EU disrespectful to Turkey: Hungarian foreign minister

NEW YORK (AA): The games being played by the European Union over Turkey’s bid to join the bloc are a sign of disrespect, according to Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto. Szijjarto said Turkey plays a critical role in European relations because it is close to becoming one of the world’s top 10 economies and also plays an important role in EU security due to the migrants it stops from reaching the bloc’s borders.

“We don’t really like the way the European Union plays kind of games with Turkey because this is a signal of disrespect,” Szijjarto told Anadolu Agency in an interview. “There are countries within the EU now that would definitely veto the membership of Turkey,” he said. “So I think we should look for another path which would be kind of a strategic alliance between Turkey and the EU.”

Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987 and accession talks began in 2005. However, negotiations stalled in 2007 due to the objections of the Greek Cypriot administration on the divided island of Cyprus as well as opposition from Germany and France. In 2016, Turkey and the EU signed an agreement which allowed for visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area. In exchange, Turkey agreed to take stricter measures against human smugglers and discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea.

Turkey has complained that though it kept its pledge to stem irregular migration, the EU failed to keep its promise to drop the visa requirement. Szijjarto said “the way the EU, especially the European Commission, is dealing with Turkey is unacceptable, not fair, and it is a matter of disrespect.” Turkey’s top diplomat for EU affairs, Faruk Kaymakci, said in January that Turkey is part of the European continent economically, politically, and culturally and “it is unthinkable that Turkey is not included in the EU.”

Earlier this month, European Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas told Anadolu Agency that Turkey will be granted visa-free travel once it fulfills its obligations. Schinas also said that the next four years are an opportunity for Turkey now that local elections are over in which “the doors of the European Union are open.”

Asked about Turkey’s deal to obtain the Russian S-400 missile defense system and the US opposition, Szijjarto said he was fed up with how other countries try to “educate everyone else in the world how they should make decisions.” He also stressed the fact that Turkey has NATO’s second-largest army after the US. “These two countries bear the most burden when it comes to protecting our alliance, militarily speaking,” he said. “I think it would be terrible if these two countries with the two biggest armies of NATO would clash on any issue.”

Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defense system from the US with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase the Russian S-400 system. US officials have objected to the deal, claiming that the S-400 would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose US F-35 fighter jets which Turkey also has a deal to buy to possible Russian subterfuge.

Szijjarto also discussed the importance of the trade volume between the two countries. Last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey and Hungary should increase their trade to $5 billion. The trade volume between the two countries has climbed from $1.5 billion in 2009 to $2.6 billion in 2017. “Our aim is to reach the $5 billion mark when it comes to bilateral trade as soon as possible and to attract more Turkish investors coming to Hungary,” Szijjarto said. He described the relationship between Ankara and Budapest as one of friendship, strategic alliance, and economic prosperity, “taking into consideration that Turkey is a very important trade and economic partner of Hungary.”