Vladimir Putin such as Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodic and Serbian President Aleksander Vucic.

Hungarian strategists said the loss of the Turkish president would have essentially ended the era of illiberalism in Europe, leaving the Hungarian leader further isolated. Orban is now pinning his hopes of a right-wing shift in European politics on the EP elections next summer and on the same in the US a few months later.