Regarding the goals of the Croatian EU presidency in the first half of 2020, talking to journalists Mr Orbán said “all four points are close to our hearts, and it would be wonderful if the Prime Minister and Croatian diplomacy were able to achieve all the goals they have set”.
Enlargement is always an important topic of consultations between the Croatian and Hungarian parties, both countries are committed – today perhaps even more than before – to helping countries which would like to join the European Union and meet the relevant criteria, the Hungarian Prime Minister added.
In the context of bilateral relations, he said “they are historically well-founded, we are not just friends”, in some cases there is even strategic cooperation between the two countries. He said it is evident that Croatia cannot be successful without a successful Hungary, and this is also true in reverse. “We have a strong interest in having successful neighbours,” he stressed.
The role of minorities is especially important in this, he highlighted, adding that Hungary is doing everything it can for the Croatian minority living in its territory, and he is happy to see that Croatia, too, is making every effort to help the Hungarian community preserve its identity, culture and education.
Finally, he said after Thursday’s talks he is highly optimistic about the future of bilateral relations.
Mr Orbán was also asked by journalists about whether at the talks they spoke about the suspension of Fidesz’s membership in the European People’s Party (EPP) which the governing Croatian HDZ party also voted for; the EPP held its congress electing new officials in Zagreb last week. In his reply, the Hungarian Prime Minister pointed out that they respect the Croatian governing party; he personally especially. He took the view that HDZ will always be on Fidesz’s side because they share the same values. “I am sure they will never betray us,” he said, adding that they can always discuss open issues, “openness is given, friendship is given”.
He repeatedly stressed that Fidesz will decide about its own fate in the European People’s Party, they will wait and see which way the party will head under the newly elected leadership. “If they continue to move to the left, that is not our way. If, however, they are ready to go back to their Christian democratic roots, we can probably continue within the EPP,” he said. He added that for the time being they are waiting, they must evaluate the situation and will only decide afterwards. In his view, this could take up to two to three months.
Andrej Plenkovic highlighted that Croatia and Hungary are friendly countries, and strengthening cooperation and developing various cross-border projects is in both countries’ best interests.
During the day, the two prime ministers inaugurated the student residence hall of the Hungarian Centre for Education and Culture in Croatia; the Croatian government provided a grant worth 10 million kunas (HUF 450 million) for the project.
According to Mr Plenkovic, with this they paid their respects symbolically to Hungarians living in Croatia. At the same time, he was pleased to acknowledge that the Hungarian government also takes good care of Croatians living in Hungary. “They support the centres of Croatians in Hungary operating in several counties and cities,” he said.
Mr Plenkovic highlighted that Hungary is Croatia’s fifth or sixth most important foreign trade partner.
In his words, it is particularly important for the government led by him to further develop the five Northern and Eastern counties of Croatia during its term.
“During the coming fiscal period, we will lay emphasis on these territories because they are underdeveloped both by Croatian and European standards,” he indicated.
Mr Plenkovic was happy to acknowledge that Mr Orbán expressed interest in projects in Croatia and in cooperation between counties in Hungary and Croatia.
The Croatian Prime Minister summed up the priorities of his country’s upcoming EU presidency as follows: “A Europe that develops, connects and protects, and is influential on the global scene”.
By Mr Plenkovic’s account, they will concentrate on three main areas: the development of relations in the wake of the cessation of Britain’s EU membership, the continuation of talks regarding the EU’s financial framework for the period between 2021 and 2027, and the enlargement of the EU.
He said leaders of Southeast Europe and EU Member States will hold a number of talks in Zagreb.
“Our top priority is to find an opportunity to re-open accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania,” he underlined.