Hungary blocks OECD membership for Romania, Croatia

Issues

Hungary has joined Slovenia in objecting to Croatia鈥檚 bid for membership of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Hungary is also moving to veto Romania鈥檚 OECD membership, citing the closure of a Hungarian Catholic school in Transylvania, according to reports.

Prospective members may only join the OECD if they have the unanimous support of all members. Hungary declined to support the accession of either Croatia or Romania at a meeting of the OECD始s decision-making body in Paris last Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Hungarian news agency MTI.

In Croatia始s case, Hungary has different reasons to Slovenia for blocking the country始s membership. The situation surrounding investments by Hungarian oil and gas company MOL in Croatia, as well as Croatia始s conduct against MOL始s CEO, justified the denial of support, the ministry said.

MOL has been in a long-running dispute with the Croatian government over the running of Croatian energy company INA. Both hold just under half of INA始s shares, but MOL exercises management rights in the company.

Croatia earlier issued an arrest warrant for MOL始s Chairman-CEO Zsolt Hern谩di on suspicion he bribed the country始s former prime minister to give MOL management rights in INA. Hern谩di was acquitted on charges of international bribery by a Hungarian court.

Subsequently, the Arbitral Tribunal of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) dismissed the Croatian government始s claims against MOL of bribery and alleged breaches of a shareholders始 agreement. Croatia refuses to abide by the ruling.

Separately, Hungary has blocked Romania始s application for OECD membership due to the closure of a Catholic secondary school in T芒rgu Mure葯 (Marosv谩s谩rhely), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said. Romanian officials took steps to suspend the operation of the school, in a city that is home to a large population of ethnic Hungarians. Instruction at the school is in Hungarian.

Hungary鈥檚 veto of Romania takes place a year before Hungarian national elections, notes an article in New Europe, a Brussels-based independent EU affairs newspaper. Since 2015, it adds, the Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orb谩n has granted citizenship to 700,000 ethnic Hungarians abroad, and therefore the right to vote.

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