Turkey Wants to Join the EU. And Asks for Orban's Help

Turkey Wants to Join the EU. And Asks for Orban’s Help

Turkey wants to “revitalize the process of accession to the European Union” and for this reason it is asking for the support of Hungary, which currently holds the six-month presidency of the EU. This was stated by Turkish President Erdogan while meeting with Prime Minister Viktor Orban during the NATO summit underway in Washington.

Türkiye’s EU accession process

Turkey “expects support (from Budapest, ed.) to revitalize the process of accession to the European Union and the improvement of relations during the term of the presidency (of the Council of the EU, ed.) by Hungary”, reads a note released by Ankara. Turkey’s request for EU membership dates back to 1987, and between the end of the 1990s and the early 2000s there was an effective rapprochement between Ankara and Brussels, so much so that Turkey had obtained candidate status and EU governments had given the green light to the start of accession negotiations. The process, however, was interrupted precisely with the arrival to power of Erdogan, on the one hand due to internal resistance within the EU, on the other due to the progressive authoritarianism of the Turkish leader. And to date it is practically suspended.

During the meeting with Orban, Ankara’s note continues, “President Erdogan stated that Turkey continues its peaceful efforts to end the war between Russia and Ukraine and Israel’s attacks on Gaza and that the international community should increase its efforts to ensure peace in these regions.”

The Erdogan-Orban axis

The political axis between Erdogan and Orban is certainly not new. Both countries are members of NATO, and both do not look favorably on the escalation of tensions against Russia, nor on the project to expand the Alliance’s activities to the Indo-Pacific, a project that aims directly to counterbalance China’s moves in the region. Turkey and Hungary, not by chance, were the two NATO members that opposed the accession of Sweden and Finland for months. And while Erdogan, since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, has tried to carve out a role for himself as a privileged mediator between Moscow and Kiev to reach a truce, Orban is using his temporary presidency of the EU to promote peace between the two countries (although embracing Vladimir Putin’s line). Furthermore, the Hungarian prime minister made a trip to Beijing a few days ago, underlining his diplomatic activism.

Orban wants to position himself as a point of reference in the heart of the EU for Russia and China. And now also for Turkey. At the end of 2023, during a visit by Erdogan to Budapest, the two countries elevated their relations by signing a strengthened strategic partnership with the aim of bringing the value of their trade to 6 billion dollars. Turkey and Hungary are also positioning themselves as a launch pad for Chinese commercial interests in Europe: just in these days, the Chinese electric car manufacturer BYD announced the opening of a plant in Turkey, while Hungary is becoming the main production center for Chinese electric batteries.