Hungary's Orban condemned by neighbour Croatia over territorial remarks

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has rejected criticism that he has any territorial ambitions over other states. PHOTO: REUTERS

BUDAPEST (BLOOMBERG) - Croatia condemned remarks by Hungary's nationalist Prime Minister, Mr Viktor Orban, who has asserted that parts of the Adriatic Sea coast had been "taken" from Hungary.

"We condemn any territorial aspiration against other sovereign countries," Croatia's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday (May 10).

The government summoned Hungary's ambassador in Zagreb over the comments.

Mr Orban has riled neighbours in the past about Hungary's territorial history, including when he posted a map on Facebook in 2020 depicting "Greater Hungary" that included areas Budapest lost under the 1920 Treaty of Trianon following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Croatia, which has ruled over most of the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea along with Slovenia for more than a century, took offence at Mr Orban's comment that the territory was taken from Hungarians.

"Those who have a sea and ports are able to bring oil on tankers," Mr Orban said in an interview with Hungarian state radio. "If they hadn't taken it away from us, we would also have a port."

The spectre of Hungarian irredentism comes at a moment when Mr Orban's erstwhile ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, ordered an invasion of Ukraine and seeks to hold territory in the east and south.

Mr Orban has clashed with his EU partners over delivering weapons to Kyiv and imposing a ban on Russian oil purchases, and has labelled Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky an "opponent".

Mr Orban frequently portrays himself as not only the leader of Hungary's almost 10 million population but also of "millions" of ethnic Hungarians living in neighbouring countries whom his government has given citizenship and the right to vote.

But he has rejected criticism that he has any territorial ambitions over other states.

The Croatian government "misunderstood" Mr Orban's comments, Mr Tamas Menczer, state secretary for Hungary's Foreign Ministry, said in a Facebook post.

"The prime minister mentioned a historic fact," Mr Menczer said. "We hope that our Croatian friends will not give in to press hysteria."

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