Katalin Novak - Photo: Facebook

Novak talks war in Israel, Ukraine with Romanian counterpart

President Katalin Novak and Romanian counterpart Klaus Iohannis on Wednesday discussed the wars in Ukraine and Israel, as well as Romania's Schengen accession process.

Other topics on the meeting’s agenda in Sandor Palace in Budapest included national minorities, Hungary’s 2024 EU presidency, and economic, energy and transport ties, Novak told a press conference afterwards.

“The situation of national minorities is important to both of us, and to us, Hungarians, the fate, present and future of the Hungarian community in Transylvania is especially important…” Novak said.

The last time a Romanian head of state paid an official visit to Hungary was 14 years ago, she noted. “So today’s meeting is of historic significance,” she added.

The president said the aim was to pursue pragmatic Hungary-Romania relations worthy of important neighbouring countries.

Hungary and Romania have both made their stances on the war in Ukraine clear, noting that they condemned Russia’s aggression against its neighbour and strived to aid Ukraine in its defence. Hungary provides all the necessary humanitarian aid to those fleeing Ukraine, she noted.

Ukraine is home to a significant number of both Hungarian and Romanian national minorities, Novak said, adding that they were counting on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s cooperation in remedying the violations against minority rights and in doing everything possible to enforce those rights.

Concerning the war in Israel, Novak said Hungary has expressed its sympathies and support to Israel “in this tragic situation”. The president added that she will attend a worship service organised by the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (MAZSIHISZ) and Budapest’s Jewish Community.

Novak said she and Iohannis were in agreement that support for the local Hungarian community contributes to Romania’s development, and that the easing of tensions was therefore a shared interest.

Romania’s place is in the Schengen area, the president said, calling it “unfair” that the country had not yet been allowed to join the European Union’s passport-free zone. Hungary assures Romania of its continued support, she said, adding that there was no need for a Schengen border between the two countries.

As regards Hungary’s upcoming EU presidency, Novak said the country wanted to achieve results when it came to the integration of the Western Balkan countries, and the management of the demographic crisis would also be a priority.

Meanwhile, Novak said economic ties between Hungary and Romania were flourishing. Romanian exports to Hungary have seen a 1.5-fold increase, while the number of border crossings between the two countries has increased to 14, she said, adding that there was more untapped potential in bilateral economic relations.

Concerning energy, she said Hungary was working to diversify its energy sources, in which it was counting on Romania. She said she and Iohannis agreed to boost bilateral energy ties as well.

In response to a question, Novak said Hungary condemns the terrorist attack against Israel and aimed to do everything possible to prevent an escalation of the conflict. More and more armed conflicts of unprecedented intensity are breaking out across the globe and many world leaders are working to prevent this from escalating into a third world war, she said, adding that wise and sound decisions were needed.

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