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Croatia is the only neighbouring country with which all of Hungary’s border crossings are open, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said at the Letenye-Goričan (Muracsány) border station after talks with his Croatian counterpart. Concerning his talks with Gordan Grlić-Radman, Szijjártó said he and his counterpart had agreed at the end of last month to open the Hungarian-Croatian border to commuters living within a 30km radius of the border. Hungary and Croatia also plan to open new border crossing points after the coronavirus pandemic subsides, he said. By 2023, the M6 motorway will be extended to the Croatian border and infrastructure-related preparations are under way for opening new border stations at Zákány and Sarok, Szijjártó added.
He said Hungary and Croatia had mutually helped out with the repatriation of each other’s citizens who were stranded abroad due of travel restrictions put in place because of the pandemic. Hungary helped repatriate 16 Croatians, while Croatia helped 64 Hungarian nationals return home. Hungary donated 100,000 face masks and 5,000 protective suits to Croatia and helped prepare the hospital in Osijek (Eszék) for the epidemic, Szijjártó added.
The two countries have a mutual interest in each other’s success, Szijjártó said, arguing that most major Hungarian companies are also important players on the Croatian market. He noted that oil and gas company MOL had recently announced a 183 billion forint (EUR 511.6m) investment at a Croatian refinery, while OTP Bank now holds the fourth largest market share on the Croatian market. Bilateral trade turnover was record-high last year, exceeding 2.6 billion euros, Szijjártó said. Hungary’s Eximbank has opened a 180 million euro credit line to ensure that bilateral business ties remain smooth once the pandemic subsides, he added.
Meanwhile, he said cooperation between the two countries was “exemplary” regarding the opportunities provided to minorities. The Hungarian government’s economic development scheme in Croatia has so far generated 3 billion forints’ worth of investments, the minister said. He noted that Croatia, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, has similar views to Hungary on issues like enlargement in the Western Balkans, migration and the need to preserve the current level of cohesion funding. “Despite being pressured by the international liberal mainstream, Croatia has not joined the chorus of attacks and stigmatisation levelled against Hungary over the past several weeks and months,” Szijjártó said. He said it was “hard to resist that pressure”, arguing that those who did “also end up becoming targets of the attacks”. “But in recent weeks, we’ve seen a serious level of solidarity from Croatia, as it didn’t join in on the baseless, deceitful attacks against Hungary,” he said.
Grlić-Radman thanked Hungary for help it had provided Croatia in connection with the pandemic and the recent earthquake in Zagreb. Concerning minority affairs, he said the roughly 50,000 Croatians living in Hungary and the Hungarian community in Croatia enjoyed “the exact same rights”. He also said EU ministers responsible for tourism will hold a video conference next Monday to discuss measures to be implemented for the coming tourist season.