Prime Minister Viktor Orbán called for new development projects in Hungary and Croatia’s shared border regions on Thursday.
Addressing the inauguration on Thursday of a new Hungarian-run student hostel in Osijek (Eszék), in north-eastern Croatia, Orbán underlined the importance of intensifying ties between Croatia’s Slavonia region and Hungary’s Baranya County.
At the event jointly held with his Croatian counterpart Andrej Plenkovic, Orbán said that 80-100 years ago Slavonia and Baranya County had been the most prosperous areas of their respective countries.
“They envied us, not just for our cultures but also our high standard of living,” Orbán said.
He said Croatians living in Slavonia and Hungarians living in Baranya County tended to think of themselves as living on their countries’ peripheries. “People and communities that think they live on the periphery will never be successful. Only those who believe that their home is the centre of the world can be successful.”
Orbán said Croatia’s accession to the European Union’s passport-free Schengen zone would greatly help the two countries intensify their cultural, sports, business and political relations. He added that if Croatia and Hungary continued to elect “nationally minded” governments for another ten years, they could bring about “a whole new world” in the border region.
Plenkovic said ethnic minorities played a major role in fostering friendly and good neighbourly relations between Croatia and Hungary.
Citing the latest censuses, the Croatian premier said that over 14,000 ethnic Hungarians live in Croatia and close to 26,000 ethnic Croats live in Hungary. He added, however, that unofficial estimates put both figures higher.
Plenkovic said that both countries were obliged to promote whatever can be preserved of the identity, culture, education and traditions of their ethnic minorities.