“Hungary has always paid particular attention to and placed major emphasis on cooperation between the countries of Central Europe, and accordingly on good relations with our neighbours”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said at a joint press conference with Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Marija Pejčinović Burić in the Croatian capital on Thursday.

The two politicians took part in the official inauguration of the new Hungarian Embassy in Zagreb. At the event, Mr. Szijjártó highlighted: “We regard Croatia as an ally, a friend, and a good neighbour. The Hungarian people like Croatia, and 655 thousand Hungarians chose the Croatian seaside as their holiday destination last year alone, contributing 400 million euros to Croatian tourism revenues”.

“The world around us is changing rapidly”, the Minister said, adding: “We are witnessing and living through changes of never before seen velocity, and totally new situations have come about in global politics and the global economy”. He said that in his opinion “this confusion is increasing the value of stability, calculability and rationality, and these are the most important characteristics of Central Europe”.

“Many looked down on and felt sorry for us, the Central Europeans, but we have now clearly become the engine of European growth”, he pointed out, adding that in his opinion one of the prerequisites for this was the countries of the regions recognising that it is much better to work together than to pull apart. “And this has also made us stronger”, he indicated.

“This is confirmed by the fact that trade relations between the two countries exceeded 2.2 billion euros last year. The largest Hungarian enterprises are present on the Croatian market, and 4 billion euros in Hungarian investments have been registered in Croatia, which is one seventh of all Hungarian foreign investment”, he explained. “MOL is planning major investments and OTP is now the fourth largest bank in Croatia”, he added, calling the two countries’ minorities important.

“We regard national communities as a resource, and highly appreciate the fact that thanks to the Croatian Government the construction of the Croatian Education and Cultural Centre (HMOMK) college will soon begin and are proud of the fact that funding for the Croatian community has more than doubled over the past nine years”, Mr. Szijjártó declared. “We have spent over one billion forints (EUR 3 million) on funding Hungarian small and medium-sized businesses in the Drávaszög region”, he added.

With relation to the European Union, the Minister highlighted that Europe is facing historic challenges and issues; major challenges concerning culture, identity, security and competitiveness. “From Hungary’s perspective it is good to see that there is a proud nation living in our southwestern neighbourhood, which wants to preserve its own identity and is not breaking away from its cultural or Christian traditions and heritage”, he explained.

“Hungary believes in a strong Europe built on strong member states and nations that protects its own way of life, gives preference to Christian culture, and respects the nations that form it”, he said.

The Foreign Minister thanked Croatia for the fact that when Hungary was at the brunt of the grossest attacks, Croatian governing party MEPs all stood up in support of Hungary in Brussels.

On Thursday morning, Hungary’s chief diplomat met with both Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. Following his meeting with the Croatian head of government, in reply to a question from reporters on the MOL-INA affair, Mr. Szijjártó said: “The INA always appears on the agenda whenever we meet with representatives of the Croatian Government, but we always assure our Croatian friends that business issues have no place on the Hungarian Government’s agenda”.

“We were nevertheless forced to recognise that the issues between MOL and INA, and between MOL and the Croatian Government, are placing a burden on our relations”, he said, adding: “We would like to be rid of this burden, but it is up to the two corporations and the Croatian Government to come to an agreement”. “All the Hungarian Government can do is root for the parties to come to an agreement”, he added.

“It would be of key importance to Hungary for relations to improve, because energy security is a critical issue in Central Europe”, Mr. Szijjártó highlighted. “We see that the construction of the Ukrainian-Russian transit pipeline is not moving forward, and that Exxon and ÖMV have not yet decided on investing in the Romanian Black Sea gas field, and therefore we also see that the resolving of the Croatian issue is important with relation to the diversification of the natural gas supply within the region. An energy agreement is not independent of the MOL-INA issue”, he underlined.