Hungarian-Croatian bilateral political relations are at their lowest, which is contrary to Hungary’s best interests, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said after his meeting with Tomislav Karamarko, President of the opposition centre-right Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) held in Zagreb.

The Minster of Foreign Affairs and Trade said: Hungary would have an elementary interest in being able to rely on Croatia as a strong strategic ally and a strong strategic partner, which is also underlined by economic figures.

Hungary is the third most significant investor in Croatia, and Croatia is the second most important target country in the case of Hungarian investments abroad, the Minister added. He reiterated that the two countries’ trade balance amounted to almost EUR 1.6 billion last year, of which Hungarian exports accounted for EUR 1.17 billion, and Hungary was able to increase its exports by another 34 per cent in the first four months of this year.

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Mr Szijjártó stressed that there are enormous opportunities in economic and trade cooperation between the two countries. „We are neighbours, and both members of the European Union; but as our political relations are at a bottom low, this also affects our entire system of relations”, he said.

The Minister pointed out that he met with the President of the opposition HDZ with a view to the eventuality that, should the right-wing opposition win the parliamentary elections in Croatia next year, the two governments should not be compelled to start negotiations regarding cooperation from scratch but should be well-prepared for elevating Hungarian-Croatian cooperation to a higher level, compared with the level of relations today.

The Minister highlighted that Hungarian-Croatian bilateral cooperation has three highly important aspects. The first one is energy. In this department, Croatia is at present equally not honouring its bilateral obligations and its EU undertakings, he said, and added: the fact that Croatia is not implementing the project, which would make the interconnector which connects the Croatian-Hungarian gas pipelines together two-way, negatively affects Hungary’s energy security as well.

„We see it as a very unfriendly measure on the part of the Croatian Government that it repeatedly sought exemption from the European Commission, despite the fact that, according to EU legislation, every interconnector should have been built in the territory of the EU by 31 December 2013”, the Minister pointed out.

The Minister said that the construction of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on the Island of Krk is crucial for the energy security of the whole of Central-Europe, and Hungary is prepared to provide all the support that may be necessary for this project.

Mr Szijjártó took the view that the INA-Mol case represents the source of tension in relations between the two countries. „We would like relations between the two oil companies to constitute a resource in the cooperation of our countries”, he said, and added: at this point in time, however, negotiations do not appear to present a solution in the short term, and we must therefore prepare ourselves for the long run.

The Minister also made mention of increasing the number of border crossing stations. There are only seven border crossing stations on the border section of 355 kilometres, which are very few. Mr Szijjártó highlighted that hydrocarbon explorations along the border should also be accelerated.

The Minister mentioned transport as the third area of cooperation, in reference to the opportunities inherent in common railway development programmes.

(Prime Minister's Office/MTI)