Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban formally opened the newly-built student dormitory of the Hungarian Educational and Cultural Centre in the eastern Croatian city of Osijek on Thursday.
The dormitory will house 52 students. Its construction was financed by the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education with about 10 million kuna (1.35 million euro) and the cornerstone was laid in October 2018 by the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, Gordan Jandroković, and his Hungarian counterpart Laszlo Kover.
Plenković said that Croatia and Hungary were friends and neighbours and that the Hungarians living in Croatia and Croats living in Hungary were the biggest link in relations between the two countries. He said that the two governments were committed to fostering the identity, culture, education and tradition of the two communities.
Plenković said that the Hungarian Educational and Cultural Centre and the student dormitory would help promote the education and preserve the identity of the Hungarian community.
“These are the standards that Croatia provides to the minorities in Croatia and expects such protection of minority rights for the Croats living in the neighbouring countries. It is most important to us that these two communities feel good, both in Croatia and in Hungary, as confirmed by their status and cooperation. Communication through the minorities improves overall relations between the two countries,” the Croatian PM said.
Orban thanked the Croatian government for financing the construction of the student dormitory. He thanked the Croats in Hungary for maintaining their Croatian identity and thus contributing to the wealth and diversity of Hungary and the Hungarians in Croatia for maintaining their Hungarian identity and helping the Hungarian people to be even bigger.
Orban recalled that “80, 90 or 100 years ago Slavonia and the Hungarian county of Baranya were the richest parts of our state” and were envied by others because of their high living standards.
“I simply don’t believe that if we already managed to accomplish something in the course of history we wouldn’t be able to repeat again. I believe that it will happen once again that people will be envious of the Hungarian county of Baranya and Slavonia in Croatia,” Orban said.
“Only a person who thinks that the place where they live is the centre of the world can be successful,” he added.
“We must connect our countries, because if we stay on the periphery and isolated, we are destined to fail. If Croatia finally enters the Schengen area, which we fully support, the last obstacle will be cleared and the path will be opened to a free flow of business, culture and sports, and we will be in an enviable position again,” the Hungarian PM said.
“Trust me, what I’m talking about is possible. If over the next ten years Croatia has as committed a government as this and if Hungary keeps a nationally-minded government for another ten years, we will come back here with Andrej to check whether what have stated is true,” Orban said.
Orban said that emigration was fashionable today and that this problem was faced not just by Croatia, but by Hungary as well. He said that it was important for young people leaving their country to realise that they have a country where they are not foreigners and where they can return.
“Both governments are working to make this a place worth returning to. This process has already begun in Hungary, and what has begun in Hungary will also happen in Croatia,” Orban concluded.