In Zagreb on Thursday, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó presented state awards to volunteer firefighters and doctors who took part in the rescue of the Hungarian family who suffered an accident on 11 July at one of the toll booths on the Croatian A4 motorway.

The Minister presented Hungarian state acknowledgements to seven members of the Sveti Ivan Zelina (Szentivánzelina) Volunteer Firefighters Association, four doctors from the Rebro Clinical Centre in Zagreb and one doctor from the Dubrava Clinical Hospital, also in Zagreb.

“The twelve silver commemorative medals represent the appreciation of an entire nation, and are a reminder of the fact that those honoured have done something compared to which no more or greater deed can be performed: they saved lives”, Mr. Szijjártó underlined.

On 11 July, a 35-year-old Croatian man drove into a car with a Hungarian number plate without slowing down at the Sveti Ivan Zelina (Szentivánzelina) toll booth of Croatia’s A4 motorway, causing serious injuries to the members of the Hungarian minority family in the stationary vehicle. It later transpired that the driver had consumed several kinds of drugs prior to the accident. When questioned by police following the accident, he said he has no recollection of the circumstances of the accident.

According to a statement by Croatian police, the driver of the BMW hit the Hungarian Skoda that was stopped at the toll booth at an estimated speed of 150 kilometres per hour in a zone where the permitted maximum speed is 50 kilometre per hour. The Croatian mother and the father, who is of Hungarian descent, arrived in Croatia from Austria with their seven-year-old child, from where they were planning to travel to the Croatian seaside. All three members of the family were taken to hospital in a critical condition, but are now doing well. They did not wish to provide any statements to the press.

On 15 July, the Zagreb County Court remanded the driver of the BMW in custody for 15 days, according to the justification because there is a danger that the man could repeat the crime. On Thursday, Mr. Szijjártó reminded those present that two and a half years ago a coach carrying Hungarian school children suffered a terrible accident near Verona, Italy, and the accident, which claimed 17 lives and left 25 people seriously injured, remains one of the most serious accidents to have claimed Hungarian lives. Because of the tragedy that occurred in early 2017, Hungarians monitor all accidents that happen to Hungarians abroad with particular dread, he explained.

The Minister pointed out that two weeks after the accident on the Croatian motorway it became apparent that it too could have been an extremely terrible tragedy were it not for the heroic efforts and rapid assistance provided by Croatian volunteer firefighters and doctors. “Today in Hungary, we talk about you as heroes in view of the fact that in essence you saved the lives of a Hungarian family from the jaws of death”, Mr. Szijjártó emphasised. He added that he had visited Zagreb to personally express the thanks of the Hungarian people and the acknowledgement and respect of the Hungarian nation. During his visit to Zagreb, Mr. Szijjártó met with Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić-Radman, with whom he jointly participated in the presentation of the commemorative medals.

On the subject of relations between the two countries, he highlighted the fact that Hungary and Croatia are good neighbours. “It is in the interest of both countries for neighbourly relations to continue to be about good things in future, and to exploit the opportunities provided by the fact that we are neighbours while leaving past disputes behind us”, the Hungarian Foreign Minister said. “As two friends and as two countries that are continuously contributing to the performance of the European Union, Croatia and Hungary must take on its share of shaping the future of the European Union, particularly in view of the fact that we represent an identical or very similar position with relation to many dilemmas that are affecting the future of Europe”, Mr. Szijjártó said.

(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade/MTI)