Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that Croatia and Hungary were friendly countries that were interested in strengthening cooperation and developing cross-border projects.
After meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Osijek, Plenković told reporters that the opening of the newly-built student dormitory of the Hungarian Educational and Cultural Centre in Osijek, whose construction was financed by the Croatian government with 10 million kuna, was a symbol of respect for the Hungarian minority in Croatia.
We are glad the Hungarian government cares about Croats living in Hungary, supporting similar projects and centres that exist in a number of Hungarian towns, added Plenković.
He said that he and his Hungarian counterpart also discussed Croatia’s preparations for EU presidency and its priorities – a Europe that grows and develops; a Europe that connects; a Europe that protects; and a Europe that is globally influential.
Plenković added that special emphasis would be put on three major political issues – the regulation of future relations with Great Britain, if the country leaves the EU on January 31; continuation of talks on the EU’s next seven-year budget; and a summit meeting of EU and Southeast European countries in Zagreb, focusing on EU enlargement.
Orban said that the priorities of Croatia’s EU presidency were close to Hungary, and that both countries believed that EU accession criteria had to be the same for all countries aspiring to join the EU.
Speaking of bilateral relations, Orban said that those relations had historically good foundations, based not only on friendship but also on occasional strategic cooperation.
In that context, minorities have an important role in both countries, Orban said, adding that his government did its best to provide for the Croat minority in Hungary and that he was glad to see Croatia doing its best to enable the Hungarian minority to preserve its identity, culture and education.
He stressed that he was very optimistic with regard to the future.
Answering a reporter’s question, Orban said that relations between the INA and MOL oil companies were not discussed at today’s talks as they focused on regional issues.
Asked if he and Plenković discussed the suspension of his Fidesz party’s membership in the European People’s Party (EPP), which was also supported by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), and ways of overcoming the problem, Orban said that he respected the HDZ as the ruling Croatian party very much because he had started cooperating with Croatian politicians back at the time of the first Croatian president, Franjo Tuđman, with whom, he said, he had cooperated well.
He said that the HDZ would always be on Fidesz’s side because they shared the same values, and that it would never betray it.
Fidesz will decide about its fate on its own and it has to see if the new EPP leadership, elected at a recent congress in Zagreb, would continue drawing closer to the left or not, said Orban.
Should the EPP continue drawing closer to the left, that is not our path. If the EPP is willing to reconsider what it is doing now and return to Christian-national roots, we can continue acting within the EPP. We need a little time to make a decision, two to three months at least, he said.
Asked if he was following events regarding presidential elections in Croatia and to comment on presidential candidate and former PM Zoran Milanovic’s statement that Orban was not his kind of people, Orban said that the decision on the next Croatian president should be made by Croats and that he did not want to make any comments on the matter.
It is a fact that Croatian-Hungarian relations suffered a lot at the time when the politician whom you mention was Croatia’s prime minister, said Orban.