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Hungary blocks OECD membership for Romania, Croatia

Issues

Hungary has joined Slovenia in objecting to Croatia’s bid for membership of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Hungary is also moving to veto Romania’s 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 OECDʼs decision-making body in Paris last Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Hungarian news agency MTI.

In Croatiaʼs case, Hungary has different reasons to Slovenia for blocking the countryʼs membership. The situation surrounding investments by Hungarian oil and gas company MOL in Croatia, as well as Croatiaʼs conduct against MOLʼs 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 INAʼs shares, but MOL exercises management rights in the company.

Croatia earlier issued an arrest warrant for MOLʼs Chairman-CEO Zsolt Hernádi on suspicion he bribed the countryʼs former prime minister to give MOL management rights in INA. Hernádi 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 governmentʼs claims against MOL of bribery and alleged breaches of a shareholdersʼ agreement. Croatia refuses to abide by the ruling.

Separately, Hungary has blocked Romaniaʼs application for OECD membership due to the closure of a Catholic secondary school in Târgu Mureș (Marosvásárhely), 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’s 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 Orbán has granted citizenship to 700,000 ethnic Hungarians abroad, and therefore the right to vote.

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