STA, 19 November 2018 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerer criticised on Monday "immature acts" on the part of Slovenia as a reason for Hungary deciding to pull out of the Koper-Divača rail expansion, saying "Slovenia has missed a unique historic opportunity to the detriment of future generations".
The former prime minister, whose government was in talks with Hungary to take part in this major infrastructure project, believes such treatment of strategic partners does not bode well for Slovenia.
Speaking to the press after an EU ministerial in Brussels, Cerar regretted that as he meets his Hungarian counterpart Péter Szijjártó in Ljubljana on Tuesday, they would probably not discuss "further strategic cooperation on the second rail towards the port of Koper".
Despite his government's major effort to get Hungary on board for strategic partnership on this important transport route, Cerar regretted that "a unique historic opportunity has been lost to the detriment of future generations".
"In my view, this is a big defeat for Slovenia," said Cerar, stressing that Hungary had been willing to cooperate for the past three years, but had been driven away by "immature acts" on the Slovenian side.
He regretted "completely inappropriate, politically immature statements saying that we will dictate to Hungary the conditions for cooperation". This is in reference to Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek's statements, whom he did not explicitly mention. [More on that story here]
He said that such statements "mean a total lack of understanding of cooperation among countries at high political level", and added that it remained to be proved that the project would be more expensive with Hungary taking part.
He also warned the EUR 200 million that would have been contributed by Hungary would have to come from other sources - from loans or the state budget, which means there will be less money for other projects.
"Those who have caused this situation will have to find an answer to it. They will also have to say where we'll get the money and how we'll treat strategic partners in the future," Cerar said.
Similarly, Defence Minister Karl Erjavec, who is also in Brussels for an EU ministerial, regretted Hungary's withdrawal, pointing to the financial aspect.
"If we look at how difficult it is to draft a supplementary budget for 2019, every cent coming into the country is welcome," said Erjavec, the foreign minister in Cerar's 2014-2018 government.
"Talks with the Hungarian side had been under way. Since the minister [Bratušek] disclosed how they proceeded, Hungary obviously withdrew," said Erjavec, who hopes this is not its final decision.
On Friday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said the idea under which Hungary would take part in the construction of a new railway line between Koper and the inland hub of Divača had been dropped. He also said the country had already started talks with the port of Trieste in Italy, located some 15 km north of Kop
All of our stories about Slovenia and Hungary can be found here
STA, 19 November - Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek appears unperturbed that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban decided to withdraw from the Koper-Divača rail project. She said on Monday that Hungary was interested in the project to get a piece of the Slovenian coast and that that would never have happened.
Bratušek said on Saturday, when the news about Orban's decision broke, that she had wanted to propose to the government to implement the major infrastructure project on its own anyway, but that she had been waiting for certain figures.
Speaking to the press today, the minister said that she had known for at least a month that the project would have a lower price tag without Hungary's involvement, but at the moment she was still uncertain by how much.
Under the previous government's plans, Hungary would invest EUR 200m in the EUR 1bn project seen as vital for the development of Slovenia's sole maritime port in Koper, but Bratušek has calculated since taking over as the minister that the project would be cheaper if Slovenia went at it alone.
"Hungary was promised certain returns as well as 50,000 square metres of land in long-term lease," she said today and added that "personally, I would have never proposed to the government to back Hungary's involvement under the conditions it had set".
The law governing the management of the rail project was adopted some time ago and has survived two referendums, but there are still several open issues. "The investment plan has not been hammered out to the point where the government could discuss it," Bratušek said.
The minister believes that Hungary would have set additional terms for its collaboration: "Hungary is more interested in the Slovenian sea, a gateway into the world, than in the Divača-Koper project."
According to her, Orban explained his decision by saying that Hungary would get a bigger stake, potentially even a majority stake, in the port of Trieste. However, Bratušek would not allow "a single centimetre of the port of Koper to end in foreign hands" as long as she is minister.
"If this is the reason that [Hungary] will not be involved, then be it," she added and reiterated that Slovenia was able to build the second rail track connecting the Koper port and the inland hub in Divača on its own.
All of our stories about Slovenia and Hungary can be found here
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