Hungary understands the impact of last year's failed coup in Turkey and sees EU criticism of Turkey's fight against terrorism as unfair and unfounded, Hungary's foreign and trade minister Peter Szijjarto has said.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency (AA) during his visit for a Turkish-Hungarian Business Forum in Ankara on Friday, Szijjarto said, "Hungary does not welcome the criticism the EU has directed toward Turkey.
"Hungary understands what last year's terrible attack on Turkish democracy was. We have to stand beside Turkey in the fight against terrorism in order to protect its stability. We must respect Turkey's fight against terrorism to protect its national security," he added.
Military troops loyal to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), led by U.S.-based Fetullah Gülen, tried to overthrow Turkey's democratically elected government and president on July 15, 2016 via military coup, but the attempt was averted by the public, loyal to democracy, and troops loyal to the government. In total, 249 people died, and more than 2,000 people were wounded during the failed attempt.
Szijjarto underlined that Hungary stands with Turkey and that Budapest is ready to help Turkey in its international affairs.
"At the European Parliament or the European Council, we always underline the role Turkey plays in protecting Europe. If Turkey had not stopped the wave of migration targeting Europe, we Hungarians would have had to do it," he said.
"Turkey is not only protecting itself by stopping the wave of migration, but also Europe and the European Union," he added.
Szijjarto also criticized the EU's attitude toward Turkey's fight against terrorism after the failed July 2016 coup.
"We were disappointed at the way the EU was ‘worried' about the rights of those who tried to kill your president and those who attacked your democracy, your president, your prime minister, and your senior officials who came through a democratic election, " he said.
"A massive attack was made toward your democracy and your stability. Europe must be worried about this and not about those who tried to kill your president, and to remove your democracy and your system," he added.
Szijjarto also said that his government supports visa-free travel between Turkey and the EU.
"We support the visa-free travel negotiations between Turkey and the EU, because we believe that Turkey deserves a fairer attitude," he said.
"During the [March 2016] refugee deal between Turkey and the EU, the EU Commission introduced content that suggested that the refugee agreement and the visa-free travel process will progress together. It is not the fault of Turkey, it is the fault of the EU Commission, it is not fair, and since the beginning of the negotiations, it should have been emphasized that these two issues are separate from each other," he added.
Szijjarto said that there is a need for mutual respect in this process and that it should be taken more seriously.
According to a European Commission report, to get visa-free travel in the EU's Schengen zone, Ankara needs to fulfill seven outstanding criteria from a total of 72, including "revising legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards."
Ankara has ruled out any such revision, leading to a deadlock in negotiations.
The March 2016 deal between Turkey and the EU envisaged a "one-for-one" formula under which failed asylum-seekers in Europe would be returned to Turkey, while Syrian refugees would be resettled in EU states under a quota system.
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