Zagreb, July 9 (MTI) – Bilateral relations between Hungary and Croatia are at an all-time low and this undermines Hungary’s interests, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said at a meeting with the leader of the Croatian opposition in Zagreb on Thursday.
Tensions between the two countries have accumulated over a long-standing dispute between Hungarian oil and gas company MOL and the government of Croatia over MOL’s Croatian peer INA, in which MOL has a stake, as well as the failure to construct a gas interconnector.
Hungary needs to be able to count on Croatia as a strong ally and strong strategic partner, Szijjarto said after talks with Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Tomislav Karamarko.
On the topic of energy security, the minister said Croatia has so far failed to honour its commitments to Hungary and the European Union. “The fact that Croatia will not invest in the construction of interconnectors suitable for reverse gas transmission between the two countries, has a negative impact on Hungary’s energy security,” he said. Szijjarto said Hungary would like to see relations between oil and gas companies INA and MOL serving as a strong incentive in the cooperation of Hungary and Croatia.
He said the seven border crossing points along the 355-kilometre border were not enough, and called for the construction of more border crossings.
Hungary is the third largest investor in Croatia, while Croatia is Hungary’s second largest investment destination, the minister added. Szijjarto pointed out that trade turnover between the two countries amounted to nearly 1.6 billion euros, with Hungarian exports reaching 1.17 billion euros. Hungary’s exports to Croatia grew by 34 percent over the first four months of 2015, he added.
The minister said there was “huge potential” in Hungarian-Croatian economic cooperation, adding that the political tension between the two countries affected “all areas of bilateral relations”.
Szijjarto said he had met the head of HDZ so that the two countries would “not have to start bilateral talks from zero” should the right come to power after next year’s general election.
Szijjarto said bilateral cooperation between the two countries have three important aspects: energy security, the expansion of border crossing points and transportation. He said transport was another important aspect of bilateral relations and cited the joint railway construction project as key.