Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitanović visited Hungary today, to discuss Hungary’s recent announcement that it would be blocking Croatia’s OECD membership bid.
Grabar-Kitanović met and spoke with Hungarian President János Áder and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to discuss the matter and previously said she was “unpleasantly surprised” by Hungary’s move.
After today’s meeting in Budapest, the Croatian President told reporters that Hungary’s decision to block Croatia’s membership in the OECD was not an attempt by Hungary to intimidate Croatia in any way, but a decision made out of dissatisfaction in the way Croatia handled the INA-MOL dispute in recent years.
In October 2008, Hungarian energy giant MOL became the largest shareholder in Croatian oil company INA, in which Croatia also has a 45% stake. MOL also obtained the management rights over the Croatian oil company, but has been operating in what MOL has called “an increasingly challenging environment in Croatia,” due to both economic turmoil in the region and what the company has described as “an unfriendly investment climate and the unpredictable regulatory system in the country.”
Croatia later filed a suit against MOL with a Geneva-based United Nations arbitration commission, claiming corruption in the management of INA. The arbitration commission ruled against Croatia in December 2016, saying evidence presented by Croatia against MOL was insufficient to prove any corruption had taken place.
Croatia also indicted former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader,, for allegedly taking bribes from MOL in 2009, which is still a pending case. Both MOL and Sanader have continuously denied the claims.
“I expressed my unpleasant surprise at this decision and dissatisfaction with attempting to coerce Croatia with this decision. I was assured that this is not a matter of intimidation, but rather about protecting Hungarian interests,” Grabar-Kitarović told media, as reported by Croatian news site Dnevnik.hr.
Grabar-Kitarović added that the two countries have decided to continue talks about the matter.