BUDAPEST – Hungary plans to be able to get natural gas from the TurkStream pipeline by the end of 2021, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Thursday after hosting a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Hungary depends greatly on natural gas from Russia. It now arrives through Ukraine, but Hungary wants to diversify transit routes for its energy supplies.
Orban, who has focused on anti-immigration policies since 2015, also said that "without Turkey, migration toward Europe cannot be stopped," which made Turkey Hungary's strategic partner in security and migration issues.
Erdogan said it was Turkey's "obligation'" to care for the nearly 4 million refugees it was hosting, many of whom would like to go to Europe. Erdogan said that due to a pact with the European Union, Turkey had "patiently impeded" their departure, but noted that the EU had so far given his country 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion), half the promised amount.
"Naturally, we will continue to host our guests whether or not we get the EU support," Erdogan said. "But if there is no solution, we have to open our gates. If we open our gates ... everyone knows where they would go."
Orban said the fences on Hungary's southern borders, built in late 2105, could stop any "illegal migrants" who try to enter the country. Hungary has supported Turkey's invasion of northern Syria and Turkey's efforts to send refugees back there.
"The issue of in which direction those gates will open occupies us, too," Orban said. "We would like those who were forced to leave their land of birth to go home again."
By evening, a few thousand people, including many pro-Kurdish and anti-war activists, were marching in downtown Budapest to protest Erdogan's visit. Many carried Kurdish flags and anti-Erdogan posters and signs.
Other others held a silent, candlelight vigil at a Holocaust memorial on the banks of the Danube River in tribute to civilian victims of Turkey's invasion of northern Syria.
"We don't want to see the dictator Erdogan in Hungary," said 22-year old Elif Kaya, a Kurd whose family came to Hungary from Turkey when she was a year old. "Whatever the reason, to support a war in 2019 is not only (Orban's) shame but he has shown total disregard for the Hungarian people."