Hungary has “always attached great significance” to the cooperation between central European countries, the foreign minister said in Zagreb after inaugurating Hungary’s new embassy compound together with his Croatian counterpart. “Croatia is our ally, a friend and a good neighbour,” Péter Szijjártó told a joint press conference held with Marija Pejčinović Burić. He said Croatia is a popular destination for Hungarians, noting that 655,000 visited seaside resorts there last year. Hungarian tourists contributed 400 million euros to Croatia’s tourism revenues in 2018, Szijjártó added.
The minister said the world was changing “at an unprecedented pace” with new conditions in global politics and economy under which “stability, rationality and predictability, traits of central Europe”, have become highly valued. Countries in the region have understood the importance of cooperation, making them stronger, Szijjártó said. The foreign minister noted that Hungary-Croatia bilateral trade exceeded 2.2 billion euros in 2018. The largest Hungarian companies are present in Croatia, he said, adding that Hungarian businesses had recorded 4 billion euros worth of investments so far. Szijjártó thanked his counterpart for the support Croatian government MEPs showed Hungary in “the face of the fiercest attacks” in Brussels. Szijjártó held talks with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in the morning.
Asked about a dispute surrounding Hungarian oil and gas company MOL and Croatian energy company INA after his talks with Plenković, Szijjártó said, “Hungary has always reassured his Croatian friends that business issues do not feature on the Hungarian government’s agenda”. “But we realise that issues surrounding MOL and INA, and between MOL and the Croatian state, have burdened our relations,” adding that it was up to the two companies and the Croatian state to reach an agreement. The Hungarian government can only “keep its fingers crossed” that they do, he said. Improving relations from that point of view would be crucial for Hungary, Szijjártó said, arguing that energy security was critically important for central Europe.