Katalin Novak - Photo: Facebook

President Novak: ‘Sanctions have hurt us more than Russia’

President Katalin Novak, in an interview with the Swiss daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung (NZZ) published on Thursday, said the sanctions imposed in connection with the war in Ukraine "have hurt us more than Russia".

Concerning the situation in Kosovo, Novak said that though “we are, of course, primarily focused on Ukraine”, the Western Balkans should not be forgotten either, and the region’s European Union integration should be accelerated.

If something happens in Kosovo, the situation can escalate quickly, she said, adding that Hungary was hopeful that the situation would de-escalate and “everyone will keep in mind how fragile peace is”.

Novak said there were signs of “enlargement fatigue” in western Europe, but Ukraine’s and Moldova’s candidate status meant that anything was possible if the political will was there. This, however, should not mean that the Western Balkan countries will have to wait for the new candidate countries to catch up so that they can join at the same time, the president said, adding that there was “a very long road” ahead of Ukraine and Moldova.

Put to her that in the case of Serbia the principles of the rule of law did not meet EU requirements, Novak said there were “objective” conditions to EU membership, such as the economic requirements, while the rule of law was “a much more subjective” matter. Greater attention should be devoted to values, because Serbians live according to European values and the European way of life, “and they are very close to us culturally”, she said.

Concerning the state of European values in Ukraine, Novak said the new laws infringing on the rights of minority communities, including ethnic Hungarians, were “a step back”. Minority rights are part of the essence of the European community, which is why these laws “aren’t merely a bilateral problem”, Novak said, adding that there was no sign of any positive change.

She emphasised, at the same time, that she had condemned Russian aggression from the start, and that the whole of Hungary stood by Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Ukraine is defending itself on its own strength, but with the support of many countries, which has an impact on the course of the war, she said.

“Russia must not achieve its military objectives, we cannot allow that,” Novak said, adding, however, that no one knew how to achieve “lasting and just peace”.

Novak said she agreed with supporting Ukraine, but was concerned that military support further fuelled the flames of war.

Hungary maintains its position of not allowing the transit of weapons deliveries through its territory into Ukraine, just like Switzerland, which applies even tougher restrictions by not allowing the delivery of weapons produced in the country to Ukraine, she said.

Concerning the sanctions imposed on Russia, Novak said that emotionally motivated actions should not get in the way of a rational analysis, according to which the sanctions are having an effect, “but have hurt us more than they have Russia”.

“If we admit that the high inflation in Europe is also the result of the sanctions on energy, then we have to think about alternatives,” the president said.

Concerning energy ties with Russia, Novak said she supported the greatest possible independence from Russian natural gas and oil, “but this takes time”.

Regarding the future of Hungarian-Russian relations, Novak said the “framework” defining those ties was that Hungary is a member of the EU and NATO, “and that won’t change”.

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