Turkey and Hun­gary find com­mon ground af­ter Ger­many’s elec­tion de­bate

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The for­eign min­is­ters of Turkey and Hun­gary sup­ported each other in ex­pos­ing what they called “pop­ulism” and “hypocrisy” in Ger­many’s tele­vised pre-elec­tion de­bate, in which their coun­tries were sin­gled out.

At a fo­rum in Slove­nia on Mon­day, Turk­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Mevlüt Cavu­soglu and his Hun­gar­ian coun­ter­part Péter Sz­i­j­jarto were asked to re­act to crit­i­cal com­ments made about their coun­tries dur­ing the week­end’s TV de­bate be­tween Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel and her So­cial Demo­crat chal­lenger Martin Schulz.

At the Bled Strate­gic Fo­rum, Cavu­soglu and Sz­i­j­jarto sat on the same panel and the mod­er­a­tor, Nik Gow­ing, a pro­fes­sor at the UK’s King Col­lege, in­vited them from the very start to re­ply to the crit­i­cism.

Dur­ing the de­bate, Merkel an­nounced her in­ten­tion to seek an end to EU mem­ber­ship talks with Turkey. She said she will dis­cuss with her EU coun­ter­parts to see if “we can end th­ese mem­ber­ship talks”, adding that “I don’t see (Turkey) ever join­ing and I had never be­lieved that it would hap­pen.”

Merkel’s SPD chal­lenger Martin Schulz also said it is time to end Turkey’s bid. And he hit out at Merkel for her mis­takes dur­ing the refugee cri­sis, which al­lowed EU lead­ers like Hun­gar­ian Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Or­bán “to let us Ger­mans down”.

“I won­der whether the de­bate last night was about the elec­tions in Ger­many or about Turkey and Hun­gary,” Cavu­soglu said. He added that this is typ­i­cal for some mem­ber states, where rad­i­cal par­ties are gain­ing more sup­port, and main­stream same pop­ulist rhetoric.

As a re­sult, in­stead of con­cen­trat­ing on in­ter­nal is­sues, the Ger­man pre-elec­tion de­bate fo­cused on Turkey and Hun­gary, he said.

Re­gard­ing Turkey’s EU fu­ture, he said his coun­try still wanted to be a mem­ber and that it was ready to open any ne­go­ti­a­tion chap­ter. Asked by the mod­er­a­tor if the purges con­ducted fol­low­ing the at­tempted coup on 15 July 2016 have made Turkey’s case more dif­fi­cult, Cavu­soglu hit back by say­ing that the EU did not un­der­stand the mag­ni­tude of the threat to Turk­ish democ­racy.

He ar­gued that his coun­try was en­ti­tled to make sure that such a coup at­tempt would never hap­pen again.

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Chal­lenged again on West­ern con­cerns that a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of peo­ple have been af­fected, he replied that in the min­istry of for­eign af­fairs, he had to fire 25% of the ca­reer diplo­mats, be­cause they were “loyal” to “this ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion” (the Hizmet move­ment of self-ex­iled leader Fe­tul­lah Gulen).

“I had no other choice. Am I happy? No. They are mem­bers of this ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion. How can I work with them?” he said.

As an il­lus­tra­tion that Euro­peans do not un­der­stand Turkey’s sit­u­a­tion af­ter the failed coup, he said that cit­i­zen sup­port for EU mem­ber­ship had de­clined in its af­ter­math.

Sz­i­j­jarto said it was an “honour” that Hun­gary was re­peat­edly men­tioned in the Ger­man TV de­bate, and wished Ger­man vot­ers good luck in mak­ing a de­ci­sion based on it.

The Hun­gar­ian min­is­ter said he would never have thought that two years af­ter the peak of the mi­gra­tion cri­sis, the EU would be con­fronted with the same chal­lenge, “with dis­as­trous con­se­quences” on the se­cu­rity of the con­ti­nent.

“I re­mem­ber the last two and a half years dur­ing which my coun­try, or at least the gov­ern­ment, was con­sid­ered as Nazi, as fas­cist, as dic­ta­to­rial, as not re­spect­ing hu­man rights,” he said, adding that nev­er­the­less, the Hun­gar­ian au­thor­i­ties were con­sis­tent with plead­ing that the ex­ter­nal bor­ders of the Union should be pro­tected.

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