“It is in the interests of both Hungary and Croatia to again cooperate as allies, otherwise the two countries will lose many opportunities”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said on Tuesday in Budapest following talks with his Croatian counterpart.
“In recent years a few difficulties have had a negative effect on bilateral relations, although the two countries should be natural allies, of this there can be no question”, the Minister highlighted, adding that his Croatian counterpart had chosen Budapest as the destination for his first official visit since being appointed to the post, which is “a clear expression of the mutual goal of opening a new chapter in bilateral relations”.
“This is made slightly more easy by the fact that the Hungarian and Croatian governments are led by two parties that are both members of the European People’s Party and whose Christian democratic, conservative and patriotic orientation cannot be called into question”, he continued. The Foreign Minister also noted that it had been agreed that the Intergovernmental Joint Committee will be holding its next session in January.
He also spoke about the fact that cooperation on energy-related issues would normally be a success story, but this has not been the case so far. “We must realise the interconnection of the two countries’ natural gas networks and enable two-way transport at the earliest opportunity”, he explained, adding that the Croatian Government is committed to constructing an LNG terminal on the coast, which will also represent a new source of gas for Hungary.
On the subject of the MOL-INA affair, Mr. Szijjártó declared: The matter must be depoliticised, because the issue has so far been infused with politics, which did not facilitate a solution. “A common solution must be found to the problem based on economic rationality and energy security criteria, which is primarily the mutual responsibility of the Croatian Government and MOL, but negotiations on the matter should not occur under the gaze of the media”, he said.
Mr. Szijjártó also said that the Budapest-Osijek-Sarajevo motorway connection must be established within the foreseeable future and that hydrocarbon resources in the vicinity of the border must be jointly exploited by the two countries’ energy companies.
Another topic of the meeting was migration, with regard to which the Hungarian Foreign Minister said: “There is no difference between the two countries’ standpoints on the fact that protecting the external borders is the most important task and that a country’s sovereignty is primarily determined by the fact that it has borders which it is capable of protecting”. “In future, Hungary will continue to represent the standpoint according to which we will not allow illegal immigrants into the country; the border may be crossed legally or not at all”, he stated.
Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister Davor Ivo Stier stressed: “The dispute between MOL and the State of Croatia has had a direct effect on bilateral relations, but the decision has now been made to develop relations between the two states, which could also help solve the dispute”. “This issue can only be solved if we remain continuously open to each other”, he said.
The Croatian Deputy Prime Minister also highlighted the importance of the convening of the Intergovernmental Joint Committee, which hasn’t met since 2014, as well as stressing the importance of the upcoming session of the Joint Minorities Committee.
Mr. Stier also spoke about the issue of energy and said that Croatia’s Energy Minister would also be visiting Budapest in the near future. “The LNG terminal may be a new area of cooperation between the two countries and interconnecting the two countries’ natural gas networks is also important”, he said. With reference to migration, the Croatian Foreign Minister said that people who are in trouble must be afforded assistance, but our primary duty is the protection of our citizens.
The Croatian Deputy Prime Minister said he had come to Hungary with the intention of opening a new chapter in bilateral relations and progress on cooperation had been made as a result of his visit. In reply to a question, Mr. Szijjártó said that Zsolt Hernadi had been removed from the international wanted list. “We are glad about this and respect the decision, this is a good and positive development”, he added.
Mr. Stier told reporters: “This is an issue for the judicial system, not politics”.
President and CEO of the MOL Group Zsolt Hernádi has been permanently removed from Interpol’s wanted list in view of the fact that the organisation refused to fulfil the request by Croatia that the arrest warrant against the company director be renewed. According to the on-official explanation, Interpol refused to renew the international arrest warrant issued against Mr. Hernádi because the Hungarian authorities have already performed an investigation into Zsolt Hernádi with relation to the Croatian accusations.