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Novák Katalin a Nemzeti Közszolgálati Egyetemen 2023.04.24.

Katalin Novák held a presentation on the role of diplomacy at Hungary’s National University of Public Service

Katalin Novák also spoke about the role of diplomacy, the importance of language skills in one-on-one meetings and the Stipendium Peregrinum programme at the National University of Public Service in Budapest.

At the event entitled “The Role of the President of Hungary in diplomacy” organised by the university, Katalin Novák said: her first trip as president was to Warsaw, which was not an official visit, but in order to improve the currently sensitive bilateral relations between the two countries, Poland was the destination she wanted to visit first of all.

As she said, while the Russian-Ukrainian war directly affects both Poland and Hungary because of their proximity, and the interests and experiences of the two countries are partly identical, slight differences in approach were enough to cast a shadow over the two countries’ relations.

She highlighted: the destination visited first by a president undoubtedly sends a message.

She described that foreign visits have different levels, the highest being state visits, followed by official and then working visits. The President of Hungary recalled that her visit to Portugal had been of the highest level, i.e. it was a state visit.

Katalin Novák emphasized her active engagement in diplomacy, representing Hungary both in Hungary and abroad. In Iraq and Kosovo for example, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Hungarian Defence Forces, she visited the Hungarian troops stationed there.

Speaking about the importance of language skills, she highlighted the significance of having spoken Spanish in her private meeting with Pope Francis, or when they could talk German during a one-on-one meeting with the President of Austria. As she said, in this way, there is an opportunity to develop a personal relationship. Without the need for an interpreter, the relationship is much more direct, and every gesture, every accent, every word, every nuance is important in international relations, she highlighted.

The President of Hungary underlined: in diplomacy, participants must show openness, and they must be able to listen to and hear the other party, understand their position as well. We have to be careful what we say and what we don't say, what we do or don't do," she added.

She also explained that for all the obligatory components of protocol, presidents have the freedom to apply these with the necessary degree of flexibility.

Speaking about the war in Ukraine, i.e. in Hungary’s neighbourhood, she recalled: Hungary’s situation is unique, and the Hungarian interests and perspectives must be advocated in the right way everywhere, directing attention to the situation of Hungarians living in Transcarpathia. She emphasized that at the invitation of President Zelensky, she visited Kiev, followed by a visit to Transcarpathia to assure the Hungarians living there of her support. She stressed that the goal is to avoid an escalation of the war.

She went on to explain that Hungary provided refuge to 1.5 million people fleeing Ukraine, and that Hungary has been helping from the first moment through its humanitarian programme.

Katalin Novák also spoke about the Stipendium Peregrinum programme, supporting young people who wish to study abroad on a scholarship. She recalled that she had also studied at universities abroad, and then saw Hungary as a lot more beautiful when she returned.

Responding to a question, she explained: this is the first time Hungary has had a female president, and this has a positive message, namely that there is no office that cannot be held by a woman. However, holding the presidency is an especially challenging responsibility, because if she commits a mistake, many draw the conclusion that all women are unfit for such a task.

She is planning to invite all of the world’s women heads of state to Hungary. She added that Slovenia elected a woman president for the first time in its history as well, and both Slovakia and Greece have a woman in the presidential seat.

She also spoke about reconciling starting a family and pursuing a career, saying that women should be supported in overcoming the difficulties of doing both.