Recep Tayvip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey, speaks about his twelve years in office and the Turkish role in the international community on May 17, 2013 (Photo by: Paul Morigi /
Recep Tayvip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey, speaks about his twelve years in office and the Turkish role in the international community on May 17, 2013 (Photo by: Paul Morigi /

Why is Erdogan Going to Hungary on August 20?

Even experts and journalists closely following Hungarian or Turkish foreign policy were thunderstruck when only last week it was announced that Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan was going to visit Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Many have asked why is Erdogan going to Hungary. Erdogan’s previous visit is still planted in the memory of many living in the Hungarian capital, as that official visit was so complex and challenging that it was announced weeks before and the motorcade transporting the president was so long that it took almost two minutes for it to pass.

A bare week’s notice is somewhat surprising, even in colloquial settings, let alone when it comes to official outings for heads of state. And the precise day, August 20 is also a peculiar one considering that the day is Hungary’s sole state and one of only three national holidays. And of course Ataturk’s policies were all put to life at least in part in order to leave the Ottoman past behind in the everyday, but still, having “a Turk coming to Hungary on the state holiday” – given the rich but very cruel, almost tragic historical background of Hungary and the Ottoman Turks – is somewhat of a brow-raiser.

Official communication has been minimal, with a short statement about the preparations going as planned, and a sole tweet by Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs that the “work meeting” will deal with questions of security, military industry and economic cooperation.

These by themselves do not really justify traveling to a country on its state holiday for work. (Nota bene, Erdogan is officially not a guest for the celebrations.) Naturally there might be items on the agenda that are of urgent nature but the fact that military industrial cooperation seems to be going fine (with army procurements from Turkiye through the – again, from this perspective awkwardly named – Zrinyi Army Modernization Program) and that Orban and Erdogan already held talks on Hungary joining the Turkish Investment Fund, the former emphasizing that Hungary had the necessary financial means to do so both show that the meeting would be out of the ordinary.


The above-mentioned will be undoubtedly on the agenda and praised by the parties but the security part might be the most interesting.
It is without doubt that Turkiye is a key actor when it comes to migration and brokering a new deal with Erdogan – even if that means representing and communicating his needs inside the European Union – would be a huge political win for Orban. Although if we can believe the recurring explanation from Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto about certain states being actually very supportive of Hungarian policies and not speaking out because of supposed voter reactions, this will be well below the radar.
What would not be below the radar is a joint press conference where Orban would recommend that the Hungarian parliament ratify Swedish NATO membership and Erdogan actually giving a firm promise on doing that in the autumn.
That would not be enough for history buffs in justifying a Turkish premier at a Hungarian state holiday, but – alongside the possible achievements concerning migration – would be just enough for Orban’s another political advancement.
Tamás Árki
Tamas Arki is an expert in international studies and has worked with various Hungarian publications, both online and print, as a foreign policy journalist.

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