After tense Germany trip, Erdogan set for warm reception in Hungary



 
Less than two weeks after a trip to Germany marked by strained relations, Turkish President Recep Tayyip is set for a warmer welcome when he visits Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest on Monday.
The Hungarian leader was one of the first to congratulate Erdogan on his re-election in July and one of the few European officials to attend the inauguration ceremony in Ankara.
A fierce critic of what he sees as an undemocratic Europe, Orban has repeatedly hailed the "stability" that he perceives the Turkish regime offers.
After a very tense trip to Germany at the end of September, in the wake of various diplomatic spats between Berlin and Ankara, Erdogan's two-day visit to Hungary is likely to prove much smoother sailing.
"It's nice for him to visit an EU country where he isn't under fire for his record on human rights and democracy," said Tamas Szigetvari, economics professor at Peter Pazmany University in Budapest.
The trip will also allow Erdogan to show his critics that "no, the EU hasn't completely turned its back on Turkey," the expert told AFP.
Ankara needs the EU as relations with the US deteriorate and the Turkish economy, very dependent on trade with Europe, is in difficulty.
Erdogan will meet with President Janos Ader at 1100 GMT and then Orban two hours later. Orban and Erdogan are scheduled to hold a joint press conference afterwards.
- Turkey's 'cousins' -
The Turkish leader and the Hungarian premier, who secured his third consecutive term in office in April, are perceived to be made of the same mettle, democratically elected but with authoritarian and distinctly anti-liberal tendencies.
Restrictions on freedom of expression in Turkey have come in for sharp international criticism, while Hungary risks sanctions from the EU over legislative changes seen as a threat to the rule of law and the bloc's values.
Relations between Hungary and Turkey may currently be cordial. But the two countries' history has not alway been so friendly, and Hungary was occupied by the Ottoman empire for a century and a half between 1541 and 1699.
Nowadays, Erdogan professes nostalgia for the Ottoman empire, while Orban's government promotes so-called "turanist" theories, hotly disputed by historians and linguists, that see Turkish and Finno-Ugric languages, including Hungarian, as sharing a common origin.
On a visit to Kyrgyzstan in September, Orban lauded Hungarian as a "strange and unique language related to Turkish languages."
Tamas Szigetvari argues that such theories enable Orban to portray Hungary as a sort of distant cousin to countries in Asia that Budapest is wooing for economic reasons.
But not everyone is happy about the cordial relations between the two countries: a small centre-left party said that a demonstration it had been planning to protest Erdogan's visit has been banned under a new law that came into force this month that restricts freedom of assembly.
© 2018 AFP