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Attending an informal meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Zagreb, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said that cooperation between Hungary and Croatia was “vitally important” for both countries but Croatian politicians “seemed less than enthusiastic” about nurturing bilateral ties. Political cooperation with Croatia could be far more profitable, Szijjártó said on the sidelines of the meeting.
He noted that bilateral trade reached a record 2.5 billion euros last year and over 640,000 Hungarians chose Croatia as a holiday destination. Croatia is also a primary target for Hungarian investors. “It’s clear that politics should pick up the tempo,” he said. “If the Croatian government were slightly more active, both the Hungarian and Croatian economies, and Hungarian and Croatian people, could benefit,” he said.
Meanwhile, Szijjártó signed a cooperation agreement with the University of Rijeka, ranked in the country’s top three, on courses of Hungarian language and culture from September onwards to be taught by Hungarian lecturers. Already, fully 125 students study in Hungarian faculties at Zagreb and Osijek universities.
He said Rijeka played an important role in two-way relations. Oil and gas company MOL recently decided to invest heavily in a refinery there. Further, reflecting the fact that many Hungarians travel to the region, Hungary has asked the Croatian government to allow consular representation in the city, he noted. “We’ve set a trade record and Hungarian investments are destined for Croatia, yet there are only seven legal crossings on the 350km border,” he said, adding that the average distance between crossings is 50km, as against 2.5-3km in western Europe. “Obviously, this is untenable and uncompetitive.” Hungary, he said, has turned to the Croatian government with initiatives to increase the number of border crossings, and now an agreement has been reached for Hungary to build the M6 motorway to the border, while Croatia will complete its expressway to meet it, with a completion date of 2023. Szijjártó also referred to new border crossings, a bridge development at Murakeresztúr, and rail links on the Budapest-Osijek (Eszék) and Budapest-Split lines. The Hungarian minister signed an agreement on cross-border transport development with Oleg Butković, Croatia’s minister for maritime affairs, transport and infrastructure.