Croatia, Hungary mending relations


Following “unacceptable and inappropriate” statements made in the recent past, Croatia and Hungary are determined to develop friendly relations and change the way communication is conducted, the two countries’ foreign ministers, Miro Kovac and Peter Szijjarto respectively, told a press conference in Budapest on Tuesday.

Never have talks between Croatia and Hungary been so difficult as they were recently. We experienced unacceptable and inappropriate attacks. We have therefore decided to move negotiations from this deadlock and to improve bilateral relations, Szijjarto said after the talks with his Croatian counterpart Kovac, not hiding his satisfaction with the recent election results in Croatia.

I have to say that I am happy that their camp won in Croatia and that is why I congratulate you particularly as my colleague and all the members of the new Croatian government, Hungary’s foreign minister told Kovac.

Szijjarto underscored that Hungary was the second country that Kovac had visited after visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina last week but that it was the first European Union member. He said that he was particularly grateful to the Croatian government for that, adding that it was exceptionally good for Hungarian-Croatian relations.

“Croatia and Hungary are two friendly countries. Our friendship is historical and strong and based on it, we will approach contentious issues,” Kovac said.

Croatia’s minister said that Szijjarto was right when he mentioned that there had “been shouting and condemnation.” Now, however, it is necessary to focus on cooperation and the future and restore relations and resolve contentious issues in good faith, the two ministers agreed.

Speaking of the refugee crisis, which was the reason for a recent dispute between Croatia and Hungary, Kovac said that that question could perhaps be resolved on the national level in the short term, however, a European solution was required.

It is necessary to establish and strengthen the defence line in southern Europe. If we cannot defend southeast and central Europe, there will be huge problems, Szijjarto said.

“I believe that the EU will remain compact and that Schengen will survive,” Kovac added, denying reports that there was a wave of refugees passing through Montenegro but noting that if that were to occur, “Croatia will be prepared.”

Szijjarto said that it was in Hungary’s interest that Schengen survived and strengthened and that his country was ready to help Croatia in preparations for accession to that passport-free travel zone.

The next contentious issue the ministers commented on were relations between the two countries’ oil companies – INA and MOL. Relations between MOL and the Croatian government – the two largest stakeholders in INA – have been fairly tense in recent years.

Szijjarto asked reporters to show some understanding for his wish not to speak about details for the time being. This will require a new level of communication. We do not wish to resolve that problem via the media, he said, adding that the public would be informed as soon as a concrete agreement was reached. It is of exceptional importance that negotiations can now be conducted rationally and politely, the Hungarian minister said.

The two ministers mentioned the importance of re-establishing rail traffic, building a motorway from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Budapest via Osijek and building an LNG terminal.

Kovac announced that he hoped that the next step would be a meeting between the countries’ prime ministers Tihomir Oreskovic and Viktor Orban respectively, expressing his gratitude for the important role Orban had in 2011 when Croatia was concluding its EU accession talks.

Kovac said that it was his desire to restore relations to the level they were at ten years ago, when Croatia and Hungary conducted joint meetings of their governments.

“We wish to develop a strong central European vertical and our Hungarian friends have an important role in that,” he said referring to the Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea initiative that is strongly supported by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.

During his day-long visit to Budapest, Kovac also met with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Laszlo Koever, Defence Minister Istvan Simicsko and the chairman of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, Zsolt Nemeth. He also met with representatives of the Croatian community in Hungary and is expected to hold a lecture at the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

(Hina) sp