Isolated in Europe, Orban Leans on Turkic Allies in the East

Orban's foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, the most vocal critic of the EU, is also full of praise. He sees the Turkic states, whose energy ministers he recently hosted in Budapest, as offering "more than a pure energy friendship".

Experts wonder whether this is a new turn in Hungarian foreign policy, or merely a reaction to the country's growing isolation within Europe since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"There are at least three layers to this relationship," Peter Kreko, director of the Budapest-based Political Capital, tells BIRN. "There are surely some economic interests involved, although private and public interests often mix. There is also a political system dimension: at least since 2014, Orban sees these countries as political role models. And there is an ideological-mythological layer, portraying Hungarians as 'half-Asian people' with their roots in Central Asia."

Others point out that the prime minister fits in well with his Central Asian counterparts. "Orban is respected there, as he knows perfectly well how to talk to these leaders," Zoltan Egeresi, a Turkish and Central Asian expert at the University of Public Service, tells BIRN.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (R) hold a press conference after their meeting in Budapest, Hungary, 07 November 2019. EPA-EFE/ZSOLT SZIGETVARY Eastward, ho!

Friendship with these countries certainly has it economic benefits; Hungarian companies tend not to come back empty-handed from these jaunts to the region. The Hungarian oil and gas company MOL has been the third largest owner of the Azerbaijani oilfield Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli since 2019, and just celebrated its first share of crude oil shipments from the field arriving at its...

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