Hungary – Hungarian President Katalin Novák visited Ukraine to support the Ukrainian Hungarian community and meet President Zelensky.
Novák first went to Subcarpathia (aka Transcarpathia) on August 22 for the second time since she took office before continuing on to Kyiv on August 23, where she met her Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, with whom she discussed the many bilateral issues between their two countries.
In Subcarpathia, a region in south-western Ukraine that was part of the Kingdom of Hungary before 1920 and is still home to a Hungarian minority of some 150,000 people, the Hungarian president visited the city of Berehove (hung. Beregszász). She met with children as well as municipal and provincial leaders there before attending an ecumenical service on the occasion of St. Stephen’s Day, the Hungarian national holiday, in the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
In a speech at the ceremonies honouring King Saint Stephen, Novák praised the courage of Subcarpathia’s Hungarian community in the face of adversity:
I thank all those who persevere, who are here, and who build and lead these communities. […]
Hungarians can count on Hungarians to help those who are attacked, and when there are those who are in difficulty, Hungary helps.
[…] We are counting on Hungarians to live here in Subcarpathia in a way that is worthy of them and worthy of Europe. […] Today, I am bringing the strength of 15 million Hungarians to Berehovo, to Subcarpathia, and to Ukraine. […] Let us also draw strength from the Ukrainian friends we can count on. […]
We will have a common future, even if we cannot see the path today.”
In Kyiv on Wednesday, President Novák took part in the meeting of the so-called Crimean Platform – a consultation and coordination framework initiated by Ukraine – alongside her Ukrainian, Portuguese, and Lithuanian counterparts. The Hungarian President then had a one-on-one meeting with the Ukrainian Ombudsman for Minority Rights and went to Bucha, a city northwest of Kyiv in the suburbs of the Ukrainian capital, to pay her respects to the victims of last year’s killings of civilians there by Russian occupying troops.
This was followed by a meeting with President Zelensky, which resulted in the signing of an agreement providing for the establishment of a direct communication channel between the Hungarian and Ukrainian presidencies, the drafting of a new document on relations between the two countries, Hungarian participation in the peace talks initiated by the Ukrainian president, close cooperation regarding children who have been impacted by the war, and improving the Hungarian minority’s rights in Subcarpathia.
As someone close to Orbán, a prominent member of his Fidesz party, and the first woman president of the Hungarian Republic, Katalin Novák is playing an important role in the normalization of diplomatic relations with Ukraine in a context of rough relations between Hungary’s conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Ukraine’s president Zelensky, whose Servant of the People party became a member of the European liberal party ALDE last year, allying itself with the liberal left in the European Parliament.