INA-MOL Situation Remains Without Direction as Orban and Plenković Meet

Lauren Simmonds

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The Summit of the Central European Initiative (SEI), which brought together the heads of state of six countries in Zagreb, saw the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, arrive in Croatia. Despite talks between the two leaders, the INA-MOL situation remains without real direction.

As Jadranka Dozan/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 3rd of December, 2018, this opportunity, as was well understood by the involved parties, was also used for bilateral talks between the Hungarian PM and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković. After the meeting, there were more or less protocol words and a few statements decorated with positive intonations released. The talk, according to Plenković, showed the desire of both countries to continue to develop economic cooperation as well as the good will to overcome existing problems primarily regarding INA and MOL, so as to solve and not further endanger the development of relations in all other areas.

Orban isn’t quite as diplomatic as the ever-polished Plenković in his view, and in his opinion it isn’t normal that two neighbouring states which look to each other as allies have allowed six or seven years to pass since the last official visits between their respective prime ministers.

“During the last few months, we’ve conducted numerous negotiations, and today I came to bring our relations back,” Orban said, recalling that cooperation with Croatia began back in the 1990s with an advocate in the Hungarian parliament, and underlining the fact that he was a friend of President Franjo Tudjman. This will result in a new dialogue between the two neighbouring governments, it’s too early to talk in any real detail, but talks on the energy sector are expected, as well as those over the ongoing INA-MOL situation and the question of Hungary’s interest in the LNG terminal project on the island of Krk. Despite the aforementioned, the talks between the two prime ministers certainly weren’t focused purely on neighbourly relations in terms of business and energy strategies.

Justice had its part to play in the talks. On the one hand, there is the arbitration dispute at the International Settlement of Dispute Settlements in Washington, and other disputes over the request of the Croatian judiciary for the extradition of Zsolt Hernadí of Hungary’s MOL.

From the aspect of energy strategy and business, especially in light of the declarative plan of the Croatian Government on the purchase of MOL’s stake in INA, the appearance of Minister Tomislav Ćorić on Sunday was very indicative.

The day before talks with the Hungarian side over the INA-MOL situation were due, Minister Ćorić confirmed that the Croatian Government had not yet signed a contract with the investment advisory consortium for the INA project, which was chosen back in April, after a multi-month process which was characterised by several so-called “extensions”.

According to the minister, a contract with a consortium in which Morgan Stanley, Intesa Group and PBZ are involved has not yet been signed owing to the fact that when conversation with them following the initial selection, “points around which there was no complete understanding” arose. Despite this, Minister Ćorić claims that “they’re currently being resolved”. This raised numerous questions from the side of experts and left them wondering what the situation would be like if international consultants hadn’t stepped in.

Meanwhile, there were more meetings between representatives of the Croatian Government and Hungarians, and one can quite easily conclude that these talks were without any real specific focus. Most of the bigger problems appear to lie with the sheer lack of clear views on what strategic goals need to be achieved and in which development segments the Croatian Government intends to place the most emphasis.

As with most things in Croatia, the path to solving the INA-MOL situation is littered with obstacles and appears to be very far from a solution, regardless of the apparent good will on both the Croatian and the Hungarian side.

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Click here for the original article by Jadranka Dozan for Poslovni Dnevnik


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