Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, in an interview to Croatian public service television HRT broadcast late on Wednesday, called it “unfortunate” that the dispute surrounding Hungarian oil and gas company MOL and Croatian energy company INA was “overshadowing” Hungarian-Croatian cooperation, which he said could otherwise be “excellent”.
“If we look at just the numbers, trade and cooperation, when it comes to investments, are thriving,” Szijjártó said. “More than half a million Hungarians spend their summer holidays in Croatia, and whenever we mention the Croatian people, we speak of them as friends.”
The minister called it “truly sad” that the MOL-INA dispute was still dragging on.
MOL holds just under half of INA’s shares but has management rights in the company. The other big stakeholder is the state of Croatia. The sides have long been at odds over INA’s strategy.
“It’s hard to understand why it [the dispute] is even on the agenda and why we don’t try to settle it rationally and pragmatically,” the minister said. He added that if the two countries did ever manage to settle the affair, they could both profit from the ensuing upswing in cooperation.
Szijjártó pointed out that MOL is the largest Hungarian company and therefore carried great significance in terms of Hungary’s national interests. Despite being a minority stakeholder in the company, the Hungarian government keeps a close watch on MOL’s business dealings across the country and central Europe, he said.
The minister expressed hope that the Croatian government and INA could reach an agreement with MOL.
Szijjártó said the Croatian government did not need to negotiate with the Hungarian leadership, pointing out that its differences were with MOL. He added, however, that the Hungarian government was still monitoring the situation in hopes of a swift end to the dispute.
As regards the situation of MOL chairman-CEO Zsolt Hernádi, Szijjártó said his case had already been cleared in the Hungarian justice system.
“I truly hope that the Croatian justice system respects this. But I don’t want to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries,” Szijjártó said.
Croatian officials seek to arrest Hernádi on suspicion that he bribed former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader to give MOL management rights in INA.