On 15th May 2017, the Institute forForeign Affairs and Trade (IFAT) and the Embassy of the Republic of Croatia in Budapest together organized the Croatian-HungarianDiplomatic Forum on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Hungary and Croatia.
In his welcome notes, AmbassadorMárton Schőberl, Director of IFAT pointed out that the establishment of diplomatic relations happened under very difficult circumstances as both states experienced significant changes in their domestic situation and the international surroundings. He underlined that the two countries have always been important to each other and despite conflicts and tensions occurring time to time bilateral ties could be characterized by friendly relations and common goals. Mr.Gordan Grlić-Radman, Ambassador of Croatia to Hungary continued with a briefingon the last 25 years’historyof the Croatian-Hungarian relations, and underlined that in many fields (e.g., minority protection) the cooperation between Hungary and Croatia is exemplary, which is not burdened by open issues.
Afterwards, István Íjgyártó, Minister of State for Cultural and Science Diplomacy of theHungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade held his keynote speech, in which he stressed the importance ofthe friendship and cooperation existing between the two nations for 25 years. He also introduced the recent developments in cooperation (e.g., cultural events, opening mutually consulates in Pécs and Osijek).The Minister of State also pointed to some current global and regional challenges (such as migration, stability problems in the Western Balkans), which both countries have to face together for a better future.
The open panel of the diplomatic forum, entitled“The history and future of Croatian-Hungarian bilateral relations” was opened by the speech of Mr. Mate Granić, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia and Special Adviser to the President of Croatia. Mr. Granićhighly appreciated the constant support of Hungary both during the period of fighting for independent statehood and during the 2000s, the Euro-Atlantic integration process of Croatia. He believes that the interests and goals of the two countries coincidence to a wide extent and for this reason, they should cooperate as natural allies. He emphasized that there was no open issue between Croatia and Hungary that was insoluble in the short run but there were much more fields (transportation, energy policy and policy toward the Western Balkans) that provide the opportunity to further develop relations.
Géza Jeszenszky, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary took examples from the common Hungarian-Croatian history that might serve as good example of integration and cooperation. He also raised a comparative question, namely: why Hungary and Slovakia are unable to develop such friendly and prosperous relations such asHungary and Croatia.Similarly to some previous speakers, he also pointed to the cooperation on minority protection as an outstanding example that could be followed by others but he found that bilateral economic relations still need to be broadened.
Mario Jareb, Scientific Associate of the Croatian Institute for History, a researcher and historian introduced some important stations of co-existence of the two nations. He underlined that the image of Hungarian people changed significantly in the beginning of the 1990s and former negative stereotypes could be overcome. The latter was a result of some historical legacies in which both Croatian and Hungarian nobles abused their position for their own benefits. However, all these happenings contributed to the development of Croatian societyand they led to the transformationof Croatia in various fields, including science, education, and economy.
Tamás Novák, International Director of the Budapest Business School – University of Applied Sciences introduced the specifics of the Croatian economic transformation and compared them with the Hungarian ones. He stressed that overcoming the consequences and impacts of the war in the 1990s (e.g., damage in infrastructure, hyperinflation, lack of competitiveness) still poses a great challenge to Croatia and the region as well. Croatia could counterbalance some of these negative impacts through the great incomes from tourism but the bilateral economic relations between Hungary and Croatia demonstrates the differences in the transformation processes. He added that many companies from the two countries can work smoothly together and that there is still great potential in developing bilateral trade. Concerning the future, he defined higher education and the “Eastern opening” as possible cooperation opportunities.
After the speeches, the panellists also paid particular attention to the situation in the Western Balkans that is a foreign policy priority for both Croatia and Hungary. The forum ended in a positive atmosphere that there are many further cooperation potentials in the bilateral relations and that the forum could provide a solid ground to this future common thinking.